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Top tips for studying independently

Studying on your own at home can feel much harder than going into school and having your teacher and classmates around to help. This guide suggests some strategies that might help you to concentrate and get your work done on time.  

Get ready to learn 

  • Set some goals. Think about what you want to achieve or improve over the coming weeks and develop a plan to do it. For example, you might look back over your French homework and decide that you need to improve your vocabulary. You could create some vocab flashcards using anki or on card and use them to practise for five minutes every morning.  
  • Get organised. Make sure you know about upcoming assignments and deadlines. It helps to have a calendar for deadlines and a to-do list to remember tasks. You could use a paper diary or an app on your phone.  
  • Get into a good routine. A good routine can help you avoid that feeling of the whole day slipping away without getting any work done. Try to get started on work the same time every day and include time for breaks and having fun.  
  • Snooze. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to learning well. Try to go to bed the same time each night, make sure you spend some time outside every day, and try to relax in the hour before you go to bed.  

Find a good study space 

  • Try to avoid things that might distract you. Put your phone in another room, switch off the TV, and sign out of social media. If possible, try to study away from areas where you eat or sleep.  
  • Try studying in different places around the house (while minimising distractions!). Sometimes studying in different locations can help you to remember what you have learnt.  

Get into good habits 

  • Think carefully about how you study. Although re-reading and highlighting your notes might feel like an easy way to learn, it is unlikely to create really strong memories. Instead you should focus on using these six effective strategies.  
  • Reward yourself. Set yourself a target and a reward if you meet it. For example, you could say ‘when I’ve finished these maths problems I can watch that video on YouTube’.  
  • Take handwritten notes. Writing out notes by hand might help you to understand and remember the content better. Taking handwritten notes is especially powerful if you try to put things into your own words and don’t just copy the language your teacher uses. It can also help to use diagrams to structure your thoughts. This might feel harder at the time but it will create a stronger memory.  
  • Make changes if things aren’t working. Studying at home is new and you won’t get everything right straight away. Every now and then think about what is working well and what you could do differently.  

And don’t forget… 

  • Have fun, text your friends, run around! Find a good balance between work and fun. Chatting to your friends and doing some exercise can help you relax and concentrate better when you sit down to study.  

Peter Henderson

Peter is on secondment to The Education Hub from the Education Endowment Foundation, a UK charity which supports teachers to use research to improve their practice. Before he joined us, Peter co-authored five EEF guidance reports and led the EEF’s grant making in maths, literacy, and special educational needs. He also chaired the governing board of a primary school in North London. 

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