It's 2 a.m. and you have a history midterm tomorrow morning. Your roommate is playing air guitar along to a deafening Rage Against the Machine song (as if there's any other kind), and the weird kid from down the hall has organized a makeshift séance on your bed. You're doing leg lifts on the floor with your notebook in front of you, when suddenly, one of the séance participants spills bargain beer all over your meager, already-illegible notes. The lesson here? Never tone your thighs near cheap beer.

Well, there is actually another lesson: your study skills bite ass. Everything from the illegibility of your notes to your study environment screams disaster. You might not care about your GPA, but we do, so this SYW will provide you with the information you need to learn how to study. We won't raise your IQ, but we'll at least help you use what you've got.

Before we begin to sermonize, go take this test to see where your main studying problems lie. Once you figure out why you're such a slacker that has been a lifelong disappointment to your parents, we can continue on our journey to turning you into a dork.


Choose the place and assemble your materials

A library is ideal. Yes, we know that you shudder at the thought of going to a library, but that's what makes it so perfect. What could be more boring (translation: less distracting) than a library? However, if you're the type who can't focus amid that deafening silence, you should at least pick a place where you know you will be able to focus. Here are some suggestions:

A quiet coffee shop
A study hall
A student lounge
An empty classroom

A bedroom is NOT a good place, since you'll be near a phone, a bed, a TV, and other distractions. After 30 minutes, you'll start reasoning with yourself that a Dawson's break is essential for your sanity.

Make sure you have all the materials with you that you might need - you don't want to waste time looking for your lucky pen (or hunting someone down to borrow one that's inferior). It's also best to have a table or large desk where you can spread your stuff so it will all be within easy reach.

Here's a quick inventory you can do to determine if you've found the right study environment for you.

Make sure you're comfortable

Whatever area you choose, make sure it's relatively pleasant and comfortable. Some people need silence to study, while others can't study without some background music. (Researchers have found that listening to music can improve mental focus, though not necessarily while you're studying.) It's probably best to avoid high-energy music like hip hop or hardcore rock, though - if you find yourself singing along to the music or even tapping your foot, chances are your attention is lagging. The mellower, the better.