5 Study techniques to improve your focus

There are a lot of studying techniques out there, and no doubt you’ve tried several yourself. Here are 5 techniques that have worked really well for me in KI’s biomedicine programme. I hope they help!

Why should you try these different techniques?

I’ve found that it can be a bit tricky to remain focussed and take good notes if you’re dealing with a new study environment, a different lecturer, or a novel teaching style.

Taking online classes from home (as many of you may be doing), listening to different lecturers (most of my lectures in KI have been held by people who specialize in the topic they teach us), and adjusting to talking speed and presentation style can make effective studying challenging.

So, I’ve compiled 5 techniques for you to try that may help you make good notes and stay focussed during class. For me, variety breeds focus!

1. Text based notes

This is one of the most classic form of note taking: as the lecturer speaks and talks, you listen to them and write down important things they say.

If you’re typing…

  • bullet points
  • bold face
  • italics

…are some of the best ways to stay engaged with the material that you’re learning.

If you’re writing by hand, play around with layout and more schematic thinking! Use boxes and circles to draw attention to big ideas or questions, highlighters for important things, arrows to connect ideas, even tiny drawings if that helps you. (here are some of my nicest notes if you want ideas)

2. Using keywords

A great way to get a holistic understanding of a topic is to use keywords. At KI, we usually have access to the lecture slides and the recommended reading plan from the very beginning of the course. So you can use them for this workflow:

  • Come up with a set number of keywords (I go for 20-30) for every core topic.
  • Use these keywords to structure your notes and add the insights you get from the lecturer.

Plus, these keywords can be super helpful in the following ways as well!

3. Use the learning outcomes

Every course has learning outcomes that you can easily find on the programme website which is a good thing to keep in mind and even use as a checklist while studying or taking notes. Some courses have a yet more specific “theory content” document that lists the topics and key understandings of the course. You can use these outcomes and lists to structure your notes as well. Plus, they’re a great way to revise.

4. Work with the slides

The lecture slides can be a great tool if they’re well structured and easily supplemented with your own notes. They’re especially good if the lecture has a lot of graphs and diagrams which are more easily annotated than copied. If you have a tablet with a pen then there are many apps that will allow you to write over PDFs. If not, you can always convert a PDF to a document file and add text boxes as you like.

5. Diagram based learning

Diagrams and images are a great way of learning things. Especially if your lecture is about a singular thing, for example “the excretory system”, a great tactic is to draw the digestive system and annotate the drawing. Drawing apps, large sheets of paper, and whiteboards will be your best friends if you try out this tactic.

Handwritten or digital?

While there is a lot of discussion about whether taking digital or handwritten notes are better for learning, I’ve found that whether I personally choose to type or write depends on two things

  • how fast the lecturer speaks: I can type faster than I write so if I find myself struggling to keep up with the pace then I prefer to type things out. It is also easier to go back and fill in gaps you’ve missed if the notes are typed out.
  • the structure of the presentation: If the lecture is structured in a “one topic per slide” style, I tend to go for handwritten notes. However, if there is a more “big picture explanation followed by more detail and a lot of jumping back and forth between topics” style, I prefer typed notes because it’s easier to rearrange and locate your keywords later.

There are many ways to learn, and different things work for different people! If you have a way that works really well for you, feel free to share it!



Inika Prasad — Biomedicine BSc

Inika Prasad — Biomedicine BSc

Hello, Inika here. I’m a third-year Biomedicine bachelor’s student at KI. I'm from India and a little bit from Sweden. As a Digital Ambassador Blogger, I'll be writing about my programme, things happening in and around KI, and giving insights into university life.


Disadvantages of distance learning and how to tackle them – Student blogs from Karolinska Institutet

Disadvantages of distance learning and how to tackle them – Student blogs from Karolinska Institutet

[…] Another tip is that you have to know your learning style. If you are a visual learner, you might want to highlight the course materials with various colors or draw some graphs based on the lectures. If you are a auditory learner, you can relisten the lectures when you are preparing your meal. If you are a kinestetic learner, you can take notes or map your ideas in your book. My fellow DA, Inika, suggested some study techniques that can optimize your learning process. […]

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