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Common mistakes when studying and how to avoid them

Common mistakes when studying
In stressful exam periods, it's important to keep a cool head so you don't waste any time, make silly mistakes or even study the wrong thing entirely! If you often catch yourself saying any of the following things when studying, you might find the following tips and tricks helpful to improve the way you learn.

1. "There is so much to do and I don't have enough time!"

It's important to make sure you start studying early enough. If you don't leave yourself enough time, and you have to get everything in your head in a short amount of time, it usually doesn't end well. If you try to cram everything in too quickly, mistakes are bound to happen, you won't be able to remember everything, and you may even study things that are actually not that important.

Storing something in your long-term memory takes a lot of time, so you must repeat topics often. Think about it like this; if you want to learn a new trick on a skateboard, you must also know how to ride in a straight line. It's the same at school; if you cover a new topic in maths, you also have to know the basics so that the new stuff makes sense. You shouldn't forget everything you study immediately after an exam, but that can happen if you only manage to store information in your short-term memory. So, it's important to start revising early enough to remember it all.

2. "I don't know where to start!"

When faced with an exam, the amount of content you need to cover can be overwhelming. If you're overwhelmed, you might be tempted to throw yourself in the deep end and begin studying haphazardly, but if you do this you're bound to make mistakes. To avoid this, it is important to get an overview of what will be covered in the exam. If you haven't already got a list of the relevant topics, ask your teacher or try creating one yourself from your notes or the textbook.

Once you have an overview of what you need to cover, you should start planning. Create a realistic plan and divide your time so you can get through all the topics before the exam without getting too stressed.

It is important to plan breaks as well! You can't spend every minute of every day studying because your brain needs time to process what it has learnt. Remember that scrolling on your phone isn't a break for your brain! It's better to get up, go for a walk, do some exercise, treat yourself to a power nap or tidy your room to clear your head. Any of these activities will help refresh your brain so you'll be ready to start studying again after a short break.

It's good to schedule some buffer time in case anything doesn't go according to plan. You can find other articles on our blog which have helpful tips for studying, and explain how to create the perfect study plan.

3. "It's just way too much text!"

Sitting in front of a big pile of books and not knowing where to start can be overwhelming. Try taking it just one step at a time. First, divide the workload and work out how much you can get through each day. You'll soon realise that it's not that much if you break it up into small chunks and have a manageable amount to do each day.

Using highlighters and post-it notes as you go through a text makes reading a more active process. This means that you will remember and internalise more of what you've read. Write down keywords for each paragraph and summarise what you remember. This helps you to identify which content you need to cover again.

4. "I kind of understand it."

If you catch yourself saying this, you probably haven't fully understood whatever you're studying. So, while you're studying, try to write down questions that you can use to test yourself at the end of the day. You can also ask someone else to test you or to review your answers.

This is especially helpful if you write exam-style questions. Alternatively, if you know the material is tested in a multiple-choice format, then prepare short questions which you have to answer in a short space of time. By doing this, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses.

5. "I'm just checking what my friends are up to."

Your phone should be nowhere near you when you're studying or revising. It's best to put it far away from your workspace, put it on silent or turn it off completely. It's also a good idea to tidy your workspace before you begin studying so you don't get distracted by clearing up or organising your drawers. A tidy space is key for focused and efficient studying.

6. "I can do it by myself."

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength and self-awareness. If you realise that you don't understand a topic, ask your parents, classmates, or friends for help. Discussing a topic with others can help everyone understand it better, as in doing so, you process what you have learned and exchange thoughts that lead to new ideas. If this works well for you, consider forming a study group with some classmates. If that doesn't help, then contact your teacher or a tutor.

You can read more about study groups on our blog.


So, if you begin studying early enough to create a realistic plan, take it one step at a time, and try to understand the material instead of just memorising it, there isn't much standing in the way of you passing any exam.

If you realise you've taken on too much and your head is starting to spin, take a break, even if you didn't plan to take it. That's why you need to have some buffer time in your study plan so that unplanned breaks are possible and they don't throw you off course.

Most importantly, keep it up and don't give up!
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