Passing a big exam requires learning and retaining information, and we all know numerous study sessions are key to absorbing all of that info (unless you can somehow do it without studying, in which case you deserve your own Marvel movie). We also know that watching the clock tick away in slow motion during a dull study session can be rough.

But I’m here to tell you that you can do the impossible, you can make your study sessions fun… or at least a tad bit more enjoyable. And if you actually enjoy your study sessions, that leads to higher productivity, better learning, and ultimately acing your exam.

Here are some things you can try out during your next study session to make it more pleasant:

1. Avoiding cramming 

Sometimes those late night coffee-fueled cramming study sessions are a necessary evil, but they’re also a great way to kill your motivation. If you can start your exam prep way ahead of time, you’ll have more flexibility in how you approach your learning. Try to start prepping for your exam at least three to six months before your exam date to avoid unnecessary stress.

There are going to be times where you’re just not in the right mood to study, and if you’ve planned ahead of time, you’ll be able to drop study sessions when you’re not feeling it and save it for another day. But if you have to cram, you’re forcing yourself into an unpleasant situation.

2. Adjust your mindset

How you perceive and think about a task can drastically change how you feel while you’re performing that task. If you have a negative mindset about studying before you even crack open your books, you’re probably going to have a bad experience. But if you are able to adjust your mindset and think positively about studying, your study sessions will be more enjoyable and productive.

So before your next study session, think positively about studying, even if you have to force yourself to do so. Think about how this upcoming study session will help you grow and build toward achieving your long term goals. Imagine yourself years from now and where you’ll be because you achieved your goals.

Also try to relax and avoid any negative information that may put you in a negative space or even distract you while studying. If you need a mood booster, watch some funny or positive content that will get you smiling or practice some positive self-talk.

Positive thinking isn’t just a way to improve study sessions, it can also enhance many other aspects of your life, including your health.

“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.” 
Dalai Lama XIV

3. Gamify your study sessions

Games are fun (Monopoly being the exception). So why not inject some of the elements of them into your own study sessions?

If you’re really into deep lore and stories, think about your learning as a long journey and create a narrative around it. That big exam can be the final boss, and each study session is an opportunity to add another weapon to your arsenal to defeat them. The more creativity and details you pour into your story, the better.

You can also create interesting goals and achievements. You’ll be able to easily digest your study progress as you keep track of your study activity and reach your goals, which leads to higher motivation and better study sessions. For bonus fun, you can even tie these goals into the narrative you already created.

4. Celebrate milestones

Hitting goals and achievements should be worth celebrating, even if they might be tiny wins, they’re still wins. So don’t be afraid to set some rewards for yourself.

These rewards don’t have to be anything crazy, you can start small and use something like candy or distraction screen time as rewards during your study sessions. Spent an hour studying? You get a mini Reese’s cup as a reward (or a milk dud if you’re a monster). These tiny rewards might seem lame, but they can make a study session just a bit more fun, which helps push you through those dull moments.

Make sure the reward scales with your goal. I’d be pretty disappointed if I only got a mini Reese’s cup as a reward for passing a huge exam, so a special meal or indulgent purchase could be more appropriate for the bigger accomplishment.

5. Study with friends or in a group

Studying with a group of friends or like minded individuals can really boost morale during the most boring of times. The saying ‘a burden shared is half the burden’ really hits home when it comes to studying. Studying with other people just makes the experience fun.

A group of people studying together at a table and laughing.

Some words of caution though, there’s a fine line between studying with friends and hanging out with friends. There are some great pros to studying in a group, but there are also some cons to think about.

6. Study in an interesting environment

An easy way to up your enjoyment during a study session is to pick a spot that brings you joy and happiness. Do you love the outdoors? A beautiful park might be a great spot for you, maybe even throw in a hammock for good measure. More of a homebody? Pick a spot in your living space that has some character.

You’ll also want to switch up your study space every once in a while. If you always study in the same spot in your local library, try to find a new room or move outside during your study sessions to keep things fresh. Maybe throw some headphones on and listen to some music to keep you motivated as well.

The ways you inject some more fun into your study sessions is entirely up to you and what you enjoy. Some (or none) of the suggestions here might not work for you, and that’s okay, but try to branch out and try new methods to keep your study sessions interesting. So start experimenting and see what sticks, because an enjoyable study session is a productive one.