How to create an effective study guide & stick with it

Studying in college can be quite difficult, especially if you don't know how to do it effectively. One of my new favourite techniques is creating a study guide. It helps me revise the content of the class whilst also helping me retain valuable information I need to pass the course. This step by step guide should help you create your own as well as explain why it's an effective study method you should try!


Start off by skimming through the material you are given on your first day: The student guides your tutor hands out, suggested reading material, any notes you took on your first 1 or 2 days....anything that you might have come across which can help create your study guide. Now is a good time to bookmark any online material you think will help, catch up reading material you don't need to read the entire textbook, use sticky notes, highlighters anything you find helps to mark out important or relevant information. You want to familiarise yourself with the content so it is easier to study. 


After you've gathered and skimmed through the relevant material, find the most important concepts your tutor has shared in class. Not everything will be featured on your exam that you read in your textbooks, check your student guide which highlights assignments, focus on key concepts and points. Then prioritise that information, I choose to highlight keywords and use sticky notes to write question or descriptions of words I don't understand. 

Make sure you understand what you're required to learn, you don't want to be wasting time learning something from a higher or lower level than you are.  

You don't need to write full sentences this is YOUR work sometimes keywords and concepts or even mind maps are what works best! Find what works for you and stick to it. 

Also if there are any concepts that you don't understand now is the time to ask! ask somebody in your class or your tutor for help if there is something you haven't 100% grasped. Your tutor is there to help you-you are not in exam mode all of the time! 

Listen out for "This will would make a great exam question" or "this is very important" comments from your tutor when this happens star the information or highlight it whichever technique you choose just make sure you remember this piece of information they are talking about. Usually, if your tutor is spending time discussing something in class, chances are that it is going to be on the exam so include this into your study guide. 

Include vocabulary words

If you’ve seen any vocabulary specific to that subject, make sure you include those words (and their definitions) on your study guide! Even if you’re not directly asked to give their definitions, they might be plugged into a question. You want to make sure you understand every one of them so you’re not blocked by a word you don’t understand on a question on your exam!

Create your study guide

Your study guide can come up in many forms: mind maps, timeline, questions and answers, bullet points… The choice is yours! It can even be a combination of many things (studying your material in different ways can actually help you retain the information more!)! Find what works best for you!

Use your own words

One of the most important things to remember when creating your study guide is to use your own words. You don’t want you to just learn your subject notes by heart and regurgitate that onto your exam copy! Writing things in your own words also makes it easier for you to study. You’ll understand what you’re studying more if you’re explaining it in your own words.

Improve your concentration by clearing your mind and being in the now! rid yourself of conflict- that is anything that leads your mind in different directions and stops you from concentrating.  

Use an easy-to-study format

As I mentioned before, a study guide shouldn’t be just a rewritten version of your class notes or textbook. So, try to format it so it’s easy for you to study! Use bullet points, headings and different colours so your brain can retain the information more easily. Don’t use full sentences; instead, try to use keywords or small phrases that are easy to remember. The main objective of a study guide is to facilitate your studying, and formatting your document visually will definitely help you achieve that, especially if you’re a visual learner (like me)! I also find that using bullet points and headings, as well as colour-coding, helps me prioritise the information.

Study guides are a very effective study method, if done correctly and thoroughly! I suggest taking it everywhere with you so you can study in your free time like during your lunch break, waiting for the bus, or in between classes. The important thing to remember when it comes to studying is that you need to do what works for you. Once you have found your method, stick to it!