How to Study Better in High School
Studying is about finding a right balance between concentration, understanding, retention, and rest. And, just like any task that requires your energy—be it physical or mental—it is often just as difficult to get started as it is to engage in the task itself.
But don’t despair! Whether you need to study for just one test, or want to learn how to study over the long run and retain a whole term’s worth of information, we’ve got you covered. We’ll explain exactly how to study better, helping you revamp both your daily and long-term study habits and giving you the best study tips for managing your time and keeping your focus as you actually study.
So let’s get to it!
Again, exerting both mental energy and physical energy is difficult and many find it tough to keep up over the long term. But a proper approach will help ease the way and keep your studying strong for years to come.
To lay a healthy study foundation and avoid last minute cramming and undue stress, it’s necessary to build (and maintain!) a proper study habit. Just like with exercise, the task will become easier and more manageable the more you are able to get into a routine. And you’ll be far less likely to lapse back into bad study habits once you’ve made studying an intractable part of your daily life.
#1: Stick to a Set Schedule
Your brain builds pathways and habits over time, and studying is about building those mental muscles and endurance. Getting into a fixed habit of studying will help you improve your concentration and mental stamina over time. And, just like any other training, your ability to study only improves with time and dedicated effort.
There are many activities that are good for us, but that we often—for whatever reason—dread doing. Whether this is exercising, doing chores, or studying, it’s a good idea to set yourself a schedule and stick to it no matter how you’re feeling at the moment. It’s easy to put off these activities for a thousand reasons: you’re busy doing something else, you’re tired, you have a headache, you’re not in the mood.…But the more you hold yourself to a set schedule, the more likely you’ll do what you need to do without having to make an endless litany of excuses.
Aside from doing homework, set aside a dedicated 50 to 75 minutes to study each day and then stick to your schedule. You’ll find the study rhythm that works best for you, but do know that you don’t necessarily have to sit down and eek out those minutes all at once. You can decide to split the time into smaller segments throughout the day, or, if you work better at completing tasks and moving on, you can choose to get your studying done all at once.
One way to divide your after school study time into segments could be:
4:30 – 5:00 – arrive home, eat a snack, relax
5:00 – 5:30 – first study chunk
5:30 – 6:30 – break/homework/other task
6:30 – 6:45 – second study chunk
6:45 – 7:30 – dinner/assignments/other task
7:30 – 8:00 – final study chunk
Or, if you’d rather spend your 50-75 study minutes all at once, then your schedule may look more like:
4:30 – 5:00 – arrive home, eat a snack, relax
5:00 – 6:15 – study time
6:15 – rest of evening – dinner, break, homework, other tasks
How you create your study schedule is up to you, just so long as you stick to it once you’ve made it and don’t deviate.
#2: Schedule Your Studying in Smaller Increments Over a Long Period of Time
By committing 50 to 75 minutes to study every day (and sticking to your schedule!), you’ll avoid both burning out your mental energy and being stuck cramming for hours and hours at a time the night before a test.
Not to say that cramming your material can’t occasionally “work.” Some people are absolutely able to cram for a test the night before and do well, but studying in this way will only store the information in your short-term memory, not your long-term. This means that, by cramming, you can struggle to stay apprised of the material as the semester progresses (especially in classes where previous information builds on later information, such as in science, math, or history classes).
And the long term effect of forcing your brain to cram necessary information at once will not only make studying for finals particularly difficult—essentially forcing you to re-learn a semester’s worth of material, rather than being able to simply review it—but making a habit of cramming material at the last minute will only increase your stress and make you feel as though you have to constantly play “catch-up.”
By sticking to a schedule of studying for a reasonable amount of time over the entire semester or term, you’ll be able to better store and recall the information you need, and thereby reduce some of the stress that comes from schoolwork, tests, and studying.
Setting the Right Study Environment
A proper study schedule is essential, but so is creating the right study environment. Your environment can have a tremendous impact on your concentration and productivity, so figuring out a proper study space will ultimately benefit you and improve your study time.
#3: Stick to the Same Study Spaces
A stable environment for a particular activity can help put you in
the right mood and mind frame to complete the task at hand. The same
applies for engaging in studying.
It is helpful to have one or two dedicated locations for schoolwork—separate
from any “free time” areas—that you use to study in each and every
study session. Sometimes this may not be possible if you live in a small
dwelling and don’t have access to free public spaces like a library,
but do the best you can to find a space you can use solely for studying
and stick by it.
Your study space will be individual to you, so don’t worry about how
other people work best. Some people concentrate their best when
surrounded by others, like in a study group or a bustling coffee shop,
while some people can only study if they’re alone or in a completely
silent location. Experiment with different environments and
spaces until you find the one you seem to work in best and then stick to
it as your dedicated “study zone.”
#4: Practice Good Study Hygiene
Good study hygiene is about retaining a clear separation between work and rest. This allows you to focus on necessary tasks while minimizing stress and anxiety in the rest of your life.
We’ve already talked about keeping a dedicated study space, but now
we have to be sure to keep those areas as “hygienic” as possible. How?
By following a few key rules of setting up your study environment:
Make Sure That You DON’T Study In or On Your Bed
Studying in sleeping areas is the very definition of NOT maintaining a
clear separation between work and rest, and most often leads to
increased levels of stress and insomnia. This, in turn, can decrease
your concentration and ability to study in the long term.
By blurring the lines between study-time and free-time, you’ll only
create spillover stress for yourself and be stuck in a cyclical effect
of non-productivity and anxiety. So keep your study location to a desk, a
table, or even a couch, so long as you aren’t anywhere on your bed.
Keep Tantalizing Distractions Far Away
It’s easy to allow ourselves to take “a quick break” to check our
phones, get up and go hunting for a snack, or to let ourselves get
caught up searching for irrelevant information on Wikipedia. There are
untold distractions all around us that try to lure our concentration
away from the task at hand, and giving into temptation can be an awful
time suck. The best way to avoid distractions like these is to remove temptation altogether.
Make up a snack for yourself before you start studying so that you’re
not tempted to get up. Keep your phone far away, and turn off your wifi
on your computer if you can. Tell yourself that you can’t get up to
check on whatever has you distracted until your allotted study time is
up. Whatever has you distracted can wait until your study time is over.
Keep Yourself Comfortable, Hydrated, and Fed
Taking care of your body’s basic needs will not only help to improve
your mood and concentration while you study, but it will also help make
sure you avoid needing to get up (and thereby lose your focus) during
your study time.
So make sure you take water, a jacket, a snack, coffee, or whatever else you need to your study space so that you can be comfortable, focused, and ready to learn.
Varying Your Study Methods
There are many different ways to study, and none is exclusively
better than any other. In fact, diversifying your study techniques, and
using a mix of multiple different study methods will help you learn and store your information better than simply sticking to one.
Practicing different study methods and combining different techniques
to prevent mental fatigue and keep your brain engaged. And we’ll walk
through some of the best study techniques here.
#5: Rewrite or Rephrase the Material in Your Own Words
It can be easy to get lost in a textbook and look back over a page,
only to realize you don’t remember what you just read. But luckily, that
can be remedied.
For classes that require you to read large bodies of text, such as
history, English, or psychology, make sure to stop periodically as you
read. Pause at the end of a paragraph or a section and—without looking!—think about what the text just stated.
Re-summarize it in your own words. Now glance back over the material to
make sure you summarized the information accurately and remembered the
relevant details. Make a mental note of whatever you missed and then
move on to the next section.
You may also want to make a bulleted list of the pertinent information
instead of just rephrasing it mentally or aloud. Without looking back
down at the textbook, jot down the essentials of the material you just
read. Then look over the book to make sure you haven’t left out any
Whether you choose to simply summarize aloud or whether you write
your information down, re-wording the text is an invaluable study tool.
By rephrasing the text in your own words, you can be sure you’re
actually remembering the information and absorbing its meaning, rather than just rote copying the info without truly understanding or retaining it.
#6: Teach the Material to Someone Else
Teaching someone else is a great way to distill your thoughts and summarize the information you’ve been studying. And, almost always, teaching someone else shows you that you’ve learned more about the material than you think!
Find a study-buddy, or a patient friend or relative, or even just a
figurine or stuffed animal and explain the material to them as if
they’re hearing about it for the first time. Whether the person you’re
teaching is real or not, the act of teaching material aloud to another
human being requires you to re-frame the information in new ways and
think more carefully about how all the elements fit together.
And the act of running through your material this way—especially if you do it aloud—helps you more easily lock it in your mind.
#7: Quiz Yourself With Flashcards
Making flashcards is an oft-used study tool and for very good reason!
Making your own flash cards can not only help you retain information
just through the sheer act of writing it down, but will also help you
connect pertinent pieces of information together. So for any
subjects in which you must remember the connections between terms and
information, such as formulas, vocabulary, equations, or historical
dates, flashcards are the way to go.
To make the best use of your flashcards, use the Leitner Method, so
that you don’t waste your time studying what you already know.Temploy this method, quiz yourself with your flashcards and
separate the cards into two different piles. In Pile 1, place the cards
you knew and answered correctly, in Pile 2, place the cards you didn’t
know the answers to.
Now go back through the cards again, but only studying the
cards from Pile 2 (the “didn’t know” pile). Separate these again as you
go through them into Pile 1 (know) and Pile 2 (don’t know). Repeat the
process of only studying to “don’t know” cards until more and more cards
can be added to the “know” pile.
Once all the cards are in the “know” pile, go through the whole pile once again to make sure you’ve retained the information on all the cards.
#8: Make Your Own Diagrams, Formula Sheets, and Charts
Reconstituting information into pictures can help you see and understand the material in new and different ways. For math and science classes, you may want to make yourself a formula sheet in addition to making flashcards.
Flashcards will help you to remember each formula in isolation, but
making one catch-all formula sheet will give you a handy study reference
tool. And making one will, again, help you to retain your information
just through the process of writing it down. The bonus is that if you’re
more of a visual/picture learner, a formula sheet can help you to
remember your formulas by recalling how they’re situated with one
To help you to remember your science processes, create your own diagrams.
For instance, for a biology class, draw your own cell and label the
components or make your own Krebs cycle diagram. These pictures will
typically be in your textbooks, so examine the picture you’re given and
then create your own diagram without looking at the textbook. See how
much you’ve been able to accurately recreate and then do it again until
Sometimes making your own charts and diagrams will mean recreating
the ones in your textbook from memory, and sometimes it will mean
putting different pieces of information together yourself. Whatever the
diagram type and whatever the class, writing your information down and
making pictures out of it will help to lock the material in your mind.
#9: Give Yourself Rewards
To make studying a little more fun, give yourself a small reward whenever you hit a study milestone. For
instance, let yourself eat a piece of candy for every 25 flash cards
you test yourself on or for every three paragraphs you read (and
re-word) in your textbook. Or perhaps give yourself one extra minute of
video game or television-watching time for every page you study from
your book (to be redeemed only after your study time is over, of
Whatever your particular incentive is, let yourself have that small
reward-boost to help see you through the days when studying seems