If you want to make big changes in your English learning, you need to have a good study plan.
It is no use just studying English in a half-hearted fashion — a little reading here, some writing practice there.
This does not work.
You need to treat study like work. With working hours and times, places and schedules fixed to your study arrangements.
This may seem daunting at first. But trust me, the more structured and organised your schedule, the better your life will be.
It is a great habit and it will reduce stress and make your life a lot easier.
Your English will improve dramatically as a result and you will feel happier.
I have divided this guide into four main parts:
2. Making a Schedule
3. Doing the Work
The first part goes through some things you need to do to prepare for a study plan. These are the things you should do before you begin anything else.
The next part is creating, making and sticking to a schedule. The tools you need to make a killer schedule. This is the actual plan that you have where you know what you will study every day and at what time. This will organise the studying into the correct order.
The third part is about the actual tasks of studying. What you need to do when studying and how to do it.
And the last part features some extra advice — pro-tips — on how to improve your studying and things to avoid.
Are you ready? Let’s get into it.
Preparation is everything.
Make a good plan and make sure you have everything you need and you are ready to start.
I have divided the preparation section into two parts.
The first is mental preparation. In this part, you find out what kind of learner you are, what techniques you can use to learn and having the right mental attitude towards your studying.
In the second part, you think about the physical requirements of your studying plan. The place where you study, the things you need and the things you don’t need.
Time to begin.
Have a Positive Mental Attitude
You can’t go into your English study plan with a can’t do attitude.
Approach it with the right mindset.
Your mind has to wrap itself around improving your English and having a yes I can attitude.
Many students look at all the studying they have to do for their English and see it as a huge mountain of work. They look at it and just think, I’ll never be able to do all of that. No human being could deal with that much studying.
The reason you might think like this is that you are making it all one big mass of work. Break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces.
You can break your English down into smaller skill sets.
Instead of looking at as ENGLISH. Think of it like this:
- English Reading
- English Writing
- English Listening
- English Speaking
- English Vocabulary
- English Grammar
Now instead of seeing it as a massive pile of work impossible to climb, we now have six smaller piles that are much more manageable.
And we can break these down to even smaller piles.
So English Speaking can become:
- English Phrases
- English Pronunciation
- English Intonation
- English Conversation
- English Fluency
We can do the same with all the skills until they become smaller piles of work. They become much more manageable and easier to deal with. Less intimidating and less daunting.
Exercise: Try it yourself now. Break down all your English studying into smaller piles of work. See how small you can make them.
Study Smarter, not Harder
It is a waste of time to study all-day on a Sunday and then not study for the rest of the week.
This will not help you at all. It is much better to have a consistent study schedule. If you study every day, you will see more benefits.
For example, the man that works out in the gym goes regularly. Then he sees results from his efforts.
Studying English is the same. Study every day and you can see a development curve appear.
It need not be marathon sessions every day. Most people study better early in the morning. So if you set a regular time between 8:00am to 10:00am that will be enough time to make a lot of progress.
Using the exercise you did before you can attack smaller parts of English and study those for each session.
For example, on Monday you could study reading for two hours. Just read two or three articles and make notes of new words you find.
On Tuesday, you could go through all your notes and find the meanings of the new words. If you have time left, you could make sentences of your own using these new words. If you can’t make sentences of your own, look for sentences online and write those down.
Continue making your schedule for the rest of the week.
Now you have a regular study schedule. You know what you need to study and when.
Exercise: Make a study schedule for next week. Set a time and the things you want to study. Don’t worry if it is not very clear. Just try to make a start.
SMART is an English acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
It is a time-management and goal-setting method created by Dr Edwin Locke and Dr Gary Latham. We can use this method when studying English too.
Let’s go through each part.
Your goal has to be clearly defined. For example, you might want to practice reading. Be clear about your goal.
So you might have: I will practice listening by using the BBC podcast I downloaded yesterday.
There is no vague idea about what you are studying. Everyone can see what you want to do. So do you.
Think about how much, how many, how long for this part.
It is best to measure what you want to do. If writing is on your schedule, you can measure what you want to achieve.
How long? I will study for two hours as arranged.
How much? I will write one article.
How many? I will write 250 words.
Just think about numbers and this can help you measure your English study goal.
Can you achieve your English study goal?
It is a waste of time to set an impossible goal like I will study and learn 1000 new words today. You will not achieve that goal. Unless you are superhuman.
Set a goal within your limits. This may take practice and a little experimenting. 1000 words are too much but 25 new words may be fine.
Your English study goal must be within your reach and capabilities.
But be careful: Do not set a goal that is too easy to achieve or you are cheating yourself.
When thinking about this part you should ask yourself the following questions:
Is this the right time to study this?
Is it worth my time?
Is this part of my overall bigger goal of English study?
If you can answer yes to all three questions, then what you are studying is relevant.
It is a waste of your time to study the origin of English idioms if all you want to do is improve your general spoken English.
Make sure what you are studying applies to your overall goal.
No plan is complete without having a time limit to it. Or a deadline.
Set times when you want to achieve each goal in your English study. You already have times set out in a schedule — maybe two hours every morning.
But you also need to set deadlines.
I will read all five essays and make notes on all by Friday of next week.
So Friday of next week is the deadline. That is the time-bound goal for this part.
It is important to set these deadlines or the goal just disappears into weeks, months, maybe years ahead.
Exercise: Look at this free worksheet. Download it and use it to create SMART goals for your English study goals.
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What Kind of Learner Are You?
People learn in different ways.
The main seven kinds of learners are visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social and solitary.
Let’s go through these.
Many English students love to watch movies when studying English. This could be your style of learning too. To watch the story unfold before you on the screen may be better than reading the story.
Aural learners are people who learn by listening.
For aural English learners, it would mean spending much of their time listening to lectures, listening to podcasts and mp3 practice sessions.
They also prefer group discussions where they can listen to other people talking.
Verbal learners like to write and speak.
Definitions come easy to these kinds of learners and they enjoy playing with words. Tongue-twisters are fun for them.
These learners like to write words down and say them out loud.
Other learners like to learn by doing things.
For some students, they like to be active while learning English. For example, a student could learn English while doing a cookery class. They are actively doing something but all the time using English.
For logical English learners, they need to categorise things.
These are people who like to analyse. For English learners, this might mean to study the different stems of words — the prefix and suffix of various words.
To connect all the rules for grammar.
Logical learners have to understand how things work together.
Social learners like to learn in a group of other people.
These learners love group activities. Things like role plays are enjoyable for them.
Being in a class with other students or joining a study group is a good idea for social learners. They need to be with other people to learn well.
Finally, there are solitary learners. These students like to be alone when studying.
If you enjoy spending time alone or if you are introspective and like to concentrate on something you may be a solitary learner.
No student is just one type of learner. You find that you could be any one of the types above.
But find out what activities and study methods you enjoy the most.
Then you can benefit by exploiting your study types.
Exercise: Find out what kind of learner you are. Do these quizzes:
Find a Great Study Space
Do you have a place of your own?
If you have your own room, your own bedroom, or any room where you can be alone and study in peace and quiet then go there.
There is no better place to study than a room in your own home that is quiet. A place where you know where all your things are — pens, paper, dictionary, notebooks.
This is the best and ideal space for studying.
But sometimes people are not so lucky. They may share a room with others or their room may be very noisy.
If this is the case, you need to find another place to study.
Choose Another Place
Your study space must be suitable for studying.
Examples of good study spaces are:
- The library
- Your classroom
- A quiet room in school
You need to be in an environment that has a lot of natural light and that is quiet.
Places Not Suitable
Many students convince themselves that they will study better if they go outside.
I’ll go to the park, they tell themselves. It’s relatively quiet, and no one knows I am there. I can do all my reading while I am there.
This is not a good place for intense studying. You cannot concentrate in the park as there are too many distractions.
And if it is a warm, sunny day there is the risk you will lie back and fall asleep.
Other terrible studying places are coffee shops.
I have seen students in a crowded Starbucks, trying to read. This is also a terrible idea.
Too noisy, too many people.
It is just not suitable.
Find a quiet place. A place free of distractions and ideally with a desk or table and a chair.
Exercise: Find your ideal study place. If you are lucky to have your own room, then use that. If not, think carefully about where you can go to study. A place where you are free from distractions and will not be disturbed.
Gather All the Things You Need
Ensure that you have all your study items within easy reach.
These could be:
If you have all of your essential study items within easy reach, then you will not have to get up and look for them.
Only use your computer if you absolutely need it for your study session. For example, maybe you are writing something.
But if you do not need it, leave it in another room, as it may just become a distraction.
Exercise: Collect all the things you need for studying right now. Do you have notebooks? Pens? What about the right textbooks? Make sure they are all in one place and ready for immediate study action.
Turn Off All Electrical Devices
Smartphones have provided us with such great convenience.
But they have also provided tons of distractions too.
The average person has 60 to 90 apps on their phone according to this survey. It says the average person spends about 2 hours and 15 minutes on their phone every day.
That’s a large slice out of the day. 14% of every waking day by my reckoning.
You are probably no different to anyone else.
Therefore, I say the following.
Turn off all your electrical devices.
That means smartphones and tablets. Turn them all off.
Some people have two or three phones. Why I don’t know.
But no matter how many you have, when you are studying or in one of your designated study periods, turn them all off.
In fact, leave them in another room.
Get them out of sight altogether.
Exercise: This is easy. Turn off your smartphone and leave it outside of your study space. If you have to go outside to study, try to leave your phone at home.
MAKING THE PERFECT SCHEDULE
In this part, I go over a combination of things.
I talk about building a habit and how that habit can benefit you for the rest of your life.
I then introduce the idea of creating routines from that habit and setting deadlines. The tools you can use to set your schedule in stone. How to arrange your schedule so you are the most productive.
Are you ready? Let’s dive right into it.
Create a Habit in 30 Days
You know those offers you see online or in stores?
Try our great product for 30 days and if you don’t like you can get your money back — no questions asked!!
You know why they offer such a deal? Because it works based on human psychology.
You buy the product and you use it for 30 days. Maybe you don’t use it every day but you get used to having this new product around.
After 30 days you might not use it every day but you now believe that you need it so you don’t return it.
The concept of creating a habit and how long it takes was first discovered by the surgeon Maxwell Maltz. He found that it took people 21 days for them to come to terms with a surgical procedure.
The problem is that many self-help gurus jumped on this idea and told people it only takes 21 days to build a habit.
In truth, it takes at least 21 days to build a habit.
However, it can take much longer. 30 days is a better benchmark. Two months is better.
So what I am saying to you is this.
Make English a habit you continue for one month, two months. Three or four.
If you can continue that long it could become a lifelong habit. And what’s wrong with that?
Why not try to improve your ability in English for the rest of your life?
Exercise: Take a piece of paper and draw 30 small squares on it. That’s it. Then, when you start your study plan, tick off a square each time you complete one day. See if you can reach 30 days with no days off.
Do Not Procrastinate
Procrastination is a killer!
It will destroy anything you are trying to do. And if you are trying to study English, it will destroy any plans you lay down.
I have suffered from procrastination for years. I was overwhelmed with guilt and rage at myself. I convinced myself that I was lazy, just a useless bum.
But in fact, it was procrastination that was my enemy.
How to beat it:
Step 1 – Start
Step 2 – Repeat step 1
And that is it.
After reading a handful of books on procrastination, gazing at endless websites and blogs and watching and re-watching videos about the subject, I concluded that the best way to beat procrastination is to just start.
You create your study plan. You find out all the different parts of English you want to study. You should have figured out your learning style in the preparation section.
Multitasking was a thing back in the 80’s.
People entered a phase where working hard was cool. So everyone went to work and worked their backsides off.
Unfortunately, most people were not working effectively. They were working hard, for sure. Many people doing 16-hour days and sweating it out.
But they were not working smart.
Why? Because they were multitasking.
Trying to do too many things at one time simply does not work.
Tests have found that people who multi-task take longer to perform individual tasks than if they had done only the one task.
So do not make the error of trying to study two or three things at once. Only concentrate on one task.
If you have set yourself a reading task — only do that.
Do not think about any of the other tasks you have to do later that day. Do not let yourself be distracted — no smartphones! — and just concentrate on that one task ahead of you.
You find that you can work more effectively on it and you will do it in a faster time than if you let yourself do other tasks in between.
A good method to use is the Pomodoro method. I wrote about it here but I will write more about it later in this article.
Only concentrate on one task.
Only think about that one task you are doing.
Exercise: Go to this website and follow the instructions on the video. How did you do?
Set a Routine
I touched on this earlier but here I will go into more detail about what you need to do and how to do it.
Make a List
The first thing you should do is make a complete list of all the things you want to study. Don’t just write ‘ENGLISH’ in block capitals. Separate all the different things.
So for reading, divide all the different tasks and list them down.
- Read the article on Global Warming
- Read a news article every day
- Read a short story once a week
- Make detailed notes of all reading tasks
- Create vocabulary lists from all reading tasks
Yes, you will find that some tasks will seep into other study areas. So in the above, we have a vocabulary task but that is combined with the reading tasks. This will happen but continue making your list.
Brainstorm all the things you want to study and write it down on a big piece of paper.
Once you think you have listed everything you need to study we can move on.
Establish the Goals
Make deadlines for each task you have on your list. It is pointless to just say to yourself that you will finish all the reading ‘sometime next month’.
Be realistic and try to figure out how long it will take you.
Set a date and make that your deadline.
If you are studying for a big test — IELTS or TOEFL for example — the date of the test is your goal.
Take the date of the test and work backwards, inserting all the tasks week by week, day by day. Eventually, you come to the current date and your schedule should be filled every day with the tasks you need to study.
There will be some study tasks you need to concentrate on more than others.
For example, your listening skills may require more work than anything else. If this is the case, then make sure you block more time for listening than anything else.
Go through all your English skills and isolate which ones need more work than the others. For any weaker skills, you must practice more and spend more time studying those things than others.
Now Divide into Study Blocks
Now you have done all the above you can divide all the tasks into study blocks.
If you have free time all day, then you can divide the tasks as you wish. Just make sure you allocate enough time for all the things you need to do.
Remember your deadlines and the weaker skills that need more study blocks.
Divide your time into days of the week and slot hourly times and fill in all the free blocks with your study schedule.
Exercise: Follow all the steps in the above section.
Setting a deadline for your study tasks carves it in stone.
What I mean by this is that there is a set date when you absolutely must finish the study task. This forces you to do a little work on it every day until it is completed.
For some of you, there are real deadlines.
Tests and exams always have a set date.
Once you know the date mark that in your calendar and work backwards. Each day you can assign necessary tasks to help you excel in the test on the big day.
But even if you don’t have a test or exam, you must set a deadline anyway.
If not, you risk not doing the work required each day to complete the study task.
As there is no deadline, the end date for completion of the task keeps disappearing further and further into the distance.
Don’t let this happen.
Set a deadline.
Mark it in your calendar.
Then do the work.
Exercise: Take a look at what you have to study. Do you have any deadlines? Are there times when you want to complete each task? Make a note of these deadlines.
Eat That Frog
The American writer Mark Twain said: If it is your job to eat a live frog, it is best to do that first thing in the morning.
The meaning behind this is that is it best to do all the uncomfortable, unpleasant tasks as early as possible. Get those behind you and you know the worst tasks of the day have been done.
You can do the same with your English study plan.
Do all the tasks you don’t like to do as early as possible. Then they are done and finished.
Don’t enjoy going over vocabulary? Do that first. Then you don’t have to look at it again.
Having trouble with the reading tasks? Do those first thing. After that, you can relax because the hardest part is over.
You can really improve your studying efficiency by making a List of Frogs — that is, a list of all the tasks you have to do. But making the hardest, most difficult jobs top of the list. Any tasks you really don’t like, make those number one on your list.
Put all the tasks in order.
Unlikable and difficult jobs at the top.
The easy tasks and jobs you like near to the bottom of your list.
I guarantee this will make you much more productive in your studying.
Exercise: What is your List of Frogs? What are the most difficult tasks in your study plan so far? The tasks that you dislike? Make these tasks a priority.
Schedule Your Studying with Google Calendar or Trello
Earlier I talked about setting a routine. Making a timetable of all the times when you can study and then fixing those into your daily life so you complete all your study tasks.
It is not a good idea to fix this loosely to memory.
The human brain is an amazing thing but it cannot remember everything.
Fortunately, we have modern-day apps that can help us.
I know I talked earlier about not letting smartphones run your life, but there are two apps that can really help you and your English study routine.
Let me introduce…
I use both but you may only need one.
They are perfect for mapping out your schedule and study tasks so you don’t lose track.
Use Google Calendar to mark your daily tasks.
Don’t put them in a to-do list!
Set a time in your calendar and assign it. It marks a spot and Google can remind you before the task begins.
Trello is great for keeping track of all the things you have to do.
You can have three lists — Studying you want to do, Studying you are doing, Studying you have done.
These two apps are great for keeping track of your studying schedule. You don’t have to rely on your memory and every time you check Google Calendar or Trello you get a satisfying feeling of seeing all the tasks you have completed or are in process of completing.
Exercise: Download Google Calendar and Trello. Try to place your rough study plan in the apps if you can.
DOING THE WORK
Now you have your schedule. You know what you need to study and when.
You have defined your goals and everything is in place.
All you need to do now is the work.
What follows is a guide on how to do your English studies in a productive and effective way.
Let’s get right into it.
When you have reading tasks make sure you read everything in full.
This means no skimming.
Ideally, you should be in your preferred study space for all reading tasks. It really is a waste of time reading in the coffee shop. There are too many distractions there.
Go to the beginning of the reading assignment and read the entire article from the beginning to the end.
Read all of it and don’t skim over anything.
For a full idea on how to improve reading please check my blog here.
Exercise: Put this into action now. The next thing you read, read all of it. Concentrate on the text and do not skip any of it.
Take Clear Notes of Everything
Any time you are reading make sure you take notes.
It is essential to take clear notes of everything you read. Go over them, put the new vocabulary to memory.
Any terms that are not clear about or that you do not understand, highlight them and research what they mean.
If you get into the habit of taking down notes every time you read you find that your reading comprehension will improve. Your vocabulary will broaden at a rapid rate.
Every time you sit down to do a reading task, you must make sure you have your notebook and pens with you to take notes.
Exercise: Make sure you have notebooks. One for vocabulary, one for phrases and useful sentences. Another notebook to use for reading notes. Be organised with these notebooks and you will be more productive.
Go Over your Notes
Go over notes regularly.
Start a new session by going over your notes from before to keep yourself updated.
You must be organised with your notes. Vocabulary in one notebook, terms and points you need to research in another.
It is a waste of your valuable time to just take notes and assume that is enough. Go over your notes of vocabulary and any other notes you have written.
This is revision.
This is the time when students learn the most.
Record All your English Classes
I have criticised the use of smartphones in the class or as part of your studying schedule.
Yes, they are an incredible drain on your valuable time.
But they have their uses.
One of them is that all smartphones have a voice recording app. Usually, this comes with the phone when you buy it but you can download a voice app of your choice.
An excellent use of this app is to record all your English classes and lessons.
Whenever you are in class, just set the recording app on and record the teacher and students talking in the lesson.
You may find that you missed an important point because you were distracted for two seconds. If you record the lesson, you can go back to this point and find out what you missed.
If you are fortunate enough to have a private tutor, ask him or her if you can record the lesson. They should not object and then you can go over the recording later and take down more notes.
This is a great way to practice more listening skills. Plus, you will improve your pronunciation.
If there is one useful way you can use your smartphone it is this.
Make Your Own Flashcards
Learning vocabulary can be a monotonous, dull task.
I have said many times about students learning vocabulary in the worst ways by just sticking their head in a big book of vocabulary and going over huge lists of words.
A much better way to learn English vocabulary is to make your own flashcards.
Teachers use flashcards in young children’s classes to help them learn vocabulary.
I’m sure you are familiar with them. You might have seen cards like this:
This is an easy way for people to learn words as we see a picture to identify with the new vocabulary. It’s a foolproof method of learning English.
Maybe your words are not so simple. You should be beyond simple words like cat, dog and fireman.
So you might have more complex words like similar, woollen or foggy.
You can make flashcards of these words like this:
You can create these using Word. Or you can use sites like Canva to help you.
Making flashcards is easy.
Just have the word — or phrase — at the top or bottom of the page and a picture to express what the word or phrase means.
But then you have to make these cards visible. Print the flashcards out and stick them on your wall in your study area. Or other prominent places where you can see them regularly.
Every time you pass a flashcard on the wall, say the word or phrase out loud.
Over time, the vocabulary will stick in your memory.
Exercise: Go to this site. Make your own flashcards.
Arrange Weekly Tests
Weekly tests are essential.
Assess what you have learned regularly.
It is not enough to keep studying day in day out without testing what you have learned. You need to see that there has been an improvement or development.
Or there may be no improvement at all. You need to locate this too.
The best and easiest way to do this is with a test.
That is why teachers in schools hand out tests. They need to check that their students have learned what they are supposed to learn.
Give yourself a vocabulary test.
Use the lists of words you are trying to learn and write down the meaning of each one. Then check in the dictionary.
Or a writing assignment or reading test.
Better still, if you have a private tutor get him or her to test you.
Or you can ask the other members of your study group.
The point is, you must test yourself regularly to check progress.
As the man said, progress not perfection.
Exercise: Set fixed times/days for weekly tests.
Use the Pomodoro Method
When you are working, when you are in the zone of studying, you need to concentrate on that one thing and that one thing alone.
You need to have a state of deep concentration.
A good way to get into deep concentration is by using the Pomodoro method.
I have written about the wonders of the Pomodoro method here. Please look.
This is an invaluable tool to help you study better and more efficiently.
I explain how to do it in the blog but the basic method is like this:
1. Set the timer on your watch or smartphone to 25 minutes.
2. Study for all that time without stopping or without interruption.
3. The timer stops and you take a break for 5 minutes.
By only concentrating for 25 minutes on the task at hand it improves your concentration and you study in a far more efficient manner.
The founder of this method used it for studying himself.
Try it. It works.
Exercise: Try one Pomodoro session of 25 minutes on one of your tasks. Did it help with your concentration?
Take Regular Breaks
Yes, you should do the work.
But you cannot just keep studying without taking a rest.
This is not a suitable way for you to learn.
People are not machines that can just work every day for 16 hours. We need to take breaks and have suitable rest periods to recharge our batteries.
As I mentioned in the Pomodoro method, you can take a short rest every 25 minutes for 5 minutes.
But make sure you take longer break periods too.
When you stop to have lunch, treat that as lunchtime. A time when you eat and perhaps engage in conversation with your friends or family. Do not eat lunch in your study area while going over your vocabulary notes.
If you do this, you are not having a break. Neither are you studying.
This is multitasking, and we have talked about that before.
Have breaks where you stretch.
Check this video here on how to stretch your neck and shoulders.
On longer breaks go for a short stroll somewhere.
Breaks are important, so take them regularly.
Get Lots of Rest & Do Exercise
It is also very important to get proper sleep and to take sufficient exercise.
The idea of the student doing an all-nighter is well-known in schools and colleges. It is also a waste of your time.
The human body needs 8 hours of sleep a night so make sure you get 8 hours.
If you are a teenager, you may even need over 8 hours. It could be as much 10 hours.
If so, go to bed early to get all those 10 hours.
Equally, you need to make time for exercise.
Researchers have found that exercise makes you smarter.
If you go for a run in the morning or an afternoon down the gym, this can help you maintain top physical — and mental — ability.
This will help you to study more efficiently too.
Get a Tutor
If you have the money, hire a private tutor.
I know that private tutors can be expensive, but if you have the funds available, it is money well spent.
Your tutor can tailor make your classes just for you. He should design each class for your needs and your needs alone.
Finding a tutor is easy and there are English tutors available for every kind of student. When you find one make sure he or she knows exactly what it is you want to study.
Do not leave this to chance.
And do not think because the tutor is the expert he should prepare the lessons you need.
It is much better if you tell him exactly what you need to study.
So if you are preparing for the IELTS test then make sure the tutor knows about this. Tell him what you have studied so far and any weak points you have.
You should ask him to prepare a test to gauge your levels in speaking, reading, writing, listening and vocabulary. This will help him greatly in helping you.
Yes, personal English tutors cost money. But if you can afford it, I say find one, because they could really help you reach your study goals.
Join a Study Group
If you can’t afford a private English tutor or they are not available where you are, then the next best thing is to join a study group.
Or make one of your own.
A study group usually comprises four or five students who all have the same study goals. They get together and they help each other in the areas they wish to study.
If you join one you find that the other students will have better skills than you in certain areas of your English. And you will have better skills than them in other areas.
Therefore, a study group is so helpful.
So, for example, maybe your writing skills are the best in the group.
You can show the other people in the group how you write certain passages. How to make the sentence structure more interesting or engaging. How to describe things or people.
And then one of the other students can show the group how to improve their vocabulary. Or speaking or listening.
Another useful thing about being in a study group is that you can all encourage each other. Sometimes studying alone we might feel dejected. Our spirits sag and we just think it is impossible.
A few words of encouragement from another student in your study group are the very thing you need.
Exercise: Try to find an English study group in your area.
Be a personal tutor. Best way to learn is to teach it.
I touched on this in the previous section but this is one of the best ways to learn.
You could teach the English skill you excel at to your study group. Or you could become a private tutor and teach these skills to others.
By teaching the subject, it reinforced it into your mind with much greater clarity.
Exercise: Can you think of anyone you can tutor in English? A family member or a friend?
In the last section, I introduce extra pieces of advice — pro-tips — in how to improve your studying and to ensure that you look after your health too.
In so certain order, here they are.
Studying should not be a relentless path of going over the books every single day.
As I mentioned before, you must have rest periods. You must ensure that you are getting enough sleep and doing enough exercise.
You must be kind to yourself.
You must also reward yourself.
I talked about setting deadlines to reach goals earlier. You should also set a date just after the deadline where you can give yourself a little reward or prize for reaching that goal.
Maybe a trip to the movies with your friends or family. It could be lunch at your favourite cafe with your classmates.
Or maybe something simple, like ordering pizza and watching a movie on Netflix.
Whatever it is you must reward yourself.
It gives you something to aim for and it reinforces a healthy study habit.
Once I achieve this goal, reach this deadline, I can eat the ice-cream.
Something like that.
Make it a part of your studying habit — and don’t cheat!
Exercise: Make a list of 5 rewards that you can give to yourself each time you complete a major task or set of tasks.
Deal with Stress
Stress can kill.
Be very careful with any stress building up as it is very damaging to your body and your mind.
This means plenty of rest periods.
Getting enough sleep every night. Go to bed early!
Doing exercise every day. Even if it is just a walk around your neighbourhood.
Eating the right food.
If you have too much stress in your life, you will not function properly. You will start to imagine scenes that are unreal or future events that are unlikely to take place.
In between study, tasks do lots of stretching.
If you know some yoga, do that. It is very beneficial in beating stress.
The trick is to make sure your mind and body get enough rest between studying.
There is an ancient story of a young Buddhist priest studying scriptures for hours on end.
He kept two buckets of ice-cold water just outside his room.
And on and on he studied until he felt his head nodding, unable to keep his eyes open. At this point, he went outside, took off his robe and poured one of the icy buckets of water over his head.
Thus, rejuvenated and invigorated, he would continue his studies.
It just sounds like a terrible way to study something.
When I was a student at school, I often did ‘all-nighters’ where I would prepare for a big test.
I really believed this could work, cramming in all that knowledge into my brain in the next six hours.
The practice of cramming has been with us for many years. Hence, cram schools. And also, the large number of training centres offering extra maths and English classes after school and at the weekend — a huge number in Japan, Korea and China.
Instead of cramming, do a little studying every day. This is a far more effective method than trying to do all the work in a marathon session.
Use Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic devices are systems that students can use to force something to memory.
Such as songs or simple rhymes.
We all use these songs and rhymes to learn our mother-tongue language as children. We learn to count and the months of the year this way too.
There are many mnemonic devices in English. Little rhymes to help us remember grammar rules or how to spell difficult words.
But I personally think the best method is for you to create your own mnemonic devices.
Let me show you what I mean.
Let’s take the word accountant. This is a kind of job where people calculate how much money is being paid in and out of a company.
If I use my imagination, I can create a picture in my mind of a man counting money. A big pile of notes and coins in front of him.
Suddenly, he yawns. His mouth open wide and he lets out a big Aaaahhhh sound.
As he yawns, a little ant runs out of his mouth.
So we have:
Aaaahhhh – the sound of the man yawning
Count – he is busy in his job, counting all the money
Ant – the little ant runs out of his mouth.
Put them all together and you have Aaaahhhh-Count-Ant.
It might seem a little silly to do this but it really helps to remember words and difficult phrases.
And please check out this blog. It has some great examples of making mnemonics to remember vocabulary.
Try to make your own mnemonic pictures. You could even draw them and use them as flashcards.
Exercise: Design your own mnemonic pictures for some difficult words or phrases. Use your imagination.
No Big Meals Before Studying
Study on an empty stomach.
That way you will concentrate more easily and not feel drowsy.
Many students try to study after dinner. Often this is through no choice of their own but because it is the only free time they have to study.
But after eating we often feel sleepy and less energetic. We become lethargic and it feels so much easier to not study at all and just watch a movie instead.
Eat any big means after finishing all your study tasks for the day.
You will work much more efficiently if you are a little hungry.
And No Meds for Studying
Nootropics are very popular these days.
They are a kind of modern-day medicine used by some people to help them concentrate.
A popular kind of nootropic supplement is Modafinil. The effects of these drugs are negligible at best and scientists seem divided on their use.
I think they are best avoided.
The human brain is a wonderful piece of equipment and if treated well can produce amazing results.
If you got this far, then you really have great concentration!
That is an essential requirement for studying well.
Put that to good use along with all the other skills I introduced to you and you will see a huge spike in improvement in your English ability.
The main things to take from all my advice are:
1. Think of a clear and defined goal. Use the SMART method to find this goal.
2. Set out a routine that works for you.
3. Make studying a habit.
4. Create a good study environment.
5. Create your study schedule.
6. Study efficiently using the methods I showed you above.
And after two or three months you will see a massive change not only in your English but in how you approach all studying.
I hope it works out for you.
Write and let me know how you have developed in your English studying.