How to Study – The Complete Guide

Most students have no idea how to study effectively. Many teachers focus on getting good test scores, and understandably so, without focusing on teaching the basics of study skills. The result is that the students either don’t study, or spend hours studying with poor results, or study at the last minute and burn out.

Here are some techniques that have been successfully utilized by middle school and intermediate school students to study and prepare for tests.

If you don’t think you need to learn how to study – consider this – By studying effectively you will spend less time studying, get higher marks and have more time to yourself!  

Not getting organized, taking proper notes hurts you in the long run and will take more time, and you’ll get poor marks.  

So lets dive in!

First, get organized!

Keep your study materials well organized. Use a separate folder to keep materials for each subject. Papers, assignments, homework, reports and anything that needs to be submitted should be kept on one side of their folder. The other side can contain handouts, tests results, corrected or returned homework and the likes. Learn to keep all papers and items used for the subject in the folder until you complete the semester and are through with the subject. This way it is always easy to access any paper when needed.   Tips on creating a productive study area
How to make a study plan

Time Management 
Organization and Time Management Skills

Stress Management

Study Skills Checklist

Get Motivated.

Yes you may have better things to do, and yes it may be unfair – but it is the way things are so don’t fight reality.  Get motivated and settle down to it.   Getting Motivated to Study

How to Study Different Ways.

Some teachers do not have a study guide prepared so ask for areas to read and material covered by the test. Most teachers will either tell you what you need to read or know to pass the test.

How to Study from your Notes 
How to Study Textbooks
How to Study Novels

Take Notes!  Very important!

Be sure to take notes! Often teachers will hand out a summary of what is on the test. Organizing, reviewing and rewriting your class notes are effective ways of implanting information into memory. Check your past notes and check for ways that you can rewrite or re-organize them to make better sense and sound better. Once you have summarized your notes, summarize the summary.

More on Taking Notes 
Taking Notes – a Quick Gide

Note Taking Styles 
Most students don’t realize there are different styles – Just writing things down is a good start but you can do much better and much more efficient.

Split Page Method
Cornell Method
Outline Method
Mind Maps

 How to Study From your Notes

Keep and Organize Handouts.

You can also rewrite and reorganize your handouts and other study materials received from teachers. The material found in your handout must be important for the teacher to include it. That means you need to identify key areas in the handouts and learn them. Rewrite and summarize important ideas from the handouts to keep them in your memory.


Know and understand the words and vocabulary related with the subject. As you study and attend classes you learn new words, vocabulary, ideas, concepts and even people. You need to learn the meaning to understand the subject. Skipping words, people, or concepts that you don’t understand will come back to haunt you! Often textbooks have a glossary – make sure you use it!

How Long should you Study for?

Everyone is different so find what works for you – The best solution is to start with short study periods and slowly increase.  Read more here –  How long should you study for?

Alcohol and Studying
Snacking and Studying

Learning Styles

Everyone studies differently and what works for one person may not work for you.  Finding your learning style is a huge help – the way that you learn will increase your efficiency and make the whole process much easier.

Learning Styles Quiz 
Learning Styles – How to Study for each Learning Style

Studying Math

Math is a different subject and needs a slightly different approach.   Perhaps more than other subjects, math builds on previous learnings – so – if you don’t understand something, stop and figure it out.  If you ignore and go forward it will come back on you!

For math students, make sure that you practice with the math problems at the end of each chapter. Also practice with the sample tests in your math textbook. Your ability to solve the problems found in your textbook simply means that you are prepared for the test.  Math Practice 

Take the time to revise their homework. Study and redo those math problems that you failed before. Understand the questions and correct your mistakes. If required, ask your teacher or someone else to put you through the problems that you can’t do on your own.

How to Study for a Math Test

Studying Science and Social Studies

Science and social studies textbooks usually have questions at the end of study units or chapters. Many teachers include either the exact questions from the textbooks, or very similar questions on the tests. Even if the exact questions do not come up on the test you will know your stuff.
More on How to Study from Textbooks
Basic Science Practice Questions
Basic Science Flashcards
Social Studies Practice Questions – Economics
Social Studies – Civics and Government
Canadian History (GED)

Study Methods – SQ3R

“Just studying”  without a method isn’t the best method!  The SQ3R study method goes back to 1946 and still one of the best methods.  This method has 5 steps -survey, question, read, recite, and review.   Learn more about SQ3R

Studying With Flash Cards

Flash cards are one of the most effective study tools.  Tips for using flash cards:

On one side of the card write down a word and on the other side write down the definition of the word. For example, you can write down the word “Noun” on a side of the card and then write its definition “name of a person, animal place or thing” on the other side.

Call out the word “noun” and then turn the card and read out “name of a person, animal, place or thing.” Repeat this over and over and soon you can say out the definition of the word without using the card.

After going through all the flash cards you prepared, you can then go over the cards again on the reverse. Instead of first calling out the word, you read the definition and try to remember the word on the other side. Call out the words as this helps learning and memory (auditory learning). It also helps to move around as you make use of the cards (kinesthetic learning) as this gets your body involved and helps learning too. You may look silly as you study with flash cards but you can be sure that your grades would be pretty.

After learning with the flash cards yourself, you can get a friend or parent to test you with the cards. This way you would memorize all the word and definitions on the cards.  Complete Guide to Flash Cards

Tips on using folded paper to study

All ages of students use this method right up to graduate school. Tips for using folded paper:

Fold a piece of paper in half. You can use of regular binder paper. On one side write down the words and on the other side write down the definition of the word. The folded paper method is a variation of flash cards. By flipping the paper you could see the word and then the definition. The routine is to read out the word, flip the folded paper and then read out the definition and try to memorize it.

This method is a great way to memorize important definitions a few days before your test. Apart from doing your usual homework and assignments you need to take about 30 minutes to study with flash cards or folded paper. Start early and avoid cramming! You can aim to memorize a few words each day and gradually memorize more words as you keep at it. This method allows you to keep up with regular activities and homework and won’t put the student under pressure.

Remember – the best way to study is the one that works for you!  Experiment and try different methods and find the one that you are comfortable with.  One thing you should do for sure is find your learning style – that will make you more efficient than anything

Just before the test, it is helpful to review your notes and go through your folded paper or flash cards. Read the material aloud to commit to memory and stay relaxed and confident.


Most people agree cramming is not the best study strategy, but sometimes, well, that’s the way things are.   If you have to cram, here are some tips

Learning how to concentrate is a critical skill for students.  Here are some tips for concentration when studying.

Get the Book Students are Talking About!

Get Organized – Study Less – Get Better Marks!
… without endless hours of cramming
… without the need for tutoring
… and without sacrificing the things that matter to you!

How to Study Handbook

Written by: Brian Stocker MA, Complete Test Preparation Inc.
Modified: October 31st, 2018 October 31st, 2018
Published: August 25th, 2015

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