University of Wisconsin–Madison
Student studying

Study smarter, not harder

When it comes to studying, several techniques can help you manage your study time and memorize information more effectively. We’re certain that at least one of these study tips will help you succeed as the semester progresses.

Avoid distractions


Limit distractions from your studies by picking a distraction free location.

Tip: The Libraries website has an interactive map of campus library locations, with links to their hours, websites, phone numbers and other useful information.


Your computer is as effective a distraction as it is a tool.

Tip: use tools like website blockers to help keep you focused while using your computer.


Use Mnemonics

Memorization by rote is difficult. Mnemonics make memorization easier and quicker by converting information into a more easily recalled form.

Tips: Use the Link and Story method to create your own easily remembered mnemonics.


Practice by yourself, and with friends. Use study cards, practice exams, and study groups.

Tip: StudyBlue is an online study tool, founded by two UW-Madison students, where students can share content such as notes and flashcards. See UW-Madison course specific content.


Distill information down to basic concepts with outlines, and use those outlines to make connections with related concepts, and to memorize exam relevant material.


  • OneNote is an excellent tool for outlining, and it’s free for Mac and Windows.
  • Google Keep is a synchronized notepad app supporting text, voice, photo notes and checklists. Keep integrates with Google Drive, so your notes are available from mobile and desktop devices alike.

Time management

Be systematic and methodical in managing your study time. Spending 30-60 minutes a day regularly is far more effective than a last minute cramming session. Studying at the same time each day will help you establish a routine.

Tip: Use time management tools to help you succeed

  • 42goals is a simple tool for tracking your daily goals and keeping a log of your daily activities. While 42 Goals has both free and paid plans, their free plan supports all their basic goal types.
  • 30/30 is a simple, attractive and useful iOS task manager app. It’s free!

Tip: make a study plan and stick to it:

Smart planning will increase your chance to succeed in most endeavors, and studying is no different in this regard. Many excellent study planners are available to you, such as this one.

Your plan should also include goals, breaks and rewards, to keep your motivation high. Make your goals specific and relevant to the material you’ll be studying. For example, memorize 25 dates for your history final. Study for an hour, and take a 5-minute break to catch up on IMs, or to grab a snack, or just to move around. Rewards enforce the formation of new habits, and the retention of old ones, so when you meet your study goals, reward yourself.


This list was drawn form several sources: