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Studying & Test Taking

Create a Study Space

What is a Study Space?

A study space is an area or a spot that helps you study better. Customizing your environment and creating a dedicated study space can help you transition into studying faster, keep you focused longer, and make you more productive during your scheduled study sessions.

We all have different styles or preferences when it comes to creating a productive study space, which is why it's important to reflect on what works best for you.

In this section, we'll explore different aspects of a good study space, and we'll share some neat tools you can test out during your next study session.

Customizing Your Study Space

Study preferences can vary and what works for someone else might not work for you.

If you're finding it hard to concentrate, or you're losing energy too fast while studying, it's worth it to reflect on where and when you're most productive and best able to focus.

Click through the options below to learn more about how to customize your study space:

Are you a morning person, a night owl, or are you most productive midday? Each time of day has unique advantages when it comes to studying:

  • Studying in the morning: Mornings are a great time to work on your recall skills—you've had a good night's sleep, had some breakfast too, and have access to natural light to help you focus. Now's a good time to open a textbook to learn a new theory or review your notes from the previous day.
  • Studying in the afternoon: Afternoons are the best time to integrate new information—you're better able to create new connections between information you studied in the morning and information you learned in class during the day. If you get stuck while studying in the afternoon, you can also check in with your professor or visit the library to get more information.
  • Studying in the evening: For some students, evenings are the time of day when they have more energy or have a quiet moment to focus. Studying in the evening or at night can improve your concentration and creativity as there are fewer distractions with everyone else in bed. Sleeping after studying can also help to consolidate information and improve recall (which you can practice in the morning!)

Figure out the time of day that you are most alert and try to get your studying done then.

Physical spaces can reinforce good study habits, and different spaces can create different moods—it's important to think about what you need in a space to help you focus, and what you want in a space to make it comfortable and productive.

  • You might want to be in a place that's bright and full of energy with students passing through and enjoying themselves—but maybe you need a space with fewer distractions to help you focus on complex new material.
  • You might want a room that has no colour, no decorations, and few sounds—but maybe you need a space that's more comforting so you don't associate your studies with boredom and unpleasant experiences.

A good place to start trying out spaces is at your campus Library or Learning Commons spaces! Sheridan's Libraries have a wide range of seating options, silent study rooms, and collaborative space. You can even book Group Study Rooms where you can work with one to three other people.

Pick a spot that works for you and designate that as your official study space.

Good lighting is a key part of creating a productive studying space, so pay attention to how lighting affects your ability to focus.

For example, if you like to study at night, but you find yourself squinting to try and read your textbook, you might need to buy a desk lamp to give you better, more focused light (or, you might need to get glasses, too!)

According to a German study that looked at the effects of colour temperature and brightness on the productivity of students at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences, researchers found that students were more creative under warm light (3000k), yet concentrated better under cold light (6000k).

Take time to experiment with different brightness levels and colour temperatures to find something that works well for you. You can buy lightbulbs that have different colour temperatures, or you could buy a lamp that lets you dim or brighten the light itself.

Some people find ambient noise or music helpful when studying, while others need complete silence—the best piece of advice you can follow is to match the noise level to your task.

For example:

  • If you feel overwhelmed by your workload, adding noise or music might add to your stress levels or affect your concentration.
  • If you need extra creativity, putting on some music or listening to some background noise might get you into a new mindset.
  • If you're getting bored while studying, putting on some music that doesn't have lyrics could stimulate your mind while also eliminating the distraction of voices or singing.

If you're looking for some good background noise, check out:

  • Noisli. Customize nature sounds and the amount of rainfall, thunder, wind etc. to your preferences. 
  • myNoise. A variety of sounds and music. Use online or download to your iOS.
  • Noises.Online. Create your own medley of sound. Can't make it to a coffee shop? Click the coffee cup button for some background conversation!

The temperature of your space can affect your overall productivity, especially when it comes to studying. An environment that's too hot or too cold not only makes you consciously distracted, but also makes you more likely to make mistakes in your work unconsciously.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reviewed several studies on how temperature affects office work productivity. They found that, on average, productivity is highest at a temperature range between 22°C and 24°C (or 72°F and 75°F)—below or above that range, errors increased.

You might not always have control over the temperature in your study space, but think about it the next time you sit down to study—if your usual space is too hot or too cold, it might be worth it to temporarily move to a spot with a better balance.

When you need to focus, it's helpful to start with what to leave out and then add things from there.

The goal of any study space is to maximize the attention you can give to studying while minimizing the amount of effort you need to do so. If your space is full of things that could distract you, then you're taking energy away from studying.

A few things to remove from your study space include:

  • Your phone.
  • Video games
  • Lots of open tabs in your web browser, especially in those tabs lead you to Netflix or social media sites.
  • Messy food, drinks, or junk food.
  • Other people—unless someone is acting as an accountability buddy to keep you on task, or if you're working on the same group project.

If you need help reducing how much time you're spending online when you should be studying, check out:

  • Cold Turkey: Block apps, sites or even your entire computer.
  • Take a Five: Customize a timer to remind you to stop surfing and get back to studying.
  • Forest: Stay focused by planting a virtual tree and watching it grow the longer you don't use your phone!

Pause & Reflect

After reading this section, reflect on the following questions:

  • What does your current study space look like? What works well for you right now?
  • Are there any changes you want to make to your current study space after reading this section?