College of Veterinary Medicine

Counseling & Wellness Services

Self-Help Information: Concentration and... 


It is often difficult to concentrate during your studies. Here are some techniques that many students have found helpfu
  • Asking Yourself Questions
  • Getting the Most from Your Reading
  • Read the Ideas
  • Asking Yourself Questions

    The key to maintaining focus is to stop periodically and ask yourself questions, such as
  • How does this relate to what I already know?
  • If this is true, what else follows?
  • What else could these facts mean?
  • What assumptions are being made?
  • What's the evidence for this?
  • Can I think of a good example of this?
  • What are the unique points of this?
  • Getting the Most from Your Reading
  • Check off (with a light pencil mark) each paragraph that you completely understand. If you start to get lost in the reading, you will know exactly where: just after the last check!
  • If a section is too difficult for you, try reading in a whisper. Hearing what we read is like reading it a second time.
  • Similarly, it is good to stop regularly and summarize out loud what you have just read.
  • Try to link new information with the information you already know. Ask yourself, ``how do I already know this?'' You can also ask yourself questions such as the focus questions above. Active linking creates powerful memories.
  • Take a few seconds to visualize what you have just read.
  • Don't forget to jot down key words and concepts. If you read, `rite, and recite (``3Rs''), you've got a better chance of retaining crucial information.
  • After taking a short break from studying, and before you start up again, take a few minutes to review the information you have just learned. This will give you a sense of progress and motivate you to continue on.
  • Read the Ideas

    When you are reading
  • Stop at the end of each Paragraph, Page, and Main Section
  • Close your book Recall the ideas from memory
  • Recite the ideas out loud in your own words
  • Your Body

    SURELY...the pressure of deadlines and expectations may make you ignore your body's needs... BUT...if you don't take care of your body, you may lose interest in your studies, and fatigue may cause anxiety, which can limit performance.

    THROUGHOUT THE SEMESTER maintain good habits of diet, exercise, sleep and rest.
  • Take 10 minutes to relax before meals; eat well-balanced food slowly; make mealtime an opportunity to calm down.
  • Choose an exercise you enjoy...jogging, swimming, yoga, etc....and build up gradually until it's a regular part of your week.
  • Schedule 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night and plan a regular bedtime.
  • EACH TIME YOU STUDY plan to use your body to help you concentrate.
  • Choose or create a study environment with a straight but comfortable chair (but not too comfortable or too relaxing) that fits you, a desk with all the equipment you need, daylight or indirect light, which is bright enough but doesn't glare on your book or in your eyes.
  • Study according to your biorhythms: schedule your most difficult subjects when you are at peak mental efficiency (after 10PM? early morning?) and plan to do easier tasks, like compiling a bibliography at the library, when you are mentally at low efficiency.
  • Know and respect your own concentration span. When you begin a study session, gather your materials, relax, and plan what you want to accomplish and energetically begin. When your mind wanders, call yourself back to the task. But when you find yourself consistently daydreaming or working without comprehension, stop and TAKE A BREAK. For 5 to 10 minutes, talk to someone, take a walk, daydream, and relax. Then repeat the cycle and begin studying again.
  • DURING DEADLINE AND TEST STRESS don't let pressure cause you to ignore your body!
  • Make every minute count by turning meals, time spent traveling by bus or car or walking across campus into opportunities for relaxation and exercise.
  • During long study sessions, drink lots of fluids, increase caloric intake, and eat frequent small meals. Use only coffee, tea, soft drinks in moderation. Some people cannot tolerate much caffeine, so be careful and don't take in too much.
  • Plan breaks to include light exercise to help you stay awake and revitalize.
  • Don't oversleep; if you must cut down on sleep, try going to bed at your regular bedtime and getting up early.
  • If you are keyed up or anxious, relax yourself periodically. If you can't sleep, exercise during the day and plan to spend 30 minutes relaxing before you go to bed.
    Need Additional Help?

    Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine Counseling and Wellness Services offer free individual counseling for these and related issues for veterinary students (WSU Veterinary Students ONLY). For more information or to schedule an appointment call or e-mail:

    Anne LaFrance, MA, Licensed Mental Health Counselor
    (509) 335-4607
    135A McCoy Hall

    NOTE:  The information contained in these self help documents is not to be used as a substitute for professional care.  Neither the authors, Washington State University nor the College of Veterinary Medicine assume liability for injury incurred by following the information presented in these self-help documents
    Last Edited: May 12, 2014 9:22 AM   

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