Types of Studying:
By this I mean, what type of studying are you doing? Quiz, exam, speech, graduate school exam? For me, I like to have an idea of how much this test/assignment will hurt or help my grade. Sadly, this can become a reason for me to slack off, but it is helpful if you have multiple exams on one day or week, or if you stress out (like me!) you can figure out how important it is. After figuring out this information I think about the material and what the best way to study will be. If it's a speech, obviously you need to rehearse it, but other topics can be trickier. Below are some examples and how I would study for them.
Math: flash cards for formulas, practice problems to work through
Essay: don't write it all at one time. Outline it or brainstorm, then write pieces of it. If I try to do it all at once I get writers block. Procrastination seems to be a favorite hobby of mine.. but it is much easier for me to write a paper (and get a good grade!) if I write it over a span of time!
Definition Based: flash cards, matching, and, if available, apply the vocabulary words to a situation. The definitions won't always be written on the exam.
GRE: practice exams, flashcards, reteach yourself math
*by reteaching math, I mean find a website or book that goes through area, volume of shapes/objects, distance formula, etc. It seems silly, but those simple refreshers will save a lot of frustration when you try to remember it all on your own!
Tests in heavy lecture classes: Ask friends, RA's, teachers, etc. what the tests for that class are like. If they are conceptual or a different type, then adjust accordingly.
Where to study:
I have four go-to study places, Starbucks, student unions, campus library, and my bedroom. Sometimes I venture outside if the weather is nice and I don't think it will be distracting, but for the most part I stick with those four. I have reasons for each, but before I get to that it is important to note that what works for me, may not work for you! It was a trial and error process for me and it may be for you as well.
Starbucks: When I need to study by myself I head to Starbucks. I buy a coffee and a snack usually, set up my computer or books, put on music and start. I like it because people, generally, leave you alone, you have coffee easily accessible (necessary for coffee addicts!), and the atmosphere relaxes me. Some people say studying at Starbucks is the opposite of relaxing, but the smells, number of others studying or working, and colors inside work for me!
Student Unions: If I have a project or assignment that isn't due immediately, can be interrupted, or is a group project I usually work on it at the Union. There are plenty of others studying so it isn't awkward to sit by yourself with earbuds in and work, but it is also a place where people hang out and talk. This can lead to interruptions and getting off topic, but can still be an effective place to study. It is the ideal location for group projects for me!
Campus library: Okay, when I need to buckle down and study I head to the library. Something about the environment and just being in the library makes me focus and commit my time to studying. I don't dislike the library, but I never go there unless it is to study, therefore when I walk inside it's a psychological thing and I get to work immediately. A lot of times I will lose track of time or be so wrapped up in studying that I find it hard to leave. It is definitely where I go when I know I'm in serious need of quality study time!
My bedroom: I find it nearly impossible to study at home. When I said I would rather do ANYTHING but study, that includes laundry, cleaning my room, filing papers, editing pictures, working out, cooking, yep ANYTHING! That would be why I do not study at home much. If it is something that isn't due soon or that isn't worth a lot of points I will sit in bed with my laptop and work on it, but if it is important I try to go somewhere other than my house. I think it is important to get through your head early in your academic career, that you may (probably) not be able to study at home and it is in your grade's best interest if you study elsewhere.
Extra tips & tricks:
1. None of this may be true for you and that's okay!
2. I still don't know if I've found the BEST way for myself to study, I'm getting by and things are working but I am still bad at studying!
3. Highlighting and/or taking notes in various colors can help! If you are reading and different colors pop out it keeps your attention.
4. To go along with #3, color coding is a great tool. If you are in a class that talks about money maybe you write all of those notes in green and then when a different topic comes along, use a different color.
5. Give yourself a break! Don't sit there doing nothing but studying for 5 hours. Study for awhile, get up, do something else, then come back. I've tried the "Study for 20 minutes, 5 minute break" approach and my 5 minutes seem to be a lot longer than 5 minutes...
6. To go along with #5, set goals for yourself. Recently I told myself if I got all of the vocabulary done for a chapter I could have a break, then I started the next chapter's vocabulary and gave myself a break when it was done as well. Instead of measuring times, I try to use goals.
7. Have fun! Getting your mind off of the exam/assignment/speech can actually be good for your studying efforts! If you study quite a bit and then allow yourself to go get dinner with friends, watch a tv show, or go for a walk, you'll come back refreshed instead of being unhappy because you've been studying for eight hours. So yes, you probably have things due and big stuff coming up, but have fun and take some time for yourself to stay sane!!