How to make studying fun for every class you're taking
Quizlet is proud to partner with real students and recent graduates to showcase authentic voices on our blog. This guest post is by Nicolette Kier, who just graduated from the University of Pittsburgh.
Everyone has a favorite class. Maybe it’s the one you excel in, or the one that lets you flex your creative right-brain skills. For some people, it’s their easy class, and that’s fine too.
Then there are the classes that you just don’t like. Most students have at least one. You dread studying for this class during midterms, so you push it off and study for the classes you do great work in.
But slacking in this class is the opposite of what you should be doing. Somewhere inside, you probably know that. But it’s too hard to get motivated to do work for this class.
These are my secrets for how to make studying fun, or at least more enjoyable, for every class you’re taking.
How to make studying fun in classes involving memorization and skills testing:
1. Make your study guides a work of art.
There are students who make haphazard notes and somehow glean information from them, and I am forever impressed by that.
But personally, I like making study guides that are neat, aesthetic and thorough. I want people not only to understand what’s going on when they look at my work—I want them to appreciate the aesthetics.
I focused on this particularly for math and physics classes, where one problem took up an entire page. Math and science people, you know what I’m talking about.
Having really neat notes helped me get through complicated, easy-to-mess-up problems that you had to be careful with. These kinds of notes also made me want to look at them again later.
Use colored pencils, pens, highlighters, images, titles, sections—anything that makes your notes more readable and beautiful.
2. Make super-elaborate flash cards. They’re fun to make, which will help you focus on each one.
I had this contemporary art class. For our midterm we were given a series of images and had to identify which artist created each work.
Memorizing this was not appealing to me (or to most people). But I met with a classmate to study, and she had printed out each image that could potentially be on the test to stick on her flashcards.
Just gathering each image and sticking it on the index cards helped her. She was already memorizing, before she even went through her flashcards.
Find a way to make beautiful flashcards. You could draw molecules on them, or really interesting force diagrams.
Some people prefer to make flashcards by hand, but you can also use Quizlet to create your own study sets. You can make traditional text flashcards, or you can insert images from Quizlet's free image library. With Quizlet Plus, you can also italicize, bold, underline and highlight text, as well as add your own images and audio.
Quizlet offers five different study modes to use with your study sets, so you have a lot of options when it’s time to prepare for your exams.
3. Use interesting mnemonic devices to remember things.
Mnemonics are associations we make to help us remember things, especially things that involve ordering. A super-common example is: “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally”, or PEMDAS, which helps students memorize the order of operations. You use this mnemonic to remember how the order goes, and then whisper it in your mind during a test.
It might be weird, but it works.
Find your own weird, personal associations with different items you need to memorize. They can be funny, meaningful, imaginative, or whatever you like. All the mnemonic has to do is help you remember.
4. Walk around telling straight facts to your friends and family.
Your friends might be well versed in the spiciest memes out right now, and whatever Jojo Siwa is up to. But how many of them know about the greatest architects in the Renaissance era? How many of them know the story of Narcissus and the lessons imparted from it?
They may not be immediately interested in this—until you tell it like a story. Show everyone the unique knowledge you’ve gathered and impress them with it. Even if all the memorized information doesn’t get stored in your long-term memory, you’ll present as a genius for the next few weeks.
How to make studying fun in classes involving essays, artwork, or creative projects:
1. Find a way to make it funny.
This was a part of a project-based midterm where I had to build a website and write about what I do online.
I’m known for being creative, ridiculous, or creatively ridiculous. Honestly, I don’t remember the exact order of the words my professor spoke when she gave me back this midterm assignment.
The point is, I took a potentially difficult and boring assignment (building an entire website, with added content) and turned it into something that I enjoyed. I tapped into my inner sense of humor and used it to my advantage.
I have friends who have made it a point to write lively essays and turn in ironic projects. If they don’t do their midterm assignments this way, they won’t put real effort into them.
Fair warning, though: Funny does not mean offensive, nor something so off-topic that your work doesn’t qualify for a good grade. There’s a balance between adding creativity and personality into an assignment and checking off all the things you need for a good grade.
Work on finding that balance, unless you don’t have a wholesome sense of humor. In that case, you should steer away from this method of making studying fun.
2. Create something you’d be proud to stumble upon in the future.
This is a midterm I made for my Narrative and Technology class.
The connected blocks that appear to be on graph paper above was actually part of a midterm in my Narrative and Technology class. It’s called a Twine, and you use it for making games.
That’s what we were supposed to do for the midterm: Make a game. At first, I really didn’t want to start, let alone finish. The idea of creating some fantasy game using the concepts we learned in class was not appealing. It also seemed like a lot of work, more than what I had to do in my other classes.
So I pushed it off. This was unwise, especially because this project was due right around spring break last year, when the pandemic first started. (There was a lot of stress involved at the time, obviously.)
But eventually I found a way to make it interesting. It was so interesting that I showed all my friends and got their feedback. I wanted to be able to show anyone, even my future self, and think: “Wow, I made something really cool.”
While you may not have that much creative freedom, your future self may really appreciate a well-composed essay.
It’s important to cultivate a positive relationship with studying. It will make each and every testing season more manageable.
If you see studying as some looming, awful thing coming up, it’s going to be so much harder to study when you have to. If you want studying to be easier and more enjoyable, you have to create a positive relationship with it.
I made studying a ritual, something to be honored, followed, and then happy to be done with. My ritual included:
- a well-planned study schedule in my planner
- a special place I used only for studying; remote students may have more difficulty with this, but try to carve out your special place
- special pencils I only use for studying and exams (they’re G2 pencils, and no, this isn’t a sponsored post)
- a badge of honor, worn only by those who are in the midst of testing season
- a book I took out of the library every time I finished finals
You don’t have to love studying. You just have to make studying work for you. And maybe you have some fun with it.
Nicolette Kier just made it to the other side of a degree in physics and writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She reaped the usual rewards of college: knowledge, a job, and debt. She thinks it was worth it.