Study habits and study techniques
Studying at university requires you to take more responsibility for your studies than in secondary and upper secondary school. The pace of study is intense, the amount of literature more extensive and you have a greater responsibility to plan your own time. Here you will find several tips that can help you create effective study habits.
The tips below are general and not everything may apply to you. Select what you think best suits you, and what may help you succeed in your studies.
Remember that you are always welcome to contact our study counsellors if you feel you need to talk to someone regarding your study situation.
Your attitude plays a part
It's easier to study if you are motivated to learn. You can use the following questions to better understand what motivates you.
- What do you think is interesting about what you are studying right now?
- What goals do you have to look forward to?
- What do you want to get out of your education?
- Why did you choose to start studying from the beginning?
- Was it you who chose the focus for your studies or were you influenced by others?
- What attitude do you have towards your studies? Are you driven by interest or by future goals such as a good job?
Tips for better study techniques
Reading course literature is not like reading fiction — it is not about reading the literature from beginning to end, once. Instead, it is a matter of structuring and planning your reading, reading in different ways and quite often re-reading to ensure the knowledge has been taken in. Here are some tips on reading strategies.
Start with an overview of the reading — read the table of contents, any summaries and scroll through the book to get an overview. In this way, you get an overview on the book's structure, key points and how different parts of the content relate to each other.
You can complement your overview reading by focusing on things that stand out in the book — italicised or bold words and terms, captions, figures, diagrams etc. By doing so, you can often identify what is most important.
Read before a lecture
To do an overview read of the current course literature is a good way to prepare for a lecture. Then you will probably recognise much of what you have read and find it easier to pay attention to things you don't understand. In this way, you can also take the opportunity to ask the lecturer some questions.
After the lecture, you can continue with intensive reading of course literature. Intensive reading will probably remind you of the kind of reading you are used to: to more or less carefully read through paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter.
To remember what you read, it is a good idea to take regular breaks from reading and sum up in your own words what you have just read. You can also underline important pieces and take notes. In this way, you stay focused and repeat while you are reading.
For you to remember what you have read, it's important to repeat to yourself what you have read. You should repeat things before you forget, not after. In this way, you consolidate your knowledge instead of having to re-learn it. A recommendation is to repeat within half an hour after you have finished reading, then after 24 hours, and again after a week.
Remember that you should repeat throughout the reading of course literature and not just when you have finished reading. You do this by regularly summarising what you have read, by taking notes and by underlining.
Maintaining your concentration
- Take regular breaks (a recommended frequency is 5-15 minutes break per 20-50 minutes reading)
- Try standing up, walking and sitting alternately
- Try reading both aloud and silently - what works best for you?
When planning your own studies, there are two aspects to consider: what you have to do and how much time you have available.
Plan the reading
Once you know how much you need to read by a certain time, you can quite easily see how much you need to read per reading session, day or week before you have to be ready. A tip is to attach post-it notes with preliminary date markings in the book in advance. These become milestones, and you quickly see how far you should have read by any given time.
If you notice that you do not manage to read quickly enough, or you read faster than you planned, you can easily move the post-it notes in the book.
Plan the time
To be able to plan your time, it is a good idea to use a calendar. In the calendar, you should not only enter seminars and lectures, but also study sessions that you plan and are responsible for yourself. Use the time between lectures, and weekdays that have no course elements scheduled, to plan your own study.
By writing to-do lists for each study session, day or week, you can get a better structure of what you have to do, and you do not need to keep several things in your head at the same time. When you write lists, you can also prioritise the activities. For example, if you have something that is not as urgent, you should write it further down the list and instead focus on what you need to finish first.
A common problem is that you may postpone what you intend to do. If you feel that putting things off is a problem, you can also contact the Student Health Services. Here you can obtain treatment for procrastination.
Identify the traps
When you are studying, there are likely to be a variety of things around you that are likely to distract you. Do you usually need to tidy up before you can get started? Or do you have to eat something? Or maybe you're having a hard time getting away from social media? Think about your situation — what traps prevent you from getting started?
Start right away
In order not to get caught up by distractions, try starting to study right away. Instead of interrupting your studies as soon as you get distracted, you should plan in regular breaks when you can devote yourself to something else.
If you still have trouble concentrating, try having a recall note next to you while studying. On that, you can write down things that take attention away from your studies but which you are afraid you might forget, for example if you have to clean, go to the laundry room or make a phone call. By using a recall note that you only look at in the break, you relieve your memory.
Dictation — speak in your notes
If you have a phone with a dictation function, you can choose to speak instead of writing when taking notes, for example parallel with your reading. Typically, you use the function by opening your note app and pressing the microphone symbol on the keyboard. Then you can speak in the notes and save them as a text.
If you have a text that you would rather listen to than read, you can find out whether your phone has a speech synthesis function. On the iPhone you can find the speech synthesis under Settings – General – Aids – Speech – turn on the Read out function. Then you can select text on your phone and have it read out. You can also pause during the reading and change the speed.
Digital aids at the Swedish Defence University
The Swedish Defence University provides several programmes that facilitate reading and writing work which all registered students can use. On the Digital Aids page you will find which programmes are available and how to download them.
It is important to have well thought out planning to study effectively. There are studies showing that students who organise their studies constructively also do better and achieve better results in exams.
Make a schedule for each week where everything is included: lectures, seminars, laundry room, training, food, important (private) things, breaks etc. and time for repetition.
Be specific when you set your goals for your study sessions, e.g. a special task you should do or what pages to read in a book.
Each study session
- What did you do yesterday? Look at yesterday's work/repetition.
- What are you going to achieve today? What questions should you answer/information should you do?
- What are you going to read? Number of pages? What chapters? What are you going to learn today?
- What do you already know?
- When are you going to take breaks?
Plan your studies and keep to your deadlines!
Study in several steps:
- Before the lecture: quick overview - in-depth overview
- During the lecture: you have by now an impression of what it will be about, so you will be much more receptive to what the teacher is saying than you would have been otherwise. You can put the new information into a context. Take notes so as to be able to go back to and repeat after the lecture.
- After the lecture: study planning - intensive reading -repetition
- Read together with others. Then you have someone to interact with when you don't understand something and you can learn too by explaining to others.
Don't forget the breaks
About every three quarters of an hour (this is individual of course) can be just the right time to take a ten-minute break.
Focus on what you are reading
Turn off the phone and social media. Studies show that efficiency is halved by doing several things at the same time.
Think about where you sit and study so you minimise all the "I should just"
- What do you do that is good for learning and studying?
- What do you need and want to change?
Decide to try to change by selecting a couple of things that you want to start with. Formulate what you want to change in positive words; for example:
- I'm going to read more instead of I'm going to take shorter coffee breaks.
- I'm going to get up earlier instead of I'm not going to sleep so long.
Motivation & concentration
Most people can train their ability to concentrate. But first it's good to think about why you can't concentrate.
Common reasons for lack of concentration, for example, are:
- Disturbing little things or thoughts that disturb
- Love problems
- Financial problems
- Unrealistic plans
- Low reading speed
- Too little sleep or exercise or a poor diet
- Poor study habits
Tips that can increase your concentration
- Get into regular habits – for studies, sleep, food, exercise etc.
- Study in an environment that suits you, preferably in the same place.
- Study at times when you are at your most concentrated.
- Study in places where you are disturbed as little as possible.
- Keep order in the place where you study and have what you need to hand.
- Divide the work up and decide in which order you should do things.
- Start working immediately.
- Just do one thing at a time.
- Start in good time.
Nervousness and exam stress
Getting just a little bit wound up and being a little nervous before an exam is perfectly normal – and can be good! A little nervousness is the body's way of focusing on the task.
But if the nervousness "takes over" so that you feel really bad and even ill, you can get help from Student Health, which can be very much about exam stress, among other things.
Writing academic texts
Are you able to write academic texts? It can be difficult to get to the right level of language and to keep track of references, quotations and source criticism. You can find a number of tips on the page about academic writing.
At university, a variety of words and concepts that you may not know are used. In our list of academic terms you will find explanations of most of them.