Study techniques for mature students – OurWarwick

Study techniques for mature students

I have found myself procrastinating about how best to approach reading these piles of books I have, before I have to return them. So, I decided to procrastinate a bit more and, rather than actually reading, I watched an hour long lecture about healthy study habits by this chap, Marty Lobdell.

If you don’t have an hour spare to watch his lecture, then I am happy to share what I have learned.


Students often find starting their studies is a difficult thing. However, once engrossed in the work it may be easier to continue, so you need to be able to trick yourself into starting. Procrastination can seem overpowering at times, but deadlines continue to loom. Lobdell recommends rewarding yourself for your study time, because you are more likely to do something over and over again if you are rewarded, rather than punished, for it.


He recommends starting off with a 25 minute study period followed by a 5 minute break doing something fun, grabbing a drink, listening to a song or chatting with a friend, before returning to the books. Then repeat this process, slowly increasing the amount of study time between the short breaks. Lobdell also recommends rewarding yourself after your entire period of study for the day. Celebrate your work – well done!


Also, the right environment is essential for effective studying. This is easier said than done considering the schools have been closed for 3 months now and you might be surrounded by your family members all day, every day! I highly recommend making one room off limits so you can unwind without interruption. Also, I am really enjoying going out for walks for a change of scenery and to spend time by myself. Try and find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed when you study. Lobdell suggests having a dedicated ‘study lamp’ that you only put on when you study, to get you in the right, focused mindset. He also mentions state dependent memory, where if you chew gum while revising, for example, you are more likely to be able to recall information when chewing gum in the exam.


He clarifies the differences between understanding concepts and simply learning facts. At university level you also need to understand the concepts behind the facts, be able to put them in your own words and teach to others or relate to what you already know to make it easier to remember. He also proposes ways to memorise facts such as mnemonics; acronyms, coined sayings, interacting images and taking notes. He highlights the importance of note-taking and that if you can review them after a lecture and expand on them, that will help with the learning. Unfortunately, I did not have the luxury of breaks between my lectures, but I did review the lecture and notes in the evening, after supper. I find I cannot concentrate if I am hungry. Food is fuel for my brain and if I am running on empty, then my brain goes on strike.


While he promotes study groups where peers can motivate each other and thus improve grades, this is great when people are equally committed to their own learning. However, if there is a social loafer or two who sponge off everyone else rather than contributing, it is less beneficial for the whole group who find it less enjoyable. Find your tribe; people who inspire you to achieve and who motivate you to be the best version of you! Ensure it is a reciprocal arrangement.


What I concur with is the attention Lobdell gives to quality sleep. I know how I can barely function effectively if I have had a rubbish sleep. Sleep is vital for retention and consolidation of learning, so get some. Researchers at the moment recommend around 8 hours a night, but this does vary according to age and body constitution, as some people can function optimally on less sleep. I just know that I am not one of them!


Another great technique is to teach what you have learned to someone else. My daughter and I use this a lot. Fortunately, we both study social sciences and thus find our discussions interesting. However, my little one thinks it can be boring, because it is not manga or anime related. So don’t expect people to be excited about you teaching them. You can always talk aloud to yourself.


Something I did not know was this strategy to make your reading meaningful. SQ3R: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. It is what we do as we research anyway, but a handy acronym to remember. Basically, as you read you are surveying the information which raises questions for you to find answers to which will consolidate your learning and understanding. To recite and review further engrains the learning in your brain.

The best thing I learned about critical thinking is to ask, SO WHAT?! about every concept, as it encourages you to think deeper and wider rather than just accept what you are reading.


What I liked was that Lobdell confirms TEACHERS WANT THEIR STUDENTS TO SUCCEED! It makes them look good! : D I have always found my lecturers to be genuinely friendly and supportive. So, if you are struggling with your studies, please ask for clarification. Teachers don’t think you are DUMB, only you might think that! They would rather you have a good understanding of a concept and might even be flattered that you asked them. You’ll come out of the situation with knowledge to support your studies and they could feel happier knowing they were able to assist. It’s a win-win situation.

Right, so I’ve procrastinated enough now. Back to my books…

Onwards and funwards,

You’ve got this!


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