Learning strategies: how to make the most of your time

17/03/2021 | Santander Universidades

Studying is a time and energy-consuming activity, but one that's vital to progress both in academic fields and in the workplace, as well as for personal growth. From compulsory education to specialised programmes, continuing to improve and develop through the study and practice of different subjects can help you to fulfil your professional and personal goals. Initiatives such as Santander Open Academy allow you to pursue such career development through training. To make the most of this or other training, there are several factors to bear in mind with regards to learning strategies.

Learning strategies

Studying is not just about spending hours in front of your books. There are far more effective study techniques that help you to make the most of your time and maximise the knowledge you absorb. In this article, you will learn which strategies to avoid and which are the most effective when it comes to learning.

learning strategies

Traditional techniques

One of the most commonly held beliefs about studying is that it consists of underlining notes and course books, drafting summaries and outlines, writing notes out clean, reading the summarised materials and revising everything until it sinks in. Despite the widespread fame of such methods, several reports recommend avoiding these learning strategies. Underlining and making summaries can lead to a false sense of control over the subject that takes its toll when it comes to retrieving this knowledge from memory. 

These studies stress that, to ensure effective learning, it's necessary to find techniques not only to memorise, but also to limit how much you forget. Amongst these strategies, the one that stands out most is that of implementation.

Practical exercises

Although exams can be a source of worry and anxiety, especially when they influence academic results, there are ways to exploit them for your own benefit. As psychology researcher Henry L. Roediger states, there would appear to be a relationship between sitting tests and practical exams immediately after reading a text, and memorising this better. 

Simple tests can help to commit knowledge to memory in a more lasting way than simply revising, since it connects the concepts studied to a practical reality. For example, among all the learning strategies, a good one would be to combine quick reading with comprehension questions.


There are several benefits to studying together with other people. For example, exchanging mnemonic techniques and other tricks that help consolidate learning can be really beneficial, but that's not all. Subject-related conversations and, where relevant, debate and exchange of views on the subject are other ways of putting knowledge into practice, and the variety of stimuli allow you to more efficiently commit things to memory.  Where possible, it's also highly beneficial to teach the subject matter. These are very efficient learning strategies since being able to educate others requires an in-depth understanding of the subject, and by doing so, the most important knowledge is consolidated.

learning strategies


It might be tempting to focus on one single topic and repeat it ad nauseum, but several investigations have found that this might not be the best plan. Interspersing different subjects seems to stimulate learning more than continuous repetition, especially when there are common themes across the various subjects. Besides boosting learning, this can also help to develop transferable skills. To successfully combine different subjects, it can be helpful to plan the study in advance.

Planning and strategy

Organisation is the key to developing effective learning strategies. Knowing that the memory is especially sensitive to stress, it is logical to assume that tight deadlines might affect academic performance, thus it is advisable to space out the study materials over all of the available time. A strategy that takes into account the deadlines, volume and difficulty of the work, the importance of breaks and the benefits of interspersing different subjects might be the solution for cases where you lack concentration and are having difficulty memorising. 

Concentration and breaks

The ability to concentrate while studying is limited and varies from one person to the next, hence there is no optimal amount of study time we can apply globally. In any case, rest is vital and a lack of it can have serious consequences on your ability to analyse, synthesise and memorise. That's why repetitive practice techniques often fail: spaced-out practice seems to be more effective than intensive practice in the long term. To properly understand how to organise study and break times, you have to be aware of your own limitations, both physical and psychological, and respect these.

There is no universal study technique that always works. However, students should be supported by teachers and lecturers in finding the study technique that works best for them. In this sense, teachers should be able to guide students in this process of identification and application.

Are you a teacher or lecturer with experience in higher education and want to enhance your teaching skills? Banco Santander, together with Harvard Business Publishing Education, is launching 300 seats for the Santander Course | Essential Teaching Techniques. The course is designed to foster good practices, collaborative work, and networking within the global community of teachers and lecturers. Ultimately, it will help you establish essential strategies and principles of effective teaching.

In this 100% online and comprehensive ten-week program, you will be able to put into practice proven strategies and time-tested methodologies to enhance the learning experience for your students and inspire them to excel.

You will do all this through a “flipped classroom” methodology and by working in international and multidisciplinary teams, as well as with learning facilitators and mentors. In addition, the course is available in Spanish, English or Brazilian Portuguese. There is no cost for beneficiaries and it is not necessary to be a Banco Santander customer.


Do you want to become a changemaker in the teaching community? Sign up for the Santander Course | Essential Teaching Techniques.

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