Study tips for lockdown

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Tip 1 Get organised

Study desk

Make sure you have all the resources you need to get you through a study session – books, laptop, notepad, timetable, pens, pencils, index cards, water etc.

Tip 2 Set objectives

AD curve

Set clear and achievable objectives for the specific study period you are planning for – these should follow the SMART rule:

  1. An objective should be specific, not vague, or generalised. Planning to draw a fully labelled diagram for topic X is a better objective than planning to ‘draw some diagrams’.
  2. Objectives should be measurable – for example, planning to redraw the diagram for topic X 6 times in 30 minutes is better as its achievement can be tracked, and you know when it has been completed.
  3. Objectives should be achievable – in other words, planning to practice 50 diagrams in 10 minutes is not achievable, and would be a demotivating target.
  4. Objectives should be relevant to what the purpose of studying is – this is not always easy to plan for, but if you are spending your time on irrelevant challenges or tasks you are not going to make much progress. For this it is useful to get a copy of your syllabus (or specification) so that the topics and sub-topics you pick are directly relevant to the subject you are studying.
  5. Finally, objectives should be timed, as above.

Tip 3 Create a plan


Setting objectives is a key part of the plan, but you also need to create a timetable, with clear start and finish times. Flexibility should be built-in with an end of day review to see whether tomorrow’s plan needs to be adjusted.

A common mistake is to over-plan in so much detail that it becomes too inflexible. Personally, I think start by creating a rough plan for three days at a time, then at the end of day one in the three day cycle spend 15 minutes adding detail to the plan for day two, and so on.

Tip 4 Keep focussed

If you have followed the previous steps it should be easy to keep focussed, but there is still more to do. While it is easy to get distracted by social media it is also easy to avoid constant checking of your phone or tablet. The only way that works is to turn off your phone for the length of your study session.

Better still, have a set time in the day when you catch-up with messages.

Tip 5 Be productive

There are efficient ways to study and less efficient ones. While there is nothing wrong with passive reading, it does not work for many students, so it is better to be ‘active’ in how you study – activities could include:

  1. Rewriting notes from memory
  2. Making short notes from textbooks
  3. Creating posters of key words/ideas. These can be incorporated into memory games – such as ‘post-and-test’.
  4. Creating and using ‘revision’ cards – these could be traditional ‘flash’ cards, or memory stack cards. Cards are a very effective way of learning and memorising. The method I prefer is the memory stack system, which enables you to build up knowledge in layers and through links.

To obtain a free copy of how to create revision cards, please email

Tip 6 Keep active

Sitting at a desk for an extended period of time is not exactly the best way to keep motivated and be productive. You can build activity into your studies. For example, if you put a noticeboard in another room at a distance, you can walk between your desk and your notice board to stick up a poster or a card.

For example, if in a morning session you create 20 revision cards, and 5 posters, you will have to move 50 times between desk and notice board. Not exactly a ‘high intensity’ work-out but a lot better than being tied to a desk for several hours.

Tip 7 Balance output and input

Study and revision should not just be about ‘inputting’ information, but also about outputting. Sometimes the most effective way to study (once you have done some prep) is to have a blank sheet of paper and try to remember key point, concepts or diagrams. Starting with some key question prompts helps target your output – use the basic ‘W’ prompts when they are relevant –

  1. What? (e.g. what is the multiplier effect?)
  2. Why? (e.g. why is the multiplier an important concept?)
  3. Which? (e.g. which diagram is relevant to illustrate the multiplier effect?)
  4. When? (e.g. when is the value of the multiplier high and when is it low?)

Tip 8 Review what you do

It is important to take time out to review how well you are doing, and what could be done differently. It is essential to assess your own progress and know exactly how well you are doing. You can do this by creating a rolling review list, say with three columns:

  • What you know really well;
  • What you know fairly well,
  • What you need to improve
column sheet

Hopefully, as revision and study unfolds you can move things from one column to another. How do you know what you are good at? This is not always easy to know, but the acid test is whether you can explain the idea to someone else. Your memory and understanding can be self-assessed by asking yourself increasingly challenging questions, and see how far up the ladder you can go.

For example, how far up this ladder could you go with an example topic, consumer surplus:

AD curve
  1. Define consumer surplus in words.
  2. Show where it is in a diagram.
  3. Give an example of it.
  4. Give three factors that might make it change.
  5. Explain why it is an important concept.

Start at the bottom, and work your way up. You can build this activity into your end of day review. If you could only get up to level 3, then adjust your plan for the next day to include more work on this topic.

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