A laptop, pens, headphones and letter board on a pink fluffy blanket.

How to study effectively

Study can be stressful. A new Trimester rolls around, you have your highlighters, books and sticky notes at the ready. Then all of a sudden, you’ve got three assessments due in a week and you haven’t started a single one!

Making a study schedule that actually works can remove some of the stress associated with university, and help you keep on top of those assessments.

Step 1: Set Realistic Study Goals

How many times have you told yourself ‘tomorrow I will read 3 chapters of my criminology textbook, do my law assignment and study for the statistics quiz’ and then end up doing nothing? I did it far too often when I started studying, and it just made me feel stressed and angry at myself.

Have a look at all the units you are taking, you can then see how many assessments, quizzes, classes, and tutorials for each you will have. Work out what you need to do each week to stay on top of everything. Maybe it’s reading a chapter of your textbook a day?

Remember that you can play around with your schedule until it works for you. If you start with the goal of watching six lectures a day and can never achieve it, then try reducing it to three and see if that helps!

Yearly wall planners are a great way to see exactly what you’ve got due and when. There are plenty of free printable wall planners, or if you want something more specific to your taste check out Etsy and see what you can find! You can then head to places like the UNE Printing Services or OfficeWorks and print your calendar onto a poster! If you want something you just need to grab off the shelf, check out places like OfficeWorks or Kmart.

Step 2: Make Study a Part of Your Daily Routine

Studying daily will not only get you into a routine but will give you a huge advantage over those people who cram their study into the two days before their exams. You don’t have to sit in your room and study for six hours every day. Use that hour in between classes to prepare for your tutorial next week, rather than scrolling mindlessly on Facebook. Once you start doing little blocks of study every day, it will gradually turn into a habit.

You should also keep in mind your best working times. Are you a morning person or a night person? If you’re not sure, try studying at different times of the day to see which suits you best and which time you’re most productive in.

The Academic Skills Office has some great planners, including a weekly study planner. Use the planner to map out when you have classes, tutorials, work, and sport. This will then show you when you have spare time to throw in some extra study or to complete your assessments. Scheduling in some me-time, self-care or social activities will also keep you feeling sane.

Step 3: Structure Your Study Time

To stay fresh and alert while studying you should take lots of study breaks! The Pomodoro Technique is used by many people to increase their productivity, increase their accountability and maintain motivation.

So how does it work?

  1. Before you start, create a list of all the things you need to do. You might like to start with the easiest task to gain momentum, or the hardest if you tend to avoid them altogether.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working on your first task. Check out the best free Pomodoro apps here!
  3. If you are distracted by a thought during the 25 minutes, just write it on a piece of paper and come back to it later.
  4. When the timer goes off, congratulations you’ve finished one Pomodoro!
  5. Take a 5-minute break, and then start another Pomodoro. Make sure you do nothing related to study in your break. You can go for a walk, stretch or grab a coffee.
  6. Once you have finished 4 Pomodoro’s, take a 20-30 minute break.
  7. Keep going until all of your assessments are done, you’re caught up on your unit, or it’s just time to finish studying for the day.

3 to 4 hours of study every day, where you are focused and actually accomplish something, is worth much more than 8 hours where you fall somewhere between not really studying and not quite relaxing.

Step 4: Create Your Own Study Zone

Having a specific location to study is the best way to ‘get into the zone’. Your study zone should be clean and distraction-free. Ideally, your space should be your desk, the library, or somewhere associated with study. However, if you can comfortably (and effectively) work on the couch or your bed as well, go for it!

Remember to eliminate all distractions to help you keep focused. This can be putting your phone on silent, using an app like Forest or Flora to keep you off your phone, turning the TV off, moving away from your friends or even removing your ability to browse the internet with a website blocker!

Step 5: Create Good Sleep Habits

People aged between 18-64 years old should try to get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. This will keep you performing at your best! Sleep can actually improve your memory, attention, and concentration. So pulling an all-nighter before an exam will make things way worse, not better!

To make sure you’re getting enough sleep set an alarm at night when you want to go to bed. This will help get you into the habit, and ensure you are getting enough sleep!

You should also consider what you are doing before bed, and how that may be impacting your sleep. Blue light is emitted from your phone, computer, tablet, e-reader and TV. Blue light impacts your sleep by delaying the release of sleeping-inducing melatonin, increasing your alertness and resetting the body’s internal clock! This often leads to taking longer to fall asleep, having less REM sleep and waking up feeling sleepy rather than rested.

So how do you fix this? Ideally, being technology free anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours before bed is best. However, you can also dim your device screen at night, change the settings on your e-reader so the writing is white on a black background, change your computer settings to filter the blue light (this website covers Mac and PC) and finally, change your phone settings to reduce your blue light (this website covers basically all phones). Some phones have an in-built feature to turn the screen to greyscale between certain hours.

Step 6: Use Available Resources

Just reading your notes is pretty boring, so why not use apps or websites that you can create flashcards with? Check out StudyBlue, Quizlet or AnkiApp that give you the choice of creating your own cards, or using some already created. Just be careful to check for accuracy when using pre-created study materials.

The Academic Skills Office also has some wonderful resources from study planners, video resources, fact sheets, and a wide range of other services to help you academically.

The UNE Library has access to so many articles, books, and journals. However, do you actually know how to use the databases to find the information you need? Luckily UNE has fantastic librarians who are happy to teach you all the tricks, just Book a Librarian! There are librarians specific to each discipline, so whether it’s JSTOR or ScienceDirect, there is someone who is happy to help! In a pinch, you can call the Library Service Desk on 1800 059 735 to ask for assistance.

You’ll thank me when it no longer takes you 4 hours just to find 1 relevant article for your essay.

Happy studying! You’ve got this!


If you’re having trouble with your studies, get in touch. We can help you navigate the bumps in the road. We are completely free, independent and confidential. If we cannot directly assist you, we can put you in touch with UNE support services that best suit your circumstances.

We can be contacted at advocacy@une.edu.au or on (02) 6773 3116. If you’re on campus, feel free to visit our office in the Arcade, to the north of Café Life.

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Or if you’re looking to connect with more UNE students check out the Student Social Directory.