17 tips to stay motivated when studying for an exam

Tyler York


Staying motivated when studying is crucial to keeping pace with your commitment and making sure you are successful on test day. The more you study, the more likely you are to succeed – but how do you keep up a good study habit when you’re preparing for a huge exam in a few months or burned out from your other activities? We asked 17 experts for their #1 tip for staying motivated while studying and compiled their answers below. Take a look – no matter who you are, at least one of these tips will be able to help you!

Associate Studying With Your Daily Routine

The prospect of putting in hundreds of hours studying for a graduate or professional exam is daunting. No one wants to be locked in their room for hours on end, studying boring math principles. That is why the most effective method of maintaining your study schedule and staying at it is making your studies a part of your daily routine. 

My best advice is to associate it with some aspect of your daily life. For example, instead of watching TV after dinner for an hour each night, use that time to study for 30 minutes before treating yourself to a final 30 minutes of trashy reality TV that you love. 

Or, here is a fun fact: the average person spends 15 minutes per day on the toilet. Many prep courses and study tools offer mobile apps and mobile-friendly platforms, allowing you to put that time to good use, rather than scrolling through social media. The point is to make it a part of your daily routine; that’s the only way to stay motivated.

Invest in a Professional Coach

If you can afford it, investing in a professional coach is one of the best ways to stay motivated throughout the intense process of studying for a professional exam.

A great coach will provide you with personalized study tips depending on your learning style and create a timeline that fits your individual needs and your availability. Keeping track of your progress through regular assessments will help keep you accountable and give you the motivation to push yourself further. 

If you need advice or are struggling to focus, having someone available to speak with and lend an ear can make all the difference in staying motivated and pushing yourself closer to achieving a top score.

Natalia Brzezinska, Marketing & Outreach Manager, UK Passport Photo

Find a Study Partner or Group

Having a study partner or group will help to keep you accountable, provide resources and advice, and boost your motivation. When I studied for the SAT or LSAT, I found a partner who also had similar goals, and we kept each other on track by setting deadlines and reviewing our progress. 

We could also discuss challenging concepts together and help each other to stay focused on the task at hand. I would also recommend breaking down your study sessions into achievable chunks that you can tackle one at a time. Give yourself small rewards for completing each chunk of material so that it feels like a game instead of an overwhelming task.

Amira Irfan, Founder & CEO, A Self Guru

Do a Little Everyday

As a medical student and resident, I have spent countless hours studying for exams. I would recommend having an easy baseline target so you can feel achieved each day while preventing procrastination. 

For example, when I was studying for USMLE Steps 1 and 2, I committed to doing 10 practice questions each day. This could take 30 minutes. If I had extra time in a day, or leading up to my dedicated study period, then I would do more. But no matter what, even if I had a day full of lectures or took a class-specific exam, as long as I did my 10 questions I felt accomplished for the day knowing that I had learned something relevant for the high-stakes exam.

Get an Accountability Partner

Studying for an exam is a daunting task. It consumes a lot of physical and mental energy to fit in a lot of information in one sitting. Most of the time, people get distracted for a lengthy period because they lose track of time. 

One should get an accountability partner to maintain the momentum of study sessions. An accountability partner is a person who is also studying and needs to stay focused. This “buddy” would allow you to be more conscious of your actions and more responsible with your tasks. 

Additionally, you could also have breaks between and share what both of you have learned. Learning doesn’t always have to be boring. Gaining knowledge can still be fun if you do it the right way with the right people.

Laura Martinez, Consultant & Content Writer, Personality Max

Set Milestone-Based Plan

As an MD, having gone through the experience of getting a dermatology certification myself, I know how important it is to stay motivated and consistent in your study plan. 

One tactic that has always been helpful for me is to create a milestone-based study plan. It creates both short-term and long-term goals each week, so you can track your progress and see how far you’ve come; it helps to stay focused and on track. 

Furthermore, don’t forget to reward yourself after hitting those milestones; this will help keep you motivated to continue diligently toward the ultimate goal set for yourself.

Divide the Syllabus into Small Portions

It is hard to stay focused for a long time while studying. No matter how much dedication you start with, after a few hours, you get bored and lose concentration. 

The best way to stay motivated for long hours is to make small goals and execute them. For example, you can divide the whole syllabus into 10-20 parts and set small goals accordingly. 

Set a deadline for a small portion of the syllabus and focus on those chapters. Refrain from thinking about the end goal; focus on the small part and finish that. You can take short breaks after completing each small portion and move on to the next small goal. This will satisfy you and motivate you to study for the next small goal.

Karen Cate Agustin, Business Analyst, Investors Club

Have a Positive and Organized Study Environment

A positive and organized study environment helps one stay focused and motivated while studying. The environment plays a vital role in concentration during studies. 

You can’t study with focus in a chaotic environment. So, choose a place that doesn’t have any noise. That place shouldn’t have any distractions. Also, make sure that you have everything you need in that place. You should organize all your necessary items in your study site. Keep all your study notes, books, and laptop close by. 

You can also keep motivating quotes on your study table. If you have a study room, make sure its walls have calming colors. Soothing colors can also boost concentration.

Create a Vision Board

Create a vision board to remind yourself of what you are trying to achieve. Are you studying for the LSAT so you can be a lawyer? Create a vision board with images of lawyers, famous cases, the law school you want to attend, etc. 

Are you taking the SAT to get into college? Create a vision board with the college logo, mascot, your field of study, and your dream job. Then, post this board where it serves as a constant reminder of your goal. 

This will encourage you to set aside the time to study. Each time you walk past the board, you will be reminded why it’s important to do well on your test.

Caroline Duggan, Chief Brand Officer, Lumineux

Install Website and App Blockers

After the lockdown, many students became accustomed to studying virtually by using educational websites and learning videos. Today, we can find the majority of study materials online. This makes it crucial to partake in those online activities that would help students meet their educational needs while avoiding other distractions. 

Website and app blockers are highly helpful in these situations since they may prevent access to websites and applications that might cause students to become distracted. These blockers will be especially helpful to students who have trouble sticking to their decision to study for extended periods of time without interruption.

Write Yourself a Quick Letter

If you are studying for a professional exam like FINRA, you need to remind yourself why you are taking the exam in the first place. This includes not just your career goals and what you want to do job-wise, but your personal goals as well. 

In the past, when I had an important test like this, I always wrote myself a brief note, reminding myself of my goals. Studying for these types of tests can be brutal, but it’s a great life-teaching moment for how much the good things in life require our time. 

Writing myself a note and reading through it before every study session is a helpful motivator. It gets me pumped up. Even if you are a driven individual, having the consistent energy to study for a professional exam is not always possible. These tests sometimes take hundreds of hours of study time! Try writing yourself a quick letter, and then dive into those books!

William Varney, Product Strategist, Megaphone Marketing

Exercise Regularly

One thing that I’ve always found incredibly helpful is to make sure I’m getting regular exercise. Even if it’s just a ten-minute walk around the block, shifting my focus from studying to something physical helps me refocus and recharge. 

Exercise naturally releases endorphins, which can help boost motivation, and often by the time I come back from my walk, I’m full of energy and ready to take on serious studying! Exercise has certainly been an important part of my personal productivity routine over the years, and it has really made a difference in keeping me motivated and focused so that I can continue putting in dedicated study time.

Listen to Classical Music

Classical music generally only has instrumentals without vocals, which means one can easily read, write, and think while listening to it. Research from the University of France, published in Learning and Individual Differences, found that students who listened to one hour of classical music while studying performed better on exams than students who listened to no music. 

The researchers believe it puts students in a heightened emotional state, which makes learning feel easier and more relaxing. Students can easily find classical music playlists on popular apps like Spotify and YouTube. By setting up a well-lit, comfortable, and ‌quiet place to study where the only sound they hear is the music, they can put themselves ahead of the curve.

Generate a Reward System

Creating a mechanism that rewards you for studying is one of the best ways to stay motivated during challenging study sessions. While you are free to create a reward system that suits you, I have found the idea of rewarding yourself with breaks quite effective. 

For example, you could say that for every 30 minutes you spend studying, you will spend 15 minutes relaxing. You could even reward yourself with an hour of Netflix after every hour of study. Or perhaps go for my favorite, 30 minutes on the Xbox after an hour with books. 

Either way, a reward system will reward you to study more and will also create a structured approach to the way you manage study time. This will make it easier for you to be more productive while avoiding too much stress. The biggest mistake most students make is trying to study too much over a short period. It won’t work. Just give yourself breaks in between and let the magic happen.

Jennie Miller, Co-Founder, Midss

Focus on the Future

With studying, it’s hard to stay motivated, especially when you feel you’re missing out. One thing that helps is having a clear vision of what you are working to achieve. Yes, you might turn down that party invite now but remember the payoff. It’s useful to imagine your future self and make choices that you will be thankful for. 

This encourages you to be proactive rather than procrastinating. Putting in the hours now means less stress and more success later down the line. A future-focused approach can also help you to effectively prioritize, making the choices that will serve you best in the long term. 

This promotes a balanced and sustainable way of being and means you don’t have to miss out on every opportunity, as you’ve consistently put in the work. You can really relax if you take a break, knowing you’ve earned it. Remember, this isn’t forever, even though it feels like it is, and imagine how good you will feel when all your hard work pays off.

Martin Gasparian, Attorney & Owner, Maison Law

Always Avoid Burnout Procrastination

What is the one similarity students have with employees? Crunch culture. This is extremely counter-productive in both regards and I have seen the consequences that come about. 

Crunch culture is a prevalent bane that offers a thorny promise, where if you work extra hard during a short period, you can cover more ground and ultimately increase productivity. In most cases, this is untrue and, in fact, leads to several health issues, which ironically reduces your productivity. Professional exams often share the crunch culture sentiment, and this leads to students spending hours and hours buried in textbooks and solving past papers. 

This kind of forced focus will always lead to issues with information retention, and avoiding breaks can affect a student’s mental health. The best advice I can give is to avoid crunching and create a step-by-step blueprint on your course material and what to cover in what duration, with breaks and some fun. Be proactive and avoid procrastination.

Believe in Your Abilities

As someone who scored in the top percentile of the SAT, my best piece of advice for staying motivated is to always keep believing in yourself. Even though there may be bumps and roadblocks along the way, have confidence that you are capable of incredible things if you truly focus and commit yourself to study. 

Believe that you can achieve any result you set out for yourself with committed effort and consistency. Focus on what you have gained during your study time instead of seeing only what is yet to be achieved—use positive reinforcement to remain motivated towards each goal, and soon enough, success will follow.
Haya Subhan, Management Executive, Sheffield First Aid Courses

Haya Subhan, Management Executive, Sheffield First Aid Courses


Studying for long periods can be tough, but armed with these tips, you can do it! Try out your favorites to see if they can help you, and be sure to give each one a proper test before writing it off. As with anything, it’s all about what works best for you and your process. Good luck!

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