Secure a protected space – Every student needs somewhere to study which is free from distractions and unnecessary interruptions. This protected space can be anywhere; if your house doesn’t have a designated ‘study’, you might use your dining room, a guest room/bedroom, or attic space. What is important is that it needs to be somewhere where you can not only study without interruption, but also leave textbooks, papers and files knowing that they will be left undisturbed. If your house is just too noisy or frenetic, particularly if you are a mature student and have children living at home, you might find it easier to find some protected space elsewhere. This might be at your parents’, in-laws’, a relative’s or friend’s/fellow student’s house. Also, don’t forget your university library which often stays open later to accommodate students’ information needs. Most NHS hospitals also have a medical library on-site, so this is another option to consider.
Make sure that you study at your optimum time – We are all different and while some of us rise ‘with the lark ’, others come into their own as ‘night owls ’. Study to your strengths and tackle more challenging pieces of work when you are more alert and motivated, and defer the more routine tasks to times when you are feeling tired. By doing this, you will be able to focus better and give more detailed attention to key pieces of coursework/assignments that require this detail.
Plan specific times for studying – This can be more easily said than done, but try to schedule in specific times during the week for studying and make sure friends and family know that this time is ring-fenced and non-negotiable. If you can develop a study schedule and get into a routine of spending a few hours studying at the same times each week, it will soon become second nature to you.
Your study environment – Make sure that you are comfortable, have adequate lighting to avoid eye strain and a comfortable/supportive chair and suitable desk/table/work station with adequate storage. Universities and libraries will have these facilities, but it can be more challenging to find a suitable study area at home.
Looking after yourself – Try not to study for too long a period at a time, as you are likely to tire, will struggle to concentrate, and become less effective. Scheduling in short tea/coffee/lunch breaks will help to keep you energised which is more conducive to learning, as will getting some fresh air, whether this is a quick stroll around the block, 10 minutes in the garden, or just opening a study window. However, try to take your breaks at a logical time, eg when you’ve completed writing a paragraph, rather than half–way through one, as it can be difficult to pick up from where you’ve left off.
Set yourself study goals – Decide what you would like to accomplish and set yourself a realistic goal (eg, revise the bones, sutures and fontanelles of the fetal skull). By setting a study goal or adhering to a study schedule it can be much easier to remain focused on the task and you can see how your personal learning/revision is progressing and identify areas where you might need to develop your understanding or receive additional support/guidance.
Stay motivated – Staying focused and motivated can be a struggle at times for the best of us! Where you can maintain your motivation, you will find it much easier to remain focused on the task in question; however, if you cannot, you are likely to struggle and may even find it difficult to get started in the first place! Consider studying
with a friend (two heads are often better than one!), or as part of a larger study group, but make sure that you stay focused (don’t chat), and that everybody’s individual
learning needs are met. Where one or two people dominate a study group, this can be counterproductive and, at its worst, may even damage people’s self-confidence. However, by studying in a group, it is likely that more ideas and suggestions will be shared. Motivational posters, specific songs and poems can also hold special meaning and can give you the encouragement you need when you’re feeling tired and demoralised (as every student does at some point!); they can also help to keep you on track for the end goal! Reward yourself for studying – when you’ve put in a solid morning’s work, meet up with friends for lunch or perhaps treat yourself to a chocolate bar or cream cake. 😀