How to Study Effectively, Part 3

Besides evaluating your level and identifying your learning needs, reading and taking notes, there are three additional aspects to consider to study effectively.

  1. Concentrate
  • Avoid distractions that can waylay your progress to your target TOEFL goal. Avoid day dreaming by focusing in on the task at hand. Put all your brain juice into whatever skill you want to perfect in that activity. Concentrate on what you are studying.
  • Take a few minutes break after 25 minutes, or have a 10-minute break each hour to give your brain a rest from your study task. Research, such as the Pomodoro technique (,) shows this will help you concentrate. The best way to take a break is to stand up, stretch, move around and face away from your desk, computer, books. Avoid staying at your desk looking at your book or surfing the web on your computer or phone. The physical movement of standing up and moving around will help stimulate better thinking as the blood circulates throughout your body.
  1. Understand what you are learning


  • Understanding the directions to activities, paying attention to stay on target with the task, asking yourself what the main purpose of your task is, taking notes of key ideas, jotting down new vocabulary, and being proactive to ask questions to your instructor for feedback when you do not comprehend something. Take an active role in learning to improve your understanding and be better at recalling information.
  • Take notes on the passage or lecture writing in short noun/verbs, abbreviations or symbols. Spelling is unimportant, but content is key.
  • Summarize a reading passage or listening/lecture in your own words. When you summarize, it should be short and to the point, addressing all the key points.
  1. Revise


  • It is normal to not recall everything in the English language; however, if you want to have a better grasp of English, keep reviewing constantly so that your memory retains more information over the long term and you can progress to an advanced level.
  • Revise information soon after (the next day) you learned it. Aim for reviewing once a study session or every two or three study sessions. Go over older materials that you need to recall; it will refresh your memory.
  • Reviewing and revising daily or every other day will save you having to re-study a topic all over again. Be sure your calendar schedule has “review or revision time” blocked into your study timetable. Refer to your summaries or note-taking or notebooks to help you review.

How to Study Effectively, Part 1

Be organized

  1. Create a study calendar. Organize your timetable so that your biggest weaknesses are prioritized first and given the most attention time. Prioritize (high-medium-low) skills and practice what needs to be learned urgently first. Then, address what weaknesses you can strengthen and plan out how long you expect it to take you. Avoid procrastinating and be sure to give equal time to your least favorite task. Practice the skill that you enjoy most LAST not first. The skills that are the least urgent to learn practice last as well. Use color coding on your calendar to highlight the most important skill to learn.
  2. Use a study notebook. It can be either a traditional notebook, or Notes in an app on a smartphone. Whichever you use for taking notes, keep it handy at all times so you can refer to it in your free time. Notes are a valuable tool to keep yourself organized and to retain information you already studied so you are able to track your progress and advance in the language.
  3. Address different language skills when you study. If you take too much time on just one academic skill, it will give you less time for another skill, which may be just as important to improve your English or test-taking strategies.
  4. Keep your notebook/notes/computer files well organized. Create files by academic skills in your computer files, notes in a binder, or notebook. For instance, have a notebook for vocabulary, for speaking, for listening, for reading, for writing; or otherwise, have different sections of your notes in your binder for each academic skill. Write the skill name to label the differing sections, so that when you go to study, you can quickly reference your notes. Be sure to write the date on the left side of your notes for each day that you write new notes. You skill subjects can be then divided into sub topics such as a particular topic of different kinds of vocabulary words or where you got those vocabulary words from. In this way, you can quickly reference your notes by skill, by sub topic, or by date. All of this organization will make it much easier to locate a certain topic when you need to refer back to it quickly later on in your practice.

Have a target range

  1. Timing: when you make your study table with your deadline date, be sure you have given yourself a realistic time frame to complete what you would like to achieve. For example, “Complete writing essay task 2 for 30 minutes timed. Clearly write exactly what you have in mind to accomplish in terms of an activity during a specific time and on a certain date.
  2. Be realistic. When you set your target, it needs to conform to what you can attain. If, for instance, you set an unrealistic ideal, you may not be able to get your target, or you will feel discouraged if you cannot get your objective. By looking at your calendar and working within a specific time frame to complete practice activities, you can set real targets which are attainable.
  3. Reward yourself for minor achievements: think daily in terms of what you can achieve. Every little achievement is like a baby step, and it will help you feel more comfortable in the language as well as assist in building your confidence in TOEFL and for test taking. With this in mind, you can reach your short term and long term goals. Reward yourself after each study session. When you reach a target, mentally congratulate yourself. Positivity goes a long way in building your confidence to succeed.