24 Study Tips of Top Students

24 tips for effective study and learning. Top students have shared their studying secrets.


Hello, here at Bridger Jones™ we help international students make the most of their time at university by editing and proofreading their dissertations, theses, essays and even their internship cover letters.  Many of the talented students we work with have a high level of English and are proficient academic writers but it seems the process of studying and learning still presents a challenge.

Read this in 5 minutes and study more effectively forever.

We are regularly asked the following questions:

  • How can I study more efficiently?
  • How can I learn more effectively?
  • How can I develop effective and efficient study skills?

Well, here is the good news. We have asked some of our top student customers just how it is they manage to ace their exams, remember those complex details, and stay cool and calm. We have distilled the feedback and have formulated 24 top study tips for effective and efficient learning, both in the classroom and at home.

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The 24 study tips

1. Listen carefully in class. Don’t just frantically take notes (more on note-taking later). Notes can be borrowed from classmates, lessons recorded or you can refer to course materials later. Listen in class!

2. Never miss a class. Consistent attendance in class is crucial for effective learning. Your tutor or lecturer has designed the course knowing that you need information in a particular order. Everything is connected; missing one thing can seriously impair your understanding of something else. Missing classes also means you  miss the chance to ask questions and to listen to others ask questions.

3. Ask questions in class. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Genuinely engage your instructor and participate in class. Remember, you are paying for their expertise. If you can’t follow the class, others probably can’t either. An added bonus of asking questions is that the scenario of interacting with your teacher will form a unique memory, aiding knowledge retention.

4. Write on paper. Taking notes on a laptop is efficient. Too efficient. Because it’s so easy to quickly type out the words of your lecturer, you don’t have to do the intellectual work of consolidating the information into your own words.  The act of writing with a pen helps retain more information compared to typing.

5. Write effective notes in a way that tests your retention and understanding. The best way to take effective notes is to use the Cornell note-taking method.

Example cornell notes

The Cornell note-taking method.

6. Don’t use a highlighter. Highlighting sentences and paragraphs is indicative of unengaged reading. If you want to make a note of something important in a book, underline it and write a corresponding note. Even better, write yourself a note summarising the section in your own words and with related questions.

7. Become an active reader.  Pose questions, develop hypotheses and actively test them as you read through your materials. Building hypotheses aids in developing a “mental model” of what you are learning. Sometimes this model takes the form of a story. Other times it can be a diagram or an image.

8. Read the end of chapter summaries. Reading the summaries can act as a guide to what you’ll be learning during your active reading.  When you have finished reading the chapter, close the book and write down what you remember. Compare your notes with the chapter summary.

9. Find a good study group. Seek out people who know more than you, who encourage discussion and who are passionate about the subject. Start the study group yourself and invite other serious students in your class.

10. Stay calm before exams. Don’t cram and stay calm.

keep calm when studying and taking exams.


11. Concentrate on the task at hand. Never multi-task. If you’re studying a particular subject think only about that subject. It is no good thinking about quantitative economics while studying mathematical analysis. This way you’re ensuring that you are neither learning quantitative economics or mathematical analysis. Turn off all phone alerts and notifications when you sit down to study.

12. Sleep well.  Research indicates that sleep does more than allow your brain to rest, recuperate and expel toxins. It’s an important part of the memory and learning process. During sleep your brain tidies up ideas and concepts your thinking about and learning. It erases the less important parts of memories and simultaneously strengthens areas that you need or want to remember.

13. Work out. One way to relax is to exercise. When Richard Branson was asked what his number one tip for being more productive is, he said it is working out. Working out can assist us to become more productive. It increases our energy levels, reduces stress and improves stamina.  A habit of regular exercise will help keep you mentally sharper throughout your entire life.

14. Avoid procrastination. The most difficult but most important habit to attain. Delaying things only increases your stress and anxiety. Working on deadline day and cramming before exams is never beneficial. Here are some quick tips to help avoid procrastination:

  • Study first thing in the morning.
  • Study every day.
  • Study with other people.
  • Prepare your study and assemble the proper tools.
  • Prioritise.
  • Reflect on the great feeling you’ll have when you’ve finished.

Check out this wonderful post from the London University International Programmes about how to manage digital distraction in your studies.

Avoiding procrastination is perhaps the most important of all our study tips

Avoiding procrastination is perhaps the most important of our study tips.

15. Be open to criticism. Try not to take criticism negatively. Instead take it in your stride and try to improve. Remember, it’s good to have an expert point out your mistakes.

16. Be consistent.  Consistency can be all that separates you and the student above you.

Hard work is good but regular hard work is better.

17. Immediately study exam and assignment mistakes. Top students get their exam papers and assignments back and immediately address the mistakes they made ensuring they are correcting their knowledge while the topic is relatively fresh. If you don’t correct your mistakes quickly, you may find yourself lost and confused at the end of the semester when studying for your finals.

18. Learn by doing. Any technical subject can only truly be internalised through use. Just like learning a new language, learning to be fluent in algebra or calculus requires active application of rules and formulas. Top students know there is a big difference between knowledge, and applied knowledge

19. Practice under test conditions. “Practice makes perfect”, absolutely. However, it needs to be deliberate and purposeful practice under the right conditions. Rather than reading through lecture notes and rewriting old assignments, top students practice exams and rehearse their exam performance, against the clock and in similar conditions (no notes, uncomfortable chair, quiet room, etc.) to what they’ll experience on exam day.

20. Do you own assignments. Never copy an assignment from a fellow student. It’s a complete waste of time because you learn nothing. If you can’t complete an assignment on time, ask your instructor for an extension even at the risk of a grade penalty.

Academic proofreading for students

21. Work steadily in periods of 25-30 minutes. Take a look at the Pomodoro method. Work for 25-30 minutes and then break for 5 minutes. Then, perhaps move on to a related topic; your brain will keep processing the previous topic in the background.

22. Have a dedicated study area. Don’t study where you do anything else. Don’t study in bed, where you play  video games, or in front of the television. Here is what you should have:

  • An assigned location.
  • An accessible location.
  • An area that can store the materials you need.
  • A large enough desk.
  • A comfortable chair.
  • Adequate light.

23. Teach someone else. Explain things as simply as possible. If you can explain something to a friend and they understand it, then you have learnt it.

learn it then teach it

If you can teach it, you have learnt it!

24. Learn to love your work. All the tips mentioned above will come naturally to you if you love what you do. Never view your study as a burden.

Michael Jones - Senior Editor - bridger-jones.com

About the Author
Hi, I’m Michael Jones. I lead this team of academic English editors and proofreaders. We take great pride in editing dissertations, theses, essays and applications for international students around the world and getting them the degrees they deserve.

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