Top 5 Study Tips for Postgraduate Physics Students

Alexia at CERN

By Alexia Alexander Wight, MSc Physics

So, you’ve just started your postgraduate Physics degree – or maybe you’re already halfway through it – and you’re wanting to make your studying as efficient and effective as possible. Well, you’ve found the right article! Read the tips below to upgrade your studying, whether you’re doing a taught or a research-based physics postgrad course.

  1. Get prepped

Make turning up to lectures and meetings without prep a thing of the past. If you want your time with your professors and supervisors to be as valuable as possible, you need to go into them properly prepped. This might mean reading the textbook, some papers, or even the meeting agenda before turning up. By doing this, you go in with a better understanding of the content, and you can use the face-to-face time to tackle your understanding of the tricky bits of the topic and ask lots of relevant questions, instead of face-to-face time being wasted on grasping the basics.

  1. Don’t do it alone

Studying alone is both lonely and less effective. Having a group of friends you can study with provides a support structure, and elaboration – explaining concepts – has been shown to help content stick in your brain. Study groups don’t have to be just traditional study groups focussing on exam content though: if you’re doing your project or on research-based course, try setting up a journal club. This will encourage you to read more papers and give you a place to discuss and dissect them.

  1. Low and slow

Don’t leave everything to the last minute: start revising from day one! Revision has been found to be the most effective when it’s spaced out in bite size chunks over a long period of time. This also stops you from becoming overwhelmed in exam season. If you want to be really effective, you can employ a system like the Leitner method that exponentially increases the time between revision sessions. Don’t worry, you don’t need to work out what to do yourself: use Anki Cards to do the hard work for you! Revision is still important when doing research: as you learn key concepts create key cards so you can revisit and revise them!

  1. Build your network

This one links in with not doing it alone but extends even further. As well as study buddies, don’t be afraid to use other people in your network, and to make that network bigger. Make sure to use those office hours, to talk to professors in your areas of interest, and to ask for help from other students. Not only does this help you in your work in the here and now, but it also helps future you! Another thing to try is building your academic network on social media: a great place to find academics is Twitter! Building your network means when you get stuck on a problem, or if you need paper recommendation, you can reach out and find someone who can help you with it.

  1. Make use of technology

When it comes to studying, technology should be your friend, not your enemy! There’s lots of technology out there that can help you become the most effective student, with different technology for different purposes. One has already been mentioned: Anki cards are a great way to revise, plus you can share the workload with friends by creating revision decks and sharing them. Another key piece of technology that is useful for research is a reference manager, which will cut hours off the time spent working on your bibliography. Zotero is a great open-source option that has a Chrome extension and can auto-update a bibtex or biblatex file. Some other useful tech can be a good pdf editor, and text-to-voice programmes to read out papers to you.

Put these tips to use and you’ll be sure to upgrade your studies!

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