How to Study Smart and Come Top of Your Class.

Image of student learning how to study smart
Photo of student learning how to study smart

Want to know how to study smart and come top of your class, and have those scintillating feelings that go with it?

You aren’t dreaming too big, and it’s understandable when you express your concern about how to achieve excellence in your study.

Here’s why I said so.

As a student, you have classes to attend, and exams are lurking; besides, you have some intensive readings to do.

What about your social life? Would you want to sacrifice it at the altar of schooling?

I guess that’s not what you’d want.

You want to lead a life that will allow you to excel in your study while simultaneously providing the opportunity to “party” hard.

A balanced life and nothing more! 

Learning how to study smart is essential to all students, and science proves this can be achieved if you implement all you’d read on this post.

So, we’re making this post to discuss proven scientific strategies that will teach you how to study smart, even with so many engagements around you, and still come top of your class. You’ll be glad you stumbled on this post.

 Also Read:How to Study For Exams within a Limited Time

Reading VS Studying

Many students mistake reading for studying. Ever wondered why most students who are always engrossed in their books make little or no academic progress?

The reason is that they choose reading instead of studying them.

How is reading different from studying? 

When you study, you devote time and give total concentration to understanding and grasping a concept ultimately. It’s pretty similar to learning. Studying places a student in a better position to commit to the memory of everything about a concept for a long time.

 Studying also involves research and a complete understanding of an array of topics within the subject.

On the other hand, reading is a process of going through a topic within a given subject to gain information. It requires the student’s participation to understand the concepts thoroughly. A reading process involves practice, development, and proper refinement paired with creative and critical analysis skills. 

 You should note that both reading and studying correlate with each other and are interdependent. For example, it won’t be easy to study without reading.

So a student may be able to understand a concept or topic without being able to remember some salient points about this concept during exams. This is where studying smart comes into play. Studying smart will help you commit to the memory all that you’ve learned.

Read Also: 9 Practical Ways to Overcome Procrastination Among Students

Tips on How To Study Smart

For over a decade, educationists and psychologists have engaged in various research to determine which study techniques work best for learners. Whereas some of these tips work for almost all subjects, others are perfect in certain areas.

Here are tips to help you study smart and achieve excellence in your studies:

  1. Space out your studying

Many students think it’s cool to study a day before an exam.

But scientists consider it a wrong approach to learning. Trying to learn everything about a subject a day before the test or exam may produce the opposite of what you want to achieve.

Do you know why?

There’s a high tendency for the brain to play pranks on you minutes before the test or right inside the test hall, leading to you forgetting everything you have crammed.

It’s better to space your study session.

Psychologists see our memory as water in a bucket with small holes from which the water can leak. If you refill the bucket while it’s still full, adding more water will be difficult.

When you allow time between study sessions, some of what you have committed to the memory may drip. However, your subsequent sessions will allow you to relearn and learn more, thereby remembering better.

In a 2009 study, some college students learned some words with flash cards. Some students learned all the words in spaced-apart sessions over four days, while others studied smaller batches of the phrase in cramped or massed sessions, each over a single day. Both groups spent the same amount of time overall. But the result showed that the group that studied the words in spaced-bout learned the words better.

2. Practice Constantly

Practice, they say, makes perfect. An instrumentalist can only get better with his instrument by practicing constantly. We could say the same about learning. A student who wants to remember information should endeavor to practice.

In a 2013 study on a student’s practice test for several weeks, students who engaged in constant practice before the test performed better than their counterparts who engaged in their usual study methods. 

Also, in a 2010 article published on Springer link, college students were meant to read the material and then take recall tests. Some students took just one test, while others took several tests with short breaks of several minutes. The second group remembered the material well after one week. 

3. Limit rereading your books and notes, try and answer questions.

One ordinary lousy study skill among students is rereading course material without attempting to answer questions.

Here’s one thing you may not have discovered.

Reading your notes or textbooks repeatedly without finding a way to answer questions about what you have read will make it hard for you to internalize what you have learned. Rereading is like looking at the answer to a puzzle without doing it.

According to a 2010 study, researchers compared the test results of students who reread the material to two other different groups. One group wrote questions about the material, while the other responded without writing the questions. Results showed that those who answered the questions performed excellently, whereas those who just reread the material did the opposite.

4. Take practice test

Testing yourself while learning is one of the best ways to study.

I know what you’re thinking.

“What’s the benefit of testing myself”? And “How do I test myself”?

Here are the answers.

Self-testing helps you retrieve learned information, determine what you don’t know, and improve your future learning.

To achieve this, you may get someone to quiz you on the material you’ve been studying. Or, you formulate questions from the material and try to answer them. Doing this will help you know your areas of strength and weakness. Retrieval practice can benefit virtually everyone.

5. Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes 

Mistakes are good as long as they teach you some lessons. And attempting to retrieve what you’ve learned is essential irrespective of how long it takes you to do that. 

A 2016 study lends credence to the above position. The study agrees that a learner could make mistakes while learning. However, it’s commendable to find out where you’re wrong and do well in making corrections. 

Mistakes are crucial to learning.

 6.  Try and Mix things up

You don’t have to dwell on one thing while studying. Mixing things up helps you achieve magnificent results in your self-testing efforts. So, there’s a need to drill yourself on different ideas. The idea of having your attention on other topics is what psychologists call interleaving. Again, repeatedly practicing one concept decreases concentration since you can anticipate what comes next. This concept will equally help you learn better.

Your tests usually will have questions mixed up, too. 

For example, learning about the volume of different shapes in math could help you do lots of problems with the volume of a wedge. Then you could answer more batches of questions, with each set dealing with just one shape. Or, you could figure out the volume of a cone, followed by a wedge. Next, you might find the volume for a half-cone or a spheroid. Then you can mix them up some more. You might even mix in some practice on addition or division.

7. Make Use of pictures

Attention to images, charts, and graphs can enhance your recalling ability of the material you’re learning. Also, creating pictures in cases where the material has no pictures can be helpful. 

Here’s why that’s important.

Visual representations help you create a complete mental idea of the learned materials. 

 According to a study by Washington University, students listened to a lecture on car brakes and pumps. In this three-group experiment, one group got diagrams and was told to add notes as needed to the diagrams. Yet, there’s another group that got an outline for writing notes. The last group just took notes. 

The university investigated whether students were otherwise good at building mental models of what they were reading. But in these tests, they found visual aids helped students across board.

8. Find relatable examples

To understand an abstract concept faster and better, try to form a concrete example of such a concept by creating its mental image.

Now, when studying a material where a particular fruit is said to have a sour taste because it contains acid. Remembering acid taste may sound so abstract. It will make much sense if you can think of lemon and vinegar. Because it’s easy to remember sour and acids are related, you can easily give examples of other foods with sour tastes as being due to acid. This method undoubtedly helps you to have at least two if you want to apply such information to new situations.

Indeed, it helps  you to have at least two examples if you want to apply information to new situations. 

9. Ask thought-provoking questions

It’s difficult to easily remember a line of information if you don’t dig deeper by asking some salient questions.

So ask questions!

Ask why some things are the way they are. How did some things come about? Why are they important? This method of asking questions is called elaboration, and it helps you to merge new information with the ones you know already. As a learner, you don’t just accept every fact hook, line, and sinker.

Again, interrogating concepts creates a more extensive network in your brain of things that relate to one another. A more extensive network makes it easier to learn and recall things.

10. Have a plan and study goal

He who fails to plan plans to fail. And having a plan without implementing it is also one of the undoings of most people. 

As it concerns students, they can have a spaced-learning session, test themselves and practice other things we’ve discussed. Still, many of them don’t practice them. Knowing what to do but refusing to do it is a recipe for failure.

To be a topper, you should have a routine and stick to it. Have the time and place you study. This may look off initially, but you’ll get used to it with time. Moreso, whenever you’re set to learn, rid your surrounding of any distraction-put your phone in silent mode or keep it elsewhere.

In addition, always allow yourself some breaks by conditioning yourself to 20 mins or more study. When you’ve studied for up to 20 to 25 mins, stand up and take a walk for 5 or 10 mins. You can engage in other exercises, check your phone or have a shower.

 Doing this will rejuvenate you and put you in the right mood to return to your studies.


We’ve looked at some valuable tips to help you learn how to study smart. But before then, we looked at the distinction between reading and studying to help the readers know when they’re doing what, even though we use the two terms interchangeably.

We noted that many students are already aware of some of the skills discussed in this post. However, they lack the focus and willpower to practice them.

To study smart, a student should have a plan and stick to it. Not doing this is a recipe for failure. In a like manner, you shouldn’t overwork yourself in an attempt to achieve academic excellence.

Try to give yourself some rest, engage in exercises, take a shower or pick up your phone and have some decent chats with friends and family.

Lest we forget, try and get enough sleep at all times. These routines are essential for learning as they put you in the right frame of mind to study more.

Lastly, if these skills seem overwhelming, don’t stress yourself trying to implement them all at once. Try one skill at a time and add more as you get more practice.

This is how to study smart and come top of your class.

Do you have any questions or suggestions? Don’t hesitate to pour them out in the comment section.

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