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Study Strategies

Studying is one of the few things that never really goes away in academic life, so it’s probably for the best that you work out some efficient study strategies. One thing I’m sure you’ll encounter is that a lot of study guides and strategies are aimed at undergraduates. Which is great! Or, it would be, if you were an undergraduate. Unfortunately, you’re not, you're a postgraduate student, and you’re really hoping to find study strategies for masters students. Now, you could go away and try to hunt down some, or you could stay right here – where we’ve done all the work for you!

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Study guides & strategies

Remember that you’re an individual, so things that work for your friends might not work for you – and that’s alright. Don’t force yourself to take on their methods if they don’t help, let’s face it, not everyone finds 3am in the morning the optimum time to study, even if it does sometimes seem that way!

Work out where is a good place for you to study – this is incredibly important. For some people, a totally silent library is ideal, for others, a nicely busy coffee shop. Some students might prefer to work in their room, whereas others want to keep their room as a relaxation space. Don’t be afraid to test out a few locations –  or even move between them when you need a change of scene. For more tips on this, we’ve got a whole guide devoted to creating a harmonious working environment.

Now that you know where you’re going to work, let’s look at some study strategies in more detail. Remember – studying shouldn’t start when you get home! It’s an ongoing process, one that needs active involvement at every stage. And yes, that includes during your lectures. Not sure what you should be writing down during your lectures? Well, worry no more – we can show you. Lectures aren’t the only resource available to you though, and you should make sure you're making use of all of them.

Have a goal

So, that’s the setup done! Now, onto the studying itself. The first thing you need to do is make sure you have a goal – this is essential for successful study strategies for master's students. What do you want to come away from this study session having achieved? It doesn’t have to be anything major, but make sure there’s something you can aim towards. Whether it’s understanding how a particular reaction works, memorising the dates of important events, or even ensuring you understand a particular writer’s arguments, this’ll make it all feel worthwhile, we promise.


Of all the study strategies most often talked about, brainstorming has to be the most common. For most people, brainstorming at the start of a session can help to order your priorities and help you achieve your goal. If you make the most of this technique you’ll soon find it easy to work out your targets for a session and how to achieve them. Of course, brainstorming isn’t suited for everyone, so if you try it and it’s unhelpful, try something different. You could make to-do lists, flowcharts, anything that you can refer back to later in the session.

Take a break

Now, don’t get carried away and think working towards that goal for eight hours straight is the most efficient solution! You’ll do much better if you take regular breaks, as you won’t find yourself getting tired or distracted as easily. 40 minutes work to 20 minutes break is a good starting place, but you’ll eventually come to your own conclusions of what works best for you. And remember – it’s not the length of time you work for, but how effectively you study in that time that counts! For more advice, take a look at our top 5 tips for faster postgraduate study.

Mix it up!

Don’t be afraid to mix up your study strategies either. Different topics sometimes suit different methods, so mix it up a little! If you’re struggling to memorise particular things like vocabulary, dates or formulas, try using flash cards. These are quick and simple to make and can be used whenever you need to study the appropriate topic. If it’s something longer, like understanding a particular philosophical position, have a look at which methods suit your learning style. Don’t know it? Check out our handy guide to figuring out your learning style and how to use it to your advantage. Knowing this will help make sure you only try study strategies that work for you. After all, if you learn best by listening, why waste your time attempting to rewrite your notes when you could be recording them instead? Many people are a mix of learning styles though, so if something works for you, even if it’s not your ‘standard’ learning method, don’t be afraid to keep using it.

And finally, if you’re struggling for the motivation to start, take a look at our collection of motivational quotes to help you on your way.

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