Study Essentials: My Must-Haves to Study for Exams

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This post is all about my favorite study essentials that helped me score in the 97th percentile on my last practice exam, YAY!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please read the full disclosure here.

college study essentials

If you are a college student, premed, or anyone looking for cute, affordable, and functional additions to your study space you have come to the perfect place!

My Planner

Anyone that knows me also knows how cheap I am, but every once in a while I have my exceptions. This $64 planner is very pricey but it is also my favorite planner of all time. I am a huge fan of the Day Designer brand for various things. I have had so many different planners in the past but after having this I plan to buy a new one every year. I love it!

What I love most is that there is a whole page for just one day! I don’t like planners that cram in two or more days on one page and you have only a few lines to write. This one has a column for your day to plan by the hour, plus a column for a to-do list. This planner has similar features, but is also half the price (only $29.99) if you would prefer to save some $$!

Calendar

Another Day Designer fave, I have been getting these calendars every year since college. They have the cutest designs and are easy to pin up to your wall. I keep this in my bedroom instead of guest room where my study space is. That way my boyfriend George can see when I plan to study all day and when I had a shorter day (and we could plan a date night).

Affordable Desk

I bought this desk a while back because I needed something small (and inexpensive) to fit in my bedroom. I kept it when I moved last year and I’m glad I did. Our guest room is my main study spot, but when we have guests staying over it is small and light enough to move into our bedroom. Also, Mainstay is my favorite brand for affordable furniture. They are sold at Targets and Walmart’s and over the years I have bought many of their desks, bookshelves, etc. A big plus besides the price, is that the desk is easy to assemble!

Desk Accessories

I put fabric storage bins like these on the two shelves of my desk. Plus I’m obsessed with bins like this and have them in various places in the house. The ones for my desk I use to store my headphones, ear plugs, extra notebooks, etc. Basically, a bunch of little things that would look messy to just sit on the shelves. These bins let you throw all your miscellaneous study materials in them and your study space still looks cute and organized!

If you read my About Me page, you already know I am obsessed with rose gold. I bought this when I was starting to prepare for my MCAT studying. It is functional and also just looks really cute. I’m not one of those people that buys the best product as far as function. I just need it to be decent at serving it’s purpose, but just as importantly I want it to look cute! So this desk organizer was a perfect buy for me.

I have a lot of pens and pencils so I bought this pencil holder at the same time as the desk organizer!

Binders/Notebooks/Paper

My absolute favorite brand for all my binders and notebooks is Greenroom which is sold at Target. If my rose-gold/all-things-cute obsessed self were to create a brand, my products would look exactly like these! I would guess about 95% of my study supply purchases are this brand.

Laptop

Having a computer is probably one of the biggest study essentials. Therefore, you most likely already have one. If you are looking for a new one though, the HP Spectre x360 laptop is my favorite. I have had two in the last five years because my first one was stolen. About six months later I saved up enough money to replace it and bought the exact same kind because I loved it so much. I especially love the 13.3″ size and touchscreen feature (which none of the Apple laptops have).

Comfy Desk Chair

Because I am so cheap, for the first month of my MCAT studying I was using one of our camping chairs. It sufficed, but was obviously not very comfortable to sit in on days when I spent 6 hours studying! There are few things I will spend more than $50 and a nice chair wasn’t one of them. Now my mind has changed and I definitely recommend this to put on your study essentials list. George’s parents got this desk chair for him for his birthday because he used to work from home (he also used my camping chair lol). Then he switched jobs and I started using it to study. If you are like I was and you’re using a camping chair or stealing an uncomfortable chair from the kitchen get something nicer! It is still under $100 and will make long hours of studying much more pleasant.

Sheet Protectors

I only used traditional note cards to make flash cards for psychology and sociology vocabulary (I am not a fan of Anki at all). For the other science sections I used graph paper to make “flash cards”. Then I put each paper in a sheet protector and use binder tabs to organize them by section.

Printer

I’m already a big fan of HP products because I love my laptop so much. This printer is another great HP product that makes me not even want to look at other brands. The photo printing feature is unnecessary for MCAT related purposes, but other wise it is perfect. It takes 10 minutes to set up and you can easily print from your phone or computer because it hooks up to your WiFi. I mainly use it to print out biochem pathways like glycolysis and Krebs. My laptop is great 90% of the time, but sometimes I want to study from an actual piece of paper and be able to write right on it.

Dry Erase Boards

Small dry erase boards are so helpful, they easily make the list of study essentials. I use them to quiz myself from my flash cards or to practice memorizing biochem pathways.

This larger white board is hung up on the wall right beside where I sit at my desk. I like having it to quickly write something down or plan out what I’m studying for the next few days. I also love to have a countdown to how many days left I have until my exam date. It helps keep me motivated over the long run to see the number slowly get smaller!

Headphones & Earplugs

Thanks to COVID-19, these are some of the most helpful study essentials. Even if your state is opening back up, you probably still can’t go to your local Starbucks or library like you used to. I have a loud AF roommate that I was stuck with during quarantine, so I came up with multiple ways to block him out.

Let me clarify that I am not suggesting you buy $200 Beats headphones just to block out your noisy roommates. I would be lying if I said that was a study essential. I just happened to be able to use these because George had them already. That said, when I put in the earplugs, put on the headphones and played brown noise on a loop, it worked amazingly well. I did this for every practice exam and in the mornings when my roommate had his girlfriend over (very annoying when you’re studying for the MCAT). Hence I really needed a solid way to block out all the noise around me. These did just that, which is why they make the list despite not being essential. Downside: they definitely start to hurt your ears after a few hours.

Probably the least cute study essential on this list, but definitely worth the buy. For the actual MCAT exam they give you ear plugs and headphones similar to these. I wore both for my MCAT since I was used to using it at home. Also, when I took them off I could hear other students going in and out of the testing center so it was nice to have. Unlike the Beats, I would encourage you to get some ear plugs and these headphones. It is always good to practice with the same things you will have for the real thing.

Coffee Machines

Last but not least, a basic Keurig is probably the most necessary of all the study essentials! I personally am not a fan of studying for a long time without drinking coffee first. My favorite drink at Starbucks is a grande chai latte with a shot of espresso. As much as I would have loved to drink one of those for every long study day, it costs $6.22. I studied for about 6 months and even if I only bought Starbucks half of those days that’s 90 days x $6.22 = $559.80… yikes! A Keurig will definitely save you a lot of money if you don’t already have one.

This espresso machine is only a little more and I LOVED it. I have always used the Keurig, but when George and I moved in with my roommate he had one of these. Having the milk froth feature allows you to make drinks that taste just as good as you could get from Starbucks. Plus, you can make drinks with way less sugar because Starbucks adds a lot of pumps of syrup in their drinks. Sadly, my roommate recently took it to his girlfriend’s house, but I definitely plan to replace it!

Thanks for Reading!

I hope my list of study essentials helps you get ready for whatever exam you are starting to prepare for! Comment below and share if you have any favorite brands you think I might like after reading this! I love finding new favorite brands!

If you are studying for the MCAT, you can read 5 things I learned after taking the shortened exam here. And if you are a week or two from taking your exam my other post here is definitely a must read!