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This is a list of pretty much all of the study tools I use to be productive, overcome procrastination and enjoy being a student! It includes everything from the stationery I love to the apps I can’t live without to the games my friends and I play after a long day’s studying!
Go straight to the tool you are looking for by clicking one of the links below, or just browse on down!
This is the perfect high school, college or university backpack. It’s both durable and pretty cool – the perfect combo. It’s big enough to fit a good few folders, notebooks and your laptop, but not so big that it becomes clunky or impractical.
This backpack has become my lifelong travel companion. The photo above was taken on the climb up to the Inka ruins of Pisac in Peru – I was, of course, carrying my Osprey Farpoint 40!
Since buying this backpack around a year ago, I’ve decided it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. After considerable research and after pondering whether I should just buy a cheap, easy-to-replace backpack for my travels, I eventually took the plunge and haven’t looked back!
The bag is the biggest size permitted in hand luggage and can take about a week’s worth of clothing (two if you wear your pants inside out). It has plenty of different pockets, but not so many you forget where you’ve put things. It is also great with not much stuff in it, folding down so that it doesn’t look like you’ve got a massive, empty backpack on.
Undoubtedly my most used tool, I spend considerably more time in front of my Mac than I do with my girlfriend – seriously! Is it absolutely necessary to have a Mac instead of another reasonably high performance, but cheaper, laptop? No – of course not.
However, for me, I love every thing about my Mac. I like the way it integrates seamlessly across my calendar, reminders, notes, music and photos with my iPhone. I like the fact that, after four years, (*touch wood*) it is still performing as if it were brand new. And I like the fact that it looks, feels and performs 10x better than my old Dell. It was twice the price, but for me, it was worth the investment!
I’m not going to include a link to buy this as I actually bought mine second-hand refurbished on eBay. I think this is a great way to avoid spending a fortune, but obviously be extremely careful and be aware that buying second-hand always carries some risk!
I must say that before I got this, I was a little skeptical of e-readers. However, as far as studying is concerned, they are a really great addition to traditional books.
A Kindle probably won’t replace traditional books all together, particularly if, like me, you study an arts / “booky” subject. However, if you are going away over the summer and want to get ahead on reading without taking 6 books with you, or if you just fancy diving into one of the 1,000s of free books available for Kindle, it is awesome!
Also, I’d add that being able to search through a book when studying is an extremely helpful feature.
A little notebook is always handy. I use mine for vocab, but it could equally serve for important equations or world-domination plans.
I use mine for jotting down anything and everything that comes into my head. However, these would also be great for individual subjects if you like to use a notebook rather than individual pieces of paper.
I got mine for my 21st Birthday from my parents. They are a little pricey buy really are worth every penny! Beautiful leather that I know is going to last forever and amazingly high quality finish. I really cannot recommend it highly enough – makes me want to plan everything all the time :p
Obviously you can change the inside contents to suit you, depending on how many days you’d like to be able to see at a time. I currently have a week every two pages, so that I can see my plans for an entire week on a double-page spread.
While I now use my Filofax, I have used these before and they are really great little planners. They combine a clear layout with a real focus on not letting life pass you by. The idea is that you focus on taking action and getting stuff done!
While these ring binders are a little more expensive that your bog standard folder, they are built to last. I eventually got sick and tired of using folders whose rings would stop closing properly after about 4 uses. If you no longer want your notes falling out of your ring binder, becoming disorganised and resulting in a frustrating reorganisation operation, these folders are the answer.
File dividers are a basic, but essential organisation tool that permits you to file your notes away by topic. This will save you hours and hours of reorganisation if done properly throughout the year.
… You can find your own :p If you’re someone who feels particularly strongly about the quality or ecological impact of the paper you use, I’m afraid I can’t really advise you here… Perhaps I’m ignorant, but I generally use whatever paper I find first – it all does pretty much the same thing :p
I had this pencil case for a good few years and loved it. Lasted throughout most of high school and I’d 100% recommend it!
I’m not sure if this is the case in the US, but in the UK you have to have a see-through pencil case for exams. This is the one I use and it’s served me well!
… Otherwise known as “my precious” (*Subpar Gollum impression*)
This Casio scientific calculator will certainly do you up to the end of High School and will be able to do pretty much everything beyond that too!
I’m not sure why, but the calculators have different names in the UK (Casio FX991-ES Plus) and the US (Casio FX-115ES Plus), but they have almost exactly the same functionality. I must say, I did a lot of maths at secondary school, so I became really quite attached to my precious…
My everyday pen of choice
This pen has the perfect size nib so that it writes without being scratchy (it’s really smooth – a bit like its owner… hmm…) but also without putting so much ink on the page that you smudge it the whole time.
You don’t have to press as hard as with a biro, so much better for exams where you have to write lots! Also comes in loads of different colours, which is awesomely helpful when it comes to making great looking notes!
I’m also a big fan of these 4-way biros. I don’t use them so much now that I often take my notes in lectures and then write them up again afterwards. However, I found this pen so so helpful in Biology at school, as I could quickly change colour in my notes without having to search around in my pencil case and shift my attention away from the teacher.
My Amazing, Fancy-Looing, But Very Reasonably Priced Fountain Pen
This is an amazing pen. I use it to write each day in my Filofax – a pretty beautiful combo, even if I do say so myself! (In the US, it is only available in a very slightly different design that has some gold on it.)
These pencils give you the lowest probability of ending up with the lead falling out every time you try and sharpen them. That said, they are still only pencils, so try not to drop them every time you celebrate finishing a math(s) question!
These are undoubtedly the best highlighters I’ve used! I’ve tried loads out, and these are the only ones that seem to last longer than about a week without drying out! I’ve had one of mine for about 3 years and it still works perfectly 🙂
Probably one of my favourite study tools, I bought this bookstand after I started suffering from a sore neck, caused by constantly looking down at books on my desk.
I think this is one of my favourite study tools in this list! This bookstand holds any book open for you, allowing you to continue typing while looking at a page. It also has a space to allow your kindle / tablet to be on charge while you work. It also looks pretty awesome!
Unfortunately my bookstand isn’t available in the US. However, one of my friends has recommended this one to me for my US readers. It looks pretty great, has very positive reviews and is reasonably priced!
A whiteboard is another really helpful tool to have by your desk. Use it to display your timetable, reminders and appointments… or just draw silly little pictures. Added bonus: if a girl/guy you like comes over to yours, they can leave a cheeky message for you :p
These are an essential for any student’s desk!
I personally use mine to stick pieces of vocab on the wall in front of my desk. Occasionally, I have a quick look at one and revise a word I am trying to learn. You’ve got to love a post-it!
In terms of having a speaker that you can take anywhere with you any time you want, you cannot get better value for money than this. I wouldn’t say that I am a sound / music nerd by any stretch of the imagination, but even to me, this really does sound so much better than any other speaker of this size!
This speaker is either in my room at home or at uni. It is compact enough to be extremely easy to move around, but it packs a serious punch! I also love this speaker because the Sonos software (for iPhone) works perfectly with Apple Music or Spotify!
This is one university / college bedroom essential that I had to include in this list. It’s a small thing that can make a massive difference to how well you sleep. Throw in a set of ear plugs, and you’re sorted :p
While this might seem a bit of an odd thing to take to university or college, I’ve found mine to be extremely useful. I realised I didn’t have nail clippers… Swiss Army Knife to the rescue. I realised I didn’t have tweezers… Swiss Army Knife to the rescue. I realised I couldn’t open my parcel from my parents… Swiss Army Knife to the rescue. You get the picture :p
I reckon one of these mid-sized ones if perfect, but if you want to go bigger, feel free!
A scratch map is an awesome addition to any student’s bedroom. Scratch off the countries you’ve visited and see the colour expand as you travel the world! Mine takes pride of place on my bedroom wall.
The first thing to make clear is that I use everything Apple (iPhone, iPad & Mac), so all of these recommendations are based on the iOS versions. However, wherever possible I have also linked to Android / Windows versions!
This is the app I use to make my ever so slightly famous #studytimelapse videos. This is a technique I came up with after discovering that I studied way more productively when I was with a friend than when I was alone.
When I was with my friend (Alexia), the temptation we both felt to go on Facebook or to generally procrastinate was greatly reduced. This was because there was a kind of positive peer pressure making us feel like we each had to study because the other person was!
So, I decided to reproduce this effect when I was studying alone by filming myself! A time-lapse film takes a photo every second or two, meaning you have to keep working the whole time you are being filmed! You then get to watch a 15 second (ish) video of yourself being super productive when you finish your study session.
If you want to see a quick example of how this works, check out one of mine on Instagram here!
… Honestly, if you haven’t tried this before, give it a go! I promise it works wonders :p
Arguably the most popular focus app amongst the study community, this app prevents you from using your phone for a set period of time.
Essentially, at the start of a study session you plant a tree. If you use your phone and go on another app, your tree dies. However, if you succeed in not using your phone during this time, your tree grows and you begin to grow up your forest…
This is my favourite Pomodoro timer app. Best of all, it’s totally free to use!
If you struggle with procrastination when you’re trying to work from your laptop, this is the app for you. Cold Turkey is a program that blocks websites, apps and games while you work. The free version enables you to block just websites (which are probably the biggest source of procrastination for most of us). If you upgrade, you get access to more advanced options, such as the ability to block certain apps or games.
Available for Mac and Windows, this app is a Pomodoro timer that ensures you start and end your study session when you plan to! Commit to one task for 25 minutes and you’re away 🙂
It’s important to say that for the first few apps here, I will be suggesting both the native Apple app (that I use) and an alternative for people who have not been sucked into the wonderful (but expensive) world of Apple like me.
As all of my devices are Apple, they all sync perfectly with one another. However, if this is not the case for you (even if you have one Apple device), I strongly recommend using my non-Apple alternative!
If you are struggling with time management, getting to grips with planning your life through a digital calendar is absolutely essential.
Like I say, I use everything Apple, so for me the native Apple Calendar App works perfectly, syncing across my Mac, iPad and iPhone. It also allows me to be part of my family calendar, extremely useful in ensuring birthdays are not forgotten!
If you are struggling with time management, getting to grips with planning your life through a digital calendar is absolutely essential.
If you are not an Apple maniac – and even if you are – Google Calendar could be a great option for you! It is brilliantly easy to use and it also integrates really nicely with loads of other apps, including Wunderlist (see below).
This App is just incredible. As I explain in Study Hack 7 of my free guide 10 Study Hacks For Better Grades, I write literally everything I have to do in life either in my calendar or here.
I have a list for homework I have to do, a list of things I need to buy from the supermarket, a list of all the things I need to do for EGB… you get the picture! And best of all, I set this app to tell me when these things need to be done by so that I never forget to hand anything in.
Similar to the Apple Reminders app, this bad boy is equally awesome! I used it for a bit to see what it was like and loved it!
It’s free, it syncs seamlessly across all devices (and the web) and even allows you to create recurring tasks to save you from inputting the same task on a regular basis.
… Otherwise known as my splurge of consciousness…
I use this app all the time. If I’m on the train and have an idea for some places I’d like to go when my friends come to visit me in France, if I’m listening to a podcast and want to jot down an idea for EGB, if I suddenly have a eureka moment and discover something amazing (still waiting on this one…), I write it all down in this Notes app.
Similar to the Apple Notes app above this app can act as a space for you to splurge out any ideas you may have. Any quick research you might do, any little piece of information, any cool idea for an app you might like to start, you can jot it all down here.
I don’t personally use note apps for studying because I like to have all of my files very neatly stored in tons of folders… Yes – I have mild OCD! However, I know loads of people who use this app for all of their class notes and it seems to work for them!
If you ever have a group project you need to do (from a field work presentation to organising your year book) this is by far the best software for working in a team! It’s free, easy-to-use and basically let’s you keep track of who’s doing what by when.
I cannot recommend Dropbox enough! Like so many of these tools, it’s completely free and it’s probably the most secure way of making sure that your work doesn’t get lost!
You don’t have to save everything you ever do to Dropbox, but it’s definitely a good idea to make sure you upload all of your most important class notes, study material and essays so that, if the worst comes to the worst and your computer dies, it isn’t lost forever!
Plus, if you forget a piece of work on your home computer, you can log onto Dropbox at school and print it out in the lab.
Anki is the best digital flashcard app out there. Not only does it allow you to easily create flashcards, but it also learns how difficult you find remembering them. It then uses clever algorithms to work out how often it needs to show you cards to ensure you learn them as efficiently as possible. Got facts or vocab to learn? Use Anki!
Listening to audiobooks allows you to ensure you stop wasting valuable time. We are all so busy, it can be hard to find time to read. However, I listen to audiobooks while running, travelling, eating, cooking – you get the picture! Best of all, with audible you can actually listen to books at double speed so that you are listening faster than you could even read! They have a great 30-day free trial with a free audiobook, so sign up below and if you don’t want to continue, simply cancel before the end of your 30 days!
Quizlet isn’t actually a tool I use very much myself, but I have friends who use it the entire time! It can be used for learning just about anything. It has loads of preexisting ‘quizlets’ created by other people (including teachers). Otherwise, you can create your own quizlets, and be tested via a load of memory enhancing methods.
Focus At Will is an awesome app that I use to help me focus whenever I am out and about. I am really rubbish at concentrating when there is lots of background noise. So, this app selects music that is scientifically proven to help you concentrate! To start with, I was seriously skeptical, but they have a free-trial and I promise you – like me – will be amazed by the results!
This app is my favourite vocab-learning app. It’s really easy-to-use, has a beautiful design and I find its method of testing really effective.
If you’re looking to get started learning a new language or to improve your current level of fluency, look no further than Duolingo. I started learning a bit of German using this app before I actually began university classes in it, and I reckon I’ll go back to Duolingo after my classes are finished!
I’ll keep this one short and sweet: this is the best online cross-language dictionary available. Behind Facebook and Instagram, this is probably the app I spend the most time using!
I recommend this app for anyone having issues in maths, science or economics. It’s range and depth of video courses is absolutely awesome! When I was struggling with harmonic motion in my A-level mechanics syllabus, Khan Academy helped me when no one else could :p
If you’re looking to learn how to code, this really is an unbeatable resource. Its courses are developed (and used) by experts in every coding field, from HTML to iOS development! They offer an awesome 30-day free trial, so give it a go and if you don’t want to continue using it, just cancel before the 30 days is up.
I downloaded this app during my second term at university, when I began to feel like I wasn’t getting out of my room and walking enough. Other than a few football training sessions, I wasn’t doing much exercise, and so I decided to set myself the challenge of doing at least 10,000 steps a day for a month. I succeeded and this app recorded it all!
First thing to say: I used to hate running! However, like any habit, if you succeed in doing it regularly for a while, you actually begin to find it difficult to stop. Now I run on a regular basis, and Runkeeper accompanies me without fail! With headphones in, the app tells you how far you have gone every 5 minutes – a feature I now can’t run without! It also lets you compare runs, add friends and loads more.
If you aren’t a gym lover or just don’t have the time to go to the gym on a regular basis, this app is the answer. It has tons of free body weight workouts that you can do right in your bedroom. So, with this app, there really is no excuse not to be doing some daily exercise – even if it’s only a quick 15 minute workout!
Camscanner is an indispensable tool for all students. It enables you to take photos of books, notes, homework tasks and just about anything else, and automatically turns a series of photos into a PDF. At the same time, it also optimises the document so that it makes the text much easier to read. Essentially, what you end up with is the equivalent of having actually scanned the pages, in about a fifth of the time!
Last but not least, perhaps the ultimate educational app: YouTube. Whether you want to learn how to study more effectively from our very own YouTube channel, or want to better understand algebra, watch a science experiment, see how to use Photoshop… Or just about anything else, YouTube will almost certainly have the answer, for free.
… A party game for horrible people. This is a classic university / college card game that you simply have to have played. Horribly but hilariously cruel, it is a game that can be played by a few or loads of people!
Whether you have a poker night, play a few rounds of blackjack… or get warmed up with some ring of fire, no one should go to university / college without a pack of playing cards! I recommend Bicycle cards; they are reasonably priced but also pretty durable so should stand a reasonable chance of surviving the trials and tribulations of university / college life!
Bored of conventional cards? Mix things up with a good game of Dobble. I think this game might be intended for younger children, but I promise you it will get seriously heated no matter how old you are! Each card has one image in common with every other card – you simply have to find them… It should be blatantly obvious, but it just isn’t!
Having previously been a Spotify fan, I recently made the switch to Apple Music. It’s awesome, costs the same as Spotify and has pretty much exactly the same functionality. Plus, it syncs with my preexisting iTunes library, so was perfect for me! You can get unlimited access to pretty much any music for free for 3-months with their free trial!
Guys, if you haven’t already made the most of Amazon’s offer of a 6-month free trial for students, do it now! You get next-day delivery on everything you order, access to loads of TV, films and movies… And you can cancel at any point and never pay a penny! Who doesn’t love free stuff, especially when it’s this awesome?
Here’s an image for you to share this awesome list of study tools on social media…
Liam Porritt studies French and Spanish at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. In his most recent exams, he obtained a First and ranked third in his year. In his GCSEs, he achieved 12 A*s and in his A-levels 4 A*s. However, he is not a genius. He is just like you.
He is a firm believer in the power of building positive habits. While he accepts that some people may have a limited natural advantage over others when it comes to learning, he has no doubts that anyone can become ‘clever’ and succeed in their exams.