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Different Ways to Study like a McGillian

By: Ellie Greenspan


Not sure if you're studying well? Maybe want to try some different techniques? If you are thinking of switching study methods, looking at this list of study methods and their pros and cons may help!


The “Not Going to Class”

Most classes are recorded and can be accessed a few hours after the class period. Students can stay home and spend as much time as desired listening and writing notes on each lecture.


  • Watch the recording at your own time and at your own pace

  • Rewind and pause the recorded lecture to ensure they wrote everything the professor said

  • Save time commuting to school


  • Cannot ask questions to the professor during the lecture

  • Cannot socialize with other students in class

  • Potentially do not feel integrated into the McGill school community


The “Anki” Studier

Anki is a mobile flashcard app (free on laptop and 24.99$ for iPad). Students can create flashcards about the course material themselves, or try to find already made flashcards. Students can then use the flashcards to quiz themselves.

Students can create separate flashcard piles for all their classes and all their lectures.


  • Studies show that quizzing yourself is a very affecting study method (Milone, Michael).

  • Can shuffle flashcards from different lectures together to do full course review OR study flashcards from one lecture.

  • After answering a flashcard, you can choose to redo the card in 1 minute, 10 minutes, tomorrow or in 4 days.


  • Potentially time-consuming to create the flashcards yourself. However, some students make flashcards during the class lecture.

  • If you only study with Anki and do not include every detail of the course material in your flashcards, you may not study everything you need to know for the course.


The “Study from the Power Points” day of each class

After each lecture, some students can go over the material covered. They either read it over or actively memorize the material. This can usually take between 1 and 3 hours for each lecture.


  • Stay on top of the material as the course goes on.

  • Might more easily understand the future lectures material because you already understand previous lectures.

  • Realize if you do not understand a concept and ask questions to TAs or friends the day of the lectures.


  • Could be time-consuming and overwhelming to be studying every day after class.

  • Might be hard to keep up with this method of studying during weeks with assignments or exams.


The “Study From the Power Points” after each module


  • Students can more or less stay on top of the material as the course goes on.

  • If students do not understand something from the module, they will probably have time to speak to a TA or friends before exams.


  • While learning one module, might be lost in class as you have not reviewed the previous lecture.

  • Can finish learning modules of multiple classes around the same time and then will have a lot to study.

  • Might be hard to keep up with this method of studying if you have assignments or exams right after finishing a module.


The “Write your Own Notes”

If the PowerPoint presentations distributed by the professor are not your style, you can write your own notes for the class.


  • Notes are probably more straightforward and comprehensible than the PowerPoints, therefore easier to study from afterwards.

  • Can work to ensure you understand the material while writing your notes.


  • Simply writing down information is a ‘passive’ form of studying, which is less effective than actively memorizing or doing practice problems.

  • This method can be more time-consuming than others.

  • Spend a lot of time creating the study resource instead of using a study resource already made. Some student unions sell class notes written by students.


The “Study Only Right Before the Exam”

Students may choose to study only at the end of the semester when exams are rolling around the corner.


  • More free time during the semester.


  • Might not have time to understand and review all the course material if you are crammed for time.

  • Probably will not understand some lectures as the semester goes on if you do not review previous lectures.

  • Probably will not have the chance to ask professors or TAs questions before the exam.


Some Students Find it Helpful to

  • Listen to podcasts about class material before bed

  • Record yourself reading out class material and listen back to it

  • Active studying instead of passive studying

  • Explain the material to a friend

  • Read the textbook before and/or after classes

  • Quiz yourself, complete practice problems and practice exams.

  • Read or watch a video while on the treadmill

  • Remember to take stay active, sleep well and take care of your mental health <3

I hope you find these techniques with their pros and cons lists helpful! Remember that it takes time to find the study method that works best for you, and at the end of the day, mental health and being well-rounded is most important. Good luck in exams and the rest of the semester <3


Helpful resources

A study guide written by Torsten Bernhardt, Department of Biology, McGill University, 2015:

Time Management Tips:

McGill Wellness Hub (counsellors, local wellness advisors, psychiatrists):




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