5 Secrets of Smart Students: Effective Study Tips for High School

Student using sticky notes for effective studying

In online high school, students gain more independence and they also gain more responsibility for their studies. With standardized tests, including ACT®, SAT®, and AP®* tests, approaching, this is the time to develop effective study methods for high school. 

Below you will find helpful takeaways about effective study tips and study methods for high school students. This will be a great resource to refer back to later for developing good study skills. 

Effective Study Methods and Tips for High School Students

1. Before you study, schedule your time.  

Plan to study for about two hours each dedicated study night, five nights per week. It helps to schedule your time by writing down your study goals at the beginning of the week and then estimating how much time each task will take. You should also assess the urgency of each task and schedule more urgent tasks for the beginning of the week. 

  • Study at a set time. Establishing a study habit is extremely important for developing good study skills. Knowing when you are going to study keeps you from committing to conflicting activities or wasting time deciding when you’ll study, getting material together, etc.  
  • Study in a setting similar to the testing environment. Try to study at a desk with little or no distractions. You might want to turn off your music and all other noises. Feeling like you’re in a familiar setting when you take a test will also help you recall information. 

2. Learn the tricks for efficient note-taking.

The more comprehensive, legible, and organized your notes are, the easier it will be for you to study them. Notes can increase your recall of important information and can be used to call out important topics or ideas that you need to revisit. 

  • Create your own bullet system using different numbering (Arabic, Roman) or symbols to mark up your notes. For example, use a star for points you’d like to come back to, an exclamation mark for points you plan to put on flashcards, or a smiley face for concepts you’d like your teacher to re-explain. 
  • Shorten your notes by using abbreviations and symbols. You don’t need to write out every word if you know you’ll remember what something shorter means. Save yourself some time! 
  • Feel free to get creative. Draw pictures, thought bubbles, or anything that pulls your attention to important topics. Draw arrows from the cause to the effect. Use different colored highlighters. Mind mapping is a great technique to help visually organize information you need to study. 

3. Use your study time wisely. 

Having set a schedule and your study topic priorities is a good start, but be ready to follow through by maintaining your focus when it’s time to crack the books.  

  • First, make a conscious effort to stay away from distracting websites that can suck up your day. If you have trouble with this, you can download an app that will allow you to shut out distracting websites when you choose, like SelfControl(opens in a new tab) for Mac users. Strict Workflow(opens in a new tab) is a Chrome extension that will block distracting websites for 25 minutes at a time and also give you 5-minute breaks. 
  • Don’t study right before bedtime or when you know you will not be fully committed or awake. Give yourself some daylight hours to study if you can. If it’s nice out and it won’t distract you, sitting in the sun can help keep you awake and alert. 
  • Take frequent breaks. Learn your body’s natural rhythm and understand how long it takes you to get back in the zone. If it’s easy for you to get right back into your studies, take a 5-minute break every half hour. If it takes you a while to refocus, you may be better off taking a 30-minute break every hour and a half.  
  • Avoid multitasking. Trying to take on multiple tasks at once can weaken your grasp of information, reduce your memory, and hurt your performance overall. Reducing distractions as much as possible and making sure you are solely focusing on one topic are proper study methods for high school. It helps to let everyone you live with know that you need quiet time, or go to a library or quiet study location

4. Use creative study tools.

If you can add a level of enjoyment or entertainment to your study sessions, you’ll be more motivated to get started and to stick to it each night.  

  • Turn your notes into flashcards. Flashcards challenge you to remember facts you’ve covered and reward you by hammering these concepts into your brain. As you review your notes, mark any terms or topics that you are struggling with or that require some extra understanding or memorization. Make flashcards form 3x5 cards or search for one of the many free apps online for making digital flashcards and give it a try.  
  • Visualize tough concepts by turning them into pictures or stories. This is helpful for reading comprehension, so as you read about different ideas and topics, pull out specific words or phrases and connect them to a picture in your mind, a memory, or a story. This will also help you recall the information when you are able to associate it with the story or visual later. 
  • Study with friends. While it’s important to concentrate in solo study sessions, mix things up by arranging a weekly study group. You’ll get new perspectives on the material as others discuss their takeaways from it. Just make sure that your friends are interested in developing good study skills. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun studying together, but it is a work session. It’s best to discuss what’s expected(opens in a new tab) of one another and start with a single, focused study topic to see how well you do as a group. 

5. Keep yourself healthy.

You can’t be on your “A” game if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Being tired or hungry or worked up can adversely affect your focus and ability to remember information. 

  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep! According to multiple studies, only about 30 percent of teens report getting the 8–10 hours of sleep they should get each night. Make sure you’re one of them, if possible. Turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime, and be conscious of winding down for the night(opens in a new tab). Don’t try to stress and study right before bed. If there are tasks you didn’t get to during the day, make a list for tomorrow rather than worrying about them all night. 
  • Get vitamins and nutrients, and avoid junk food. Reward your body and mind for all of your hard work by eating foods that will boost your energy and keep your mind and body going. Try things like walnuts, berries, leafy greens, and whole grains. Here are some other nutrient-dense foods(opens in a new tab) to include in your diet daily. 

Now that you’re armed with these five approaches to study methods for high school success, drill down with these tips(opens in a new tab) based on how your brain and body work. 

*AP® and Advanced Placement® are registered trademarks of the College Board. Used with permission. 

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