Learning to study

Do you use the SMART method to study?
Studying at university is a skill you can learn. Using the SMART method means you study strategically, you are academically competent and confident about taking exams, and that you practise good time management. All these are only possible if you put in enough hours. The following matters are important for a sound study approach:

  • Academic competence: interest in your studies and the confidence you can succeed

  • Exam competence: the confidence that you can pass the exams

  • Time management: balancing the time you spend on  studying and other activities

  • Studying strategically: matching your preparation to the requirements of the exam

  • Study hours per week: investing enough time in your studies

Want to know your SMART score? Take the SMART test and discover your strengths as well as the points you could improve.

As a Leiden University student would you like to improve your SMART score ? You can! Take one of our workshops

Ten tips for studying better



1. Study actively and productively.

1. Passively soak up information like a sponge. 

2. Differentiate between main and side issues.

2. Try to learn everything.

3. Take brief notes, make an outline or a mind-map, ask yourself questions, etc.

3. Just skim the texts, or summarise them too extensively.

4. Try to understand the material, but also—when needed—learn facts. Lectures will give you clues as to what is important.

4. Only know loose facts, or understand the subject without having the necessary knowledge at your fingertips.

5. While studying, test your knowledge by asking yourself questions, discussing the material with others and looking at past exam papers.

5. Assume too quickly that you know the material more or less, or keep on repeating the material without checking how well you know it.

6. Keep up your interest and enjoyment in your subject

6. Feel you HAVE to study just for the exams.

7. Build up confidence in yourself as a student by setting achievable goals and thinking realistically about what influence you yourself have on your performance. 

7. Underestimate yourself (I can’t do that, I passed because I was lucky), or overestimate yourself (this SHOULD be possible in this short amount of time)

8. Organise your work, start in good time for the exam and study regularly.

8.  Let yourself go off track: thinking about your free time whilst studying and vice versa, starting at the last minute, letting yourself be too easily distracted.

9. Make sure you have a suitable place to work. Find out where you are able to study most effectively.

9. Have a crowded desk where there’s literally no room for study material, too much noise, people who keep disturbing you.

10. Have a good strategy for your exams.

10. Just see how things go, because it’s down to luck on the day.

Last Modified: 13-12-2016