Spending all day at the library or on the couch if you are studying remotely isn’t always the most effective way to work. Understanding how your brain processes and retains information is key to making the most of your time, staying on track and doing well in your tests and assignments. Use your environment and your schedule to encourage habits that help you do what you have to do.
- Find a good place to work, without clutter and/or distractions surrounding you.
- Minimize distractions by using website blocking or focus apps and log out of your social media accounts while you do school work.
- Take care of yourself, e.g. get enough sleep.
- Space out short study sessions over a longer period of time.
- Practice repetition—it is very helpful in building memory.
- Develop your own memory aids that help you handle course content, such as flash cards, acronyms, annotated diagrams, associations, or compare-and contrast tables—or try explaining the information in your own words. Digesting and understanding what you need to remember will improve your ability to hold on to the details and ideas you need.
- Try the Pomodoro Method for staying focused: use a timer to work for 25 minutes on a task, then take a 5-minute break before repeating the process. If this feels like too short a time period to you, experiment with different lengths of time to find what suits you best.
- Use SMART Goals to improve concentration: setting yourself a specific, measurable, and achievable task that can be done in a short period of time often helps more than a long, general “study” period.
- Problem Solving Matrix (PDF)
- Studying Facts vs. Concepts for Life Sciences (PDF)
- Tips for Studying Languages at University (PDF)
- Exam Tips (PDF)
- Take-Home and Online Exams (PDF)
- What Works, What Doesn’t? (Scientific American Mind)
- Forget What you Know about Good Study Habits (New York Times)
- The Curve of Forgetting (University of Waterloo)
Apps and assistive technology
We have used some of the apps and websites listed below, and others have come to our attention from students who have found them helpful.
- StayFocusd (Chrome Web Store)
- Freedom (Freedom)
- XMind (XMind)
- Index Card (iTunes Store)
- SimplyNoise (SimplyNoise)
Disclaimer: the University of Toronto does not officially endorse the aforementioned apps and websites and may not be held responsible for any technological problems that arise from their use. Please use at your own discretion.
Other U of T resources
A full list of aid centres is available on Find academic resources.
- Peer-Assisted Study Sessions for Engineering (PASS)
- University of Toronto Peer Tutoring (UTPT)
- Faculty of Arts & Science Registered Study Groups
Academic Workshops for Grad StudentsWe can help you navigate the top academic challenges that grad school brings to your life. Learn more about Academic Workshops for Grad Students
Study HubsStudy Hubs are scheduled times for you to set and meet your studying goals. Learn more about Study Hubs
Study SmartStudy Smart is a one-day conference to learn how YOU learn best so you can identify and develop success habits that will help you maintain motivation and achieve your goals. Learn more about Study Smart
Workshop SeriesWe offer a variety of interactive weekly workshops that give you the practical skills to you succeed in your course work. Learn more about Workshop Series
University Prep WorkshopsThis workshop series prepares you to enter and/or return to a university academic environment. Learn more about University Prep Workshops
Exam Prep WorkshopsGet that academic edge to ace your exams! Our team of learning strategists offer a roster of short, focused workshops to get you exam-ready. Learn more about Exam Prep Workshops