Best Study Tools to Maximize Academic Performance

The Ultimate Study Tools You Must Use to Succeed!

Studying can be time-consuming and difficult. Anything we can do to shorten the time we spend studying or to maximize how well we learn the content helps. This blog post will cover the best tools and resources available to help you maximize your study time and academic performance.

Best Study Tools by Category

ToolTypeLinkValue to Studying
QuizletapplinkFlash card app that works
on all major platforms
Notabilityapplink Great handwriting
note taking app for ipad
includes ability to record
and playback audio in
sync with notes you
GoodNotesapplinkGoodNotes excels at
customization and its
the best handwriting
experience on the
TodoistapplinkTodoist is an awesome
todo app that is
cross-platform and
integrates well to
third-party services
and automation
NotionapplinkNotion is great at being
your second brain in
terms of managing your
documents, notes, and
TimeryapplinkA great front-end
app for the Toggl
time tracking service
PCalcapplinkPCalc is the best
calculator app I
have ever used
MindNodeapplinkMindmapping is a
great way to brainstorm
and MindNode is an
excellent mindmapping
Google CalendarservicelinkEvery student needs to
track their appointments
and schedule plus its
Google ScholarservicelinkGreat tool for searching
for academic articles
Khan AcademywebsitelinkFree online learning
on a variety of
subjects. Excellent
supplement to college
Wolfgram AlphawebsitelinkHelpful website for
answering questions
GrammarlyservicelinkIf you write papers,
you need Grammarly
to clean up your
writing and make it
more clear and
SkillShareservicelinkAwesome resource
for learning how to
use applications
BookwormhubwebsitelinkGreat help when
you get stuck on
something and
need help from
an expert
How to Become a
booklinkThe first of two Cal
Newport books on
the list. Backed with
great yet uncommon
How to Win at
booklinkThis book is all about how
to maximize your learning
during college.
10 Steps to Earning
Awesome Grades
booklinkThomas Frank of YouTube
fame’s book on how to
setup your workflow to
improve academic
The Study Skills
booklinkFilled with practical
activities aimed at
creating a system for
academic success
A Mind for Number-
How to Excel at Math
and Science
booklinkA must read for those who
struggle with math or
science. This book focuses
on how to learn.
Moleskine Classic
productlinkGreat paper quality and
sturdy yet flexible build
Arc Notebook
productlinkCreate your own custom
U Brands Magnetic
Dry Erase Board
productlinkGreat for quick
diagramming of
ideas and for reminders
iPad productlinkEntry level iPad for
digital note-taking and
course video watching
Apple Pencil (1st gen)productlinkWorks with current model of entry level iPad.
iPad ProproductlinkIf you have the money, the
best tablet on the market
Apple Pencil (2nd gen)productlinkWorks with the iPad Pro to
deliver the best
handwriting experience
on a tablet
Samsung Galaxy Tab
productlinkIf you prefer Android to iOS,
you can’t go wrong with this tablet that combines power and
Wacom Bamboo Tip StylusproductlinkSimply the best stylus for
Beats Studio3 Wireless
productlinkLove these noise-cancelling,
wireless headphones. Great for
blocking out the world to study
Apple AirPods 2productlinkGreat combo of value, portability,
and convenience. I take them
with me when I study away from
Ambient Sounds playlist
on Apple Music
playlistlinkGreat Apple Music playlist that provides nice
background sounds to help prevent
boredom when studying
Study Time Starts
Now playlist on
playlistlinkGreat Spotify playlist that provides nice
background sounds to help prevent
boredom when studying

If you are looking for study tips that can really take your studying workflow to the next level, check out my 25 best study tips at the link below:

25 Awesome Study Tips to Improve Your Academic Performance

Let’s get started.

Best Applications for Studying

We live in an amazing time. The devices that we carry around with us every day are extremely powerful and are loaded with applications that can help us achieve our academic goals and reduce the time we spend studying.

Enclosed below is a curated list of applications that will enhance your study time.


Quizlet for iOS

If you’re looking to memorize or learn definitions or concepts that lend themselves to flashcard type learning, you really need to get Quizlet on your phone. Quizlet is an app that allows you to create or leverage existing sets of flashcards on your phone.

We are in the year 2020 and it’s silly to carry around flashcards when you could have the same content in a powerful app on your phone. The main strengths of Quizlet are how simple it is to use and access to a large number of existing flashcards that you can use or purchase. For example, Kaplan sells a set of flashcards for the MCAT physics exam. Having ready to go flashcards made by the experts in a given field can lower the amount of time needed to prepare for an exam.

For more information about Quizlet visit their website at the link below:

Quizlet – Become Your Most Unstoppable Self


Notability on iPad

Do you have an iPad? Are you still taking notes in a physical notebook? The question I have for you is: why? The iPad is an awesome notetaking tool when paired with an Apple Pencil. Notability is the best Handwriting note-taking app for taking notes during lectures.

The main strength of Notability and the reason why I recommend it for lecture notes taking over good notes is that you can record the audio of the lecture while you’re taking notes and play it back. The playback will sync what you were writing to the audio such that you can actually see the writing happening during various points in the audio. This could be very powerful when reviewing your notes and seeing where you might have missed something.

Ali Abdaal has an awesome YouTube video on how he uses Notability in medical school that you can checkout below:

To learn more about Notability, click the link to the Notability website below:

Notability – Fall in Love with Note-taking


GoodNotes on iPad

You may be thinking: why do I have another handwriting note-taking app in my recommendations? The reason is that while Notability is great for lecture notetaking, I actually prefer to use GoodNotes for my ad-hoc note-taking. Why? The main reason is that GoodNotes is more flexible and customizable than Notability.

For more information on how to use GoodNotes for note-taking, studycollab: Alicia has a great video that you can view below:

To learn more about GoodNotes, click the link to the GoodNotes website below:

GoodNotes – Leave Paper Behind


Todoist on iPhone

Juggling all of the things you have to do as a college student is not easy. You really need a task management system to stay on track and Todoist is great for a couple of reasons:

  • It works on all major platforms (iOS, Android, Web, Windows, MacOS)
  • Simple to use
  • Strong third-party and automation support

Todoist does a great job of staying easy to use while still packing some power user functionality. I highly recommend you try Todoist. For more information on Todoist, visit the Todoist homepage at the link below:

Todoist – Organize it All


Notion for Desktop

Notion is, by far, my favorite productivity application. Notion combines the power of databases with the flexibility of wikis. What this means for you as a student is that you can basically use Notion as your second grade. Have a bunch of handouts you want to archive, put it in Notion. Browsing the web and find resources that you want to save, use the Notion web clipper and save that content into Notion. Want to track your expenses? Build a table in Notion.

Keep Productive has an awesome YouTube video on how Ali Abdaal uses Notion as a student which you can watch below:

If you are interesting in learning how to get started with Notion, I wrote a beginner’s guide to Notion blog post which you can access at the link below:

A Beginner’s Guide to Using Notion with Screenshots – The Productive Engineer

To learn more about Notion, visit their site at the link below: – All-in-One Workspace


Timery on iPhone

The ultimate ninja trick to productivity is time tracking. While you can use the default timer app on your phone, I recommend you use a service like Toggl, which has rich reporting and flexibility. The one thing that Toggl doesn’t have is a great mobile app but, fortunately, Timery is a great app that allows you to use the Toggl service. Timery has a great user interface and has the following key features:

  • Excellent widget on iPhone
  • Simple Timer setup
  • Beautiful user interface

For more information, visit the Timery website at the link below:

Timery – Easy Time Tracking with Toggl


PCalc for iPhone

While the default calculators on your phone are good at basic calculations, in college you are likely doing more complex operations. PCalc is simply the best calculator app out there. PCalc is extremely powerful and customizable. PCalc includes the following features:

  • unit conversions
  • paper tape
  • optional RPN mode
  • engineering and scientific notation
  • support for hexadecimal, octal and binary calculations

For more information about PCalc, visit the PCalc website at the link below:

PCalc – for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch


MindNode on Mac

Mindmapping is a great way to map out complex concepts and ideas. Mindmapping allows you to figure out the relationships between various things and document those relationships visually. There are a bunch of great mindmapping applications out there but the one I like the best is MindNode.

MindNode is available on the the Mac and iOS. The main strengths of MindNode are:

  • Beautiful User Interface
  • Simple to Use, simple to get started
  • Ability to view mindmap as an outline

Some people are more used to outlining. If you are one of those people, check out my article on mindmapping vs outlining to learn when best to use each method at the link below:

Mindmap vs Outline – The Productive Engineer

MindNode is part of the SetApp subscription service. SetApp is an application subscription service that for $14.99/month provides unlimited access to over 170 different apps for the Mac. For more information about SetApp and MindNode, click the link below:

MindNode – Crystalize your thoughts into actionable mind maps

Best Studying Websites and Services

Google Calendar

If you’re not using a calendar application, you really need to. Calendaring apps really help you stay on top of all the appointments classes and other stuff that you have in your day. I recommend Google calendar for managing your calendar because it’s available everywhere and it’s free.

For more information on Google Calendar, visit the Google Calendar homepage at the link below:

Google Calendar

Google Scholar

When writing a paper or doing research, at some point you will need to look at journal articles in order to thoroughly research your paper. Google Scholar is a great service that said she access the Google for journal articles. Type in the topic that you want to research and a bunch of journal entries for the repair much like a regular Google search.

To access the Google Scholar page, click the link below:

Google Scholar

Khan Academy

Khan Academy might be one of the best free resources on the web. Kahn Academy provides access to a variety of excellent courses at the cost. Topics include math, computer science, finance physics and many more. If you find yourself struggling with a specific topic, the first place you should check to learn more about it is Khan Academy.

To learn more about Khan Academy, please visit their website at the link below:

Khan Academy – Providing Free, World-Class

Wolfgram Alpha

Wolfgram Alpha is a website that uses a computational engine to provide answers to queries. These queries can include computation requests and can be helpful to students. Wolfgram Alpha includes a ton of pre-built modules across a bunch of disciplines.

For more information about Wolfgram Alpha, visit their website at the link below:

Wolfgram Alpha – Computational Intelligence


As a blogger, I use Grammarly everyday to help me proof-read and improve my writing. If you have to write papers for any of your classes, I cannot recommend using Grammarly enough. The key features of Grammarly that have helped me out the most are:

  • Checks for hundreds of writing issues
  • Checks for contextual and phonetic spelling mistakes
  • Plagiarism Checker
  • Synonym suggestions for overused words

For more information about Grammarly, click the link below:

Grammarly – Elevate Your Writing


Skillshare is an awesome online learning service that has courses on a variety of topics. I am a subscriber to Skillshare I have been impressed with the quality of the content and the instructors. What are you trying to learn video editing, your favorite application, or just how to be more productive, Skillshare has a course for you.

The best part about Skillshare is that it offers a free two month trial period where you can access their entire course catalog. For more information about Skillshare, click on the link below:

SkillShare – Explore your Creativity


If you’re looking for help in math, computer science, programming or science, you should check out Bookwormhub. Bookwormhub is a website that provides the ability to reach out to experts at a given subject for help.

Bookwormhub is great when you were stuck on a problem that you just can’t solve and there’s no one else around that can help you. For more information about Bookwormhub, visit their website at the link below:


Best Books to Learn How to Study Better

How to Become a Straight-A Student – Cal Newport

First of two books by Cal Newport, How to Become a Straight-A Student is a great book for those who are looking for tips and tricks that could turbocharge academic performance.

The main take away I have for reading this book is that Cal does a great job of conveying his points from the perspective of a student. The guidance he provides in this book is actionable and not obvious. Cal’s focus on time and task management resonated greatly with me.

To learn more about How to Become a Straight-A Student by Cal Newport, click the link below:

How to Become a Straight-A Student – Cal Newport

How to Win at College – Cal Newport

As you can tell by the fact that he has two books on my list, I am a huge fan of Cal Newport it is approach to learning. In this book, “How to Win at College“, Cal explores other aspects of the college experience beyond simply studying in order to enhance the learning experience.

This book is a collection of interviews the calf did with students around the country who excel. This book provides 75 simple rules that could help you become a better student.

For more information on How to Win at College by Cal Newport, click the link below:

How to Win at College – Cal Newport

10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades – Thomas Frank

This book is a quick read that provides massive concise knowledge on how to improve your academic performance. Thomas Frank is an amazing writer, blogger, and YouTuber whose insights provide context into what a student needs to do in order to maximize their academic potential.

Despite the relatively short read time, this book offers a comprehensive approach to academic performance. For more information about 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades, click the link below:

10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades – Thomas Frank

The Study Skills Handbook – Stella Cottrell

This person is exactly what it says it is: a step-by-step guide to help you develop better study habits and skills. This book really is not a one size fits all approach rather it recognizes that each student is different. It follows that a different approach might be necessary depending on the individual but this book teaches skills that can be applied across various disciplines.

For more information on the study skills handbook, please click the link below:

The Study Skills Handbook – Stella Cottrell

A Mind for Numbers – How to Excel at Math and Science – Barbara Oakley

A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley is a book that tells the tale of a student who initially struggled in math but was able to learn how to do well by applying some core concepts, eventually becoming an engineering professor. The people believe that they simply are not good at math or science instead of shy away from it. The refreshing thing about this book is that it shows that, with some helpful techniques and tricks, anyone can learn math or science effectively.

For more information about A Mind for Numbers, please click the link below:

A Mind for Numbers – Barbara Oakley

Best Notebooks for Studying


I’ve been a user and a fan of Moleskine notebooks for a long time. The main thing I like about them is that the paper quality is awesome and that the notebook itself is flexible, unlike a traditional notebook. I mean literally flexible, you can bend the notebook. I know this is a weird thing but I like that it is not so rigid. Plus I find myself enjoying writing in it a lot more than a traditional notebook.

For more information about the Moleskine notebook, click the link below:

Moleskine Classic Notebook

Arc Notebook System

If you’re looking for something a little more flexible, you should check out the Arc notebook system. The Arc Notebook system allows you to insert and remove pages and dividers from the notebook and create your own binders. I have used ark for many years and it is really flexible.

For more information about the Arc notebook system, please click the link below:

Arc Notebook System


Enclosed below are some of the best technology you can use to improve your study:

iPad with Apple Pencil

IPads are awesome. They could do so many things and there is an advantage to doing everything on one device. If you do not already have an iPad and our cost-conscious, I recommend getting the entry-level iPad in the first generation Apple Pencil. The entry level iPad is reasonably priced and you get essentially all the functionality you will need compared to the iPad Pro, which is significantly more expensive albeit more powerful.

If you have the money or consider yourself a power user, the iPad Pro is awesome (I have it although I don’t know if I am a power user :)). If you have the 2018 version of the iPad Pro or later, you will want to pick up the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, which has two key advantages over the 1st generation pencil:

  • Don’t need to stick in into the thunderbolt port (charges by attaching it to the top of the iPad Pro)
  • You can active eraser mode by double-pressing on the pencil.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e with Wacom Bamboo Tip stylus

If you are an Android user and prefer an Android option, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is a great option. The S5e is great because it packs a good amount of power while still being extremely affordable.

Pairing this tablet with the Wacom Bamboo Tip stylus will provide you with a good handwriting and drawing experience on Android.

Beats Headphones with Noise Cancellation

I am working in my office and I want to block out the outside world, I put on my Beats Studio3 headphones and turn on some ambient music in Apple Music. The Beats Studio3 headphones sound great, pair very easy to my Mac, iPhone and iPad as well as my Apple TV (Yes I am an Apple fanboy).

Noise-canceling headphones are great when you want to block out external noise. For more information on the beats studio three headphones, click the link below:

Beats Studio3 Wireless Headphones

Apple AirPods 2

Best Music Playlists for Studying

He spent a lot of time studying different places I need to block out noise, you should check out Apple AirPods 2. The AirPods are extremely portable, comes with a charging case, and pair easily to your iOS Device. While the AirPod Pros recently released in our excellent, they are also very pricey when compared to the AirPods 2.

If you’re wondering whether you should study with music or not I wrote an article on this which you can find at the link below:

Should You Study with Music? – The Productive Engineer

Enclosed below are the two ambient sound playlists I would recommend, one for Apple Music and one for Spotify:

Ambient Sounds playlistApple Musiclink
Study Time Starts

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