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Tips for succeeding in psychology

Psychology is a fascinating and rewarding subject for those who choose to study it. However, throughout your degree you’ll undertake a number of assignments and assessments in which you’ll have to reflect on your learning. Whether you’re preparing for an exam or presentation, writing an essay or critiquing research, our tips for succeeding in psychology will help put you on the best path possible for a career in psychology.  

By Grant Longstaff. Published 1 May 2024.

Making a study plan

No matter what you’re studying at university, it can help to create a study plan to help ensure your success. Within the first few weeks of your course starting, your lecturers will cover what each module is about and provide a recommended reading list. They’ll also explain what is expected of you throughout the class and how you’ll be assessed. Don’t be afraid to ask your lecturers if they haven’t covered this yet, they’ll be more than happy to explain how you’re assessed and when. Once you have these key pieces of information you’re ready to create a study plan.

How to make a successful study plan for a psychology degree

When it comes to creating your psychology study plan there are a few considerations you’ll need to address. First of all, you’ll need to consider your time. Studying is important, but so is rest and relaxation. If you spend all of your time outside of classes and lectures studying you could end up feeling a little burned out and lose motivation. Maintaining a sense of balance in your study plan is key.

In addition to this you’ll need to think about the time of your sessions. How long do you want to spend studying in one go? Are you more suited to 30 minute chunks across the course of the week, or more likely to block out four hours on a weekend? Consider building in a little flexibility too. If it’s going well, stick with the book for another chapter. Alternatively, if you’re starting to flag, leave the notes and come back to them later.

What approaches will you adopt into your study plan? You’ve no doubt studied in the past, so reflect on the methods and techniques you’ve previously used and make sure to build these into your plan. Consider using a mix of approaches to avoid getting bored of your schedule.

Finally, understand your goals. What are you working towards? Use your exam and assignment dates as an end point and work backwards from there to create your plan.

Developing effective study habits

One of the key elements of ensuring your success is consistency. If your study plan is manageable, you’re much more likely to show up when you’re scheduled to. Choosing to study in the same place can also help build consistency too, especially at the beginning of your studies. Once you’re firmly embedded into your study plan, you can consider altering your surroundings – the local café or park for example – but beware of distractions and losing focus.

Another way to help build your psychology study habits is to break down complex ideas and topics into smaller, more manageable pieces. For instance, it would be nearly impossible to explore the many psychological research methods in one session. Instead, focus on one method at a time. Using this technique, you’ll begin to appreciate the nuances and develop a greater depth of knowledge on a given topic, rather than just a surface level understanding.

Use study techniques that work for you

We’ve already touched on this, but the importance of studying in a way that works for you is extremely important. If you’ve never considered what helps you most, then experiment with a variety of techniques. Reading, note taking, mind mapping, flash cards, visual aids, paraphrasing or rewriting your notes. Try everything and identify those which you get the most from. By finding those techniques which work for you, and ensuring you have several at your disposal, you’ll help keep your study fresh and engaging.

Collaborate with other students

Psychology is a collaborative field, and your peers can be invaluable to your own study. Build relationships with your fellow classmates and don’t be afraid to ask for help and support when you need it. Everyone will face their own challenges in comprehension. If you’re struggling to get your head around the Five Factor Model of personality arrange a study session to discuss it. Likewise, if you see someone struggling don’t be afraid to offer your support.

You could even arrange a regular study slot with your peers and create an agenda. You can review one another’s work and offer constructive feedback, unpack those difficult to grasp concepts and solve problems together. It offers a break from studying alone and you’ll forge new friendships in the process.

The art of presentations

For many of us, the thought of a presentation fills us with dread. However, presentations are an important pillar of psychology education and you’ll likely be expected to take part in one or two over the duration of your degree. Careful preparation can help ease some of the worries you might have when it comes to public speaking, therefore honing your communication skills should also form part of your psychology success strategy.

You can work on your presentation skills alone, by timing and recording yourself, or present small talks on a topic in front of your peers. Ask for feedback and work on what they suggest. Remember, the more you understand an idea, the more comfortable you’ll be in discussing it. Practice makes perfect.

The importance of revision

Often, people only think about revision before an exam. This can sometimes lead to feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and mentally drained. Not the most ideal position for sitting an exam. Instead, try to view revision as a part of your degree and revise throughout the year.

Build psychology exam preparation into your schedule. Understand your strengths and weaknesses so you can better identify the areas which need work. Look at former questions. Take a mock test on the bus or train to uni. Peer review your mock answers with friends. Try and view revision as an opportunity to develop, rather than an obstacle to overcome.

University study requires hard work, initiative and motivation. However, by implementing these psychology study strategies you’ll be better prepared to face whatever comes your way during your degree and ensure your success in psychology.


If you’re looking to further explore how the human mind works, consider our BSc (Hons) in Psychology and enrol now.