Study Skills

We all need help when it comes to studying, some of us more than others! Check out the following advice for how to study properly and prepare for exams.

Some Effective Habits you should get into

  • Be willing to take responsibility for your own study. Try and say to yourself that you’ll study at such a time for however many hours and then follow through on it. Don’t say you’ll study at 6 o clock for 3 hours and then start at 8 and study for 20 mins. Also don’t let your friends decide your study time for you. Just because your friend isn’t studying doesn’t mean that you also shouldn’t study.
  • Work out when studying for you is most effective, i.e. Some people are great at studying in the morning others are not. You need to figure out what time of the day (or night) will be most productive for you to study at.
  • If you are studying for a long period take a break. You will achieve nothing studying for a long time as your brain cannot concentrate for too long. You will achieve much more if you take a break every so often and relax.
  • If you are finding it hard to understand course material, then do not just re-read it. Talk on a one to one level with your lecturer. If this doesn’t help find a student you know is strong at the subject and talk with them about it.

The art of concentration

No matter what it is you’re doing, whether studying maths or taking a free kick, you must focus on the task at hand and eliminate distraction.

Everyone can concentrate. Just think about all the times you’re ‘lost’ in something, playing rugby, singing a song, watching a DVD. All those times you are concentrating.

Things which may help you study

  • A special study area: It’s your own area so make sure you’re comfortable in it. If it’s a desk or a bed it doesn’t matter as long as you’re happy in it. It is recommended that your space is well lit, is comfortable and that it is an area where distractions will be at a minimum. Some people like music while studying, that’s fine but make sure that it doesn’t distract you at all.
  • Rewards: If you find it hard to motivate yourself for study then offer yourself a reward for living up to your promise to yourself about studying or completing a project. This can increase your willingness to study and increase productivity.
  • Take Breaks: Take regular breaks at scheduled intervals; this will increase your ability to concentrate after every break that you take. Make sure that the break you take is one that takes you completely away from study e.g. if you’ve been studying at a desk, take a walk outside or kick a ball around for a while. Whatever interests you.
    Always alternate the way you study if you’ve been reading for a while start jotting notes down. If you’re constantly writing then try discussing the topic with someone you may be studying with.

Preparing for Exams

  • Take Clear notes in class, notes that you know will be easy to understand afterwards
  • Shortly after class take a look at your notes and make sure they are legible and easy to understand.
  • Each week take a while to review all notes and make sure they are organised. If you missed any classes then make sure to get the notes you missed. It is very stressful when preparing for an exam and to come across a blank page of info. that you need at this time.
  • When your lecturer is giving tips on what to study for the exam, make sure you take accurate notes on what has been said.
  • Organise notes and texts according to what is coming up on your exams.
  • Review how long you believe you will need to study subjects.
  • Draw up a schedule of study times.
  • Make sure you test yourself on the material. This is the best way to see how well you have studied a topic.

Managing Stress

Stress affects everyone whether people admit it or not. The main thing is to not let it affect you or get on top of you. Stress leads to certain symptoms e.g. exhaustion, loss of/increased appetite, headaches, crying, sleeplessness, and oversleeping. As a result of these there may be a big temptation to turn to things that people believe relieve stress such as alcohol, drugs or others.

Stress will affect your studies, and if you do feel stressed talk to someone about it. It can be someone in your class or you can talk to the Institute Counsellor.

How can I manage stress?

  • Set realistic goals for yourself: Often people set goals that they are never likely to achieve. This can upset and stress people, if you set goals that are achievable then you will be very content in what you achieve instead of being stressed about not achieving it.
  • Never worry about little things: There is no point on getting tied up about trivial things. If you find yourself worrying about small matters then just move away and try to forget about them. These little things always have a way of working themselves out.
  • Take the time to analyse the situation: See if there really is something you can do to control or change the situation.
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself: Don’t always look at the situation as one big issue. Take different aspects of the problem and handle them as they come.
  • Get some sleep: Often lack of sleep leads to you becoming more stressed. Having a good night of sleep can really help the situation.
  • Try to do something you enjoy, no matter what it is it will help. If you play a game of Hurling and you enjoy it the problem will be a lot smaller when you come back to it.

Exam Time

When you take a test, you are demonstrating your ability to understand course material or perform certain tasks. You need to avoid carelessness to do this. Always keep the stuff you write clear and legible.

  • Arrive early for tests
  • Bring all the materials you will need such as pencils and pens, a calculator, a dictionary, and a watch. You will be focused and more relaxed.
  • Be comfortable but alert
  • Be comfortable with the desk you are at. Maintain comfortable posture but don’t relax too much, stay alert and make sure you are tuned into the exam in front of you.
  • Stay relaxed and confident
  • Tell yourself that you are well-prepared and are going to do well. If you find that you are nervous then take a few deep breathes and calm down. Don’t talk about the test to other students just before it; this will in turn worry them and make them anxious.
  • Read the directions carefully
  • Always read them until there is no doubt in your head about what you need to do. It may seem obvious but it is not always done. It is a simple step to reduce carelessness.
  • Answer questions in a strategic order eg. First, easy questions, then difficult questions


  • Try not to leave as soon as you have completed the test.
  • Read over your script and make sure you’ve answered all that’s been asked of you. And make sure that you are happy with the way you’ve answered the questions.
  • Proofread your writing for spelling, grammar, punctuation, decimal points, etc. It’s also a way to see small mistakes you would have missed while doing the exam.
  • Change answers to questions if you originally misread them or if you have encountered information elsewhere in the test that indicates that your first choice is incorrect
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