The study cycle is a proven path to improving your study techniques. It may seem like it adds time to the process, but many students report that their studying is more efficient, and they wind up spending less time because they are more prepared when it is time for an exam. 

Step 1: Preview (5-15 minutes)

  • Before class, skim any new material you know will be covered that day
  • Note big ideas

Step 2: Attend

  • Go to Class
  • Take notes
  • Ask questions

Step 3: Review (10-15 minutes)

  • Read notes after class
  • Fill in gaps in your notes
  • Develop questions

Step 4: Study (30-50 minutes)

  • Schedule several focused study sessions per class per week

Step 5: Check 

  • Ask yourself if you could teach the material to someone
  • Ask yourself if your studying has been effective

Once you have completed the steps, you repeat them (hence the cycle). 

Your brain learns best in short, focused sessions rather than long marathon cramming sessions. If you schedule a few of these each week for each class, it can help you learn the material. Just follow these steps.

Step 1: Turn off your phone and minimize other distractions

Step 2: Plan (1-2 minutes)

  • Decide what you will get accomplished in your study session.

Step 3: Study (30-50 minutes)

  • Jump into the material and interact with it: annotate, take notes, summarize, read, work problems.

Step 4: Break (5-10) minutes 

  • Step away and clear your head

Step 5: Review (5 minutes)

  • Go back over the material, wrap up what you need to, and check over what you studied. 

If in the focused study session, you had a little trouble focusing, try this alteration. This is called the Pomodoro Technique as it is named after a tomato timer the inventor of this study skill used to time himself.

Step 1: Plan (1-2 minutes)

  • Decide what you want to accomplish in the study session.

Step 2: Set a timer for 25 minutes

Step 3: Start your study session

  • Interact with the material. If other things start coming into your mind, write them down on a separate piece of paper and get back to the task immediately. This keeps your mind from wandering off too long. 

Step 4: Take a 5-minute break

This is called a Pomodoro Session: one 25-minute focused task and one 5-minute break. Once you have completed one session, you simply repeat the steps. However, after 4 Pomodoro Sessions, you need to take a 20-to-30-minute break before starting another one.