Summer break may be right around the corner, but for many, winter is coming with the long-awaited final 6 episodes of Game of Thrones on HBO. The Great Houses of Westeros have been the setting for violent eruptions, betrayals, and schemes hatched in pursuit of the Iron Throne. Though the dank, torch-lit castle rooms wouldn’t win any home décor (or dorm room design) awards, the mastery of game plans and other subject matter that went down there was pretty stellar. You might want to take a page from some of the show’s characters when it comes to your own study habits.
Take Tyrion, for instance. He makes plenty of time for reading in between doling out advice as Hand, while Cersei’s cunning and focus could inspire a stone man to hit the books to find his own cure.
Are you ready to pick up some study tips before the series ends? Your reward will be great grades rather than the Iron Throne, but that’s more practical—after all, where would that oversized chair fit in a dorm room?—and the stakes aren’t as high as losing an appendage or your head.
Use this study guide for A Song of Ice and Fire to refresh your memory for the show, but try some of the study tips below to get through finals!
Study resources for the courses you’re actually taking—whenever you need them.Start here
1. Like Tyrion Lannister, make time to read
As the wise Tyrion Lannister said, “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.” When he’s not indulging his two favorite activities of “drinking and lust,” Tyrion makes time to read and to learn. His sharp intellect has allowed him to survive his dismissive family and live through fighting pits, kidnapping, and even a near-miss very long fall from a moon door.
Like Tyrion, make time to read every day. Don’t leave your test prep to the last minute. Use online study guides to help with comprehension and to help you remember important tips and insights, whether it’s for economics or history. And don’t limit yourself to your course books. According to the American Library Association, studies show that students who read on their own for pleasure score higher on achievement tests in all subjects.
Of course, there’s such a thing as too much studying, so make time to relax. “I drink and I know things,” says Tyrion, who attempts to strike a balance.
Don’t go overboard like Robert Baratheon
While Tyrion exudes a joie de vivre, Robert Baratheon’s excesses eventually lead to his demise. His love of food and drink, and his vengeful wife, Cersei, bring about his downfall during a boar hunt. Meanwhile Tyrion, equally loathed by Cersei, survives her through at least 7 seasons of the show. Exercise moderation.
2. Like Sansa Stark before the Battle of the Bastards, be prepared
Jon Snow underestimates Ramsay Bolton. Luckily, his sister Sansa doesn’t. She knows what her abusive husband is capable of, and she makes sure she is prepared for anything that slick sociopath has in store. Based on Ramsay’s past behavior, Sansa anticipates what a battle against him would look like, and she makes sure she is equipped with the right tools—the army of the Vale.
Be like Sansa when preparing to study, so you’re not caught off guard. Consider your professors. What kinds of questions have they asked in class? How did they spend class time? If you can review previous tests, make sure you do so. Take practice tests, which research has shown can turn passively absorbed information into true understanding.
Before you sit down to study, make a solid guess about how long you’ll need to prepare for this test. What kinds of reinforcements will buck you up? Whom can you ask for help? And finally, how many pots of coffee and how many snacks should you gather?
If you can round up a few giants and a wildling army, that wouldn’t hurt either.
Don’t underestimate what you’re up against like Oberyn Martell
Remember how hopeful you felt when Oberyn Martell battles Gregor Clegane, the enormous Mountain, in a trial by combat? But Oberyn grows overly cocky. Thinking he’d won, he stands too close to his fallen foe (who’d played a role in the death of his beloved sister) and is grabbed, punched, and finally knocked off with a murderous eye-gouging. Avoid a similar fate by being prepared. Be confident, but not arrogant.
3. Like Daenerys Targaryen, immerse yourself in your studies
Daenerys Targaryen goes from reluctant bride of Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo to his “moon of my life”—and beloved Khaleesi of the people. Emerging unscathed from a burning hut and taming 3 dragons helped solidify her power, but Dany puts in the work, taking the time to learn Dothraki and being culturally sensitive enough to eat a horse heart.
Your lessons will likely be less dramatic, but immersing yourself in a subject can be particularly helpful. For example, if you’re studying a foreign language, hang out with others who speak the language to practice conversation—like Dany, who spends quality time not only with the Dothraki but also with Missandei, her friend and trusted translator who’s fluent in 19 tongues. In addition to study guides, use apps. Label things around your home in the language you’re studying.
Also, consider travel and study abroad programs, which will be instructive but much less fraught with peril than Dany’s journeys. “I spent my life in foreign lands,” she tells Jon Snow. “So many men have tried to kill me, I don’t remember all their names.” Research shows that traveling and studying abroad not only sharpen the mind, they also lead to more creativity and make travelers more confident and independent.
Think about Dany, in exile almost all her life and meek under control of her brother at the beginning of the series, and how with each travel experience—riding with the Dothraki, then journeying to Qarth, Astapor, Yunkai, Meereen, and finally Westeros—she becomes more clever, self-assured, and powerful, as well as inventive in escaping life-threatening situations and getting what she wants.
Daenerys proves knowledge is power, though a few backup dragons definitely help.
Don’t be closed-minded like the Sparrows of the Faith of the Seven
The Sparrows of the Faith of the Seven not only have drab robes but they lack open minds and inclusive attitudes. Don’t end up like Lancel Lannister, Cersei’s incestuous cousin who joins the Sparrows and ends up stabbed in the back and killed by wildfire. His willingness to blindly follow and not ask questions leads him to a painful end.
4. Like Samwell Tarly, use your time wisely
Samwell Tarly isn’t an impulsive man. He’s meticulous and deliberate. Sam gave us the greatest moment of library porn in cinematic history when he arrives at the Citadel—the biggest library in the Seven Kingdoms and headquarters of the Order of the Maesters, where scholars go to become maesters. Sam loves books. Sam loves knowledge. Sam loves to learn. But sometimes he has to apply his knowledge swiftly and confidently. When Jorah Mormont is given one day before he will be sent to live with the stone men, Samwell has no choice: He studies what he can, and then he acts—saving Sir Jorah’s life in the process.
It can be scary to dive in, especially if time isn’t your friend, but sometimes you have to take a deep breath and go for it. Organize what little time you have. Finally, like Samwell before removing that first bit of slimy greyscale, take a deep breath and relax.
Don’t be unprepared like the Red Woman
Where Sam is confident and well prepared, Melisandre is more headstrong. She doesn’t look where she’s leaping. Perhaps that’s why her lord, Stannis Baratheon, is dead, and she’s left behind her a pointless and terrible blood trail—including a potentially reliable king (shadow baby, anyone?) and a little girl among her victims. Don’t get yourself into a mess like that. Even if you are rushed to study, take a moment to gather your thoughts before proceeding.
5. Like Jaime Lannister, get help when you need it
While trying to help out fellow prisoner Brienne of Tarth, Jaime Lannister’s right hand—his sword hand—is cut off as punishment by House Bolton soldiers. Jaime is outfitted with a gold hand, but he must relearn to fight. Results come from relentless practice, including asking sell-sword Bronn to practice with him, to restore his confidence and develop practical tools for success.
Sometimes, learning a subject that doesn’t come naturally to you can make you feel like you’re learning to sword fight with your nondominant hand. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether that means pairing up with a study buddy, forming a study group, or using office hours to talk to your professor. You might even consider enlisting a tutor.
Don’t turn down help like Theon Greyjoy
While Theon Greyjoy does ask his sister, Yara, for reinforcements when he is in charge of Winterfell, he doesn’t heed her offer for more practical help to return to the Iron Islands. We all know what happens when sadistic Ramsay Bolton takes him prisoner: Theon’s penis arrives in a box at his father’s doorstep.
Your parents might not be as dismissive as Balon Greyjoy when he opens that box, but still…. Ask for help when you need it, and accept it graciously when it’s offered.
6. Like Cersei Lannister in Season 1, plan thoughtfully
When we first meet Cersei, she’s frustrated by not having any real power, but she’s a master planner, and for her, the ends justify the means. The ends for Cersei involve all 3 of her children achieving great power while also surviving into adulthood. By the end of Season 1, it seems she might just achieve her goals. Her eldest son, Joffrey, is King of the Seven Kingdoms and she’s Queen Regent. Sure, she had to kill her husband to get there, but that’s just a detail.
Planning your study time is key to learning well. One way is to block off certain times and days for study. According to research, if you study at the same time 3 to 4 times a week, in 50-minute blocks with 10-minute breaks, it can help you be more successful.
Once you come up with a plan, stick to it. We also suggest being more ethical and less ruthless than Cersei.
Don’t lose sight of your big goals like Cersei in Seasons 5 and 6
Making lists can be helpful in tracking your progress, as long as they’re realistic. It’s when Cersei loses sight of her goals that she veers so tragically off course. Her plans backfire in Season 5, when the Sparrows come to her with promises of power and she reappoints them as the Faith Militant. But they flip her script when they expect her to first repent for her sins. After a Walk of Shame, naked through the streets of King’s Landing, she abandons her original plan and focuses all of her energy on revenge. She wins the crown in the end but loses the last of her children in the process.
7. Like Arya Stark, use repetition to master skills
When Arya learns the lessons of the Faceless Men, the behaviors become second nature through repetition. First washing the bodies, then fighting the Waif—day after day, Arya repeats the actions until she has mastered them.
In your world, take practice tests as a way to remember information. Flashcards are also a great way to master a lesson. You see the question and you connect it to an answer. Colors and patterns can also help you better remember the things you are trying to learn. Once Arya gets her sword, Needle, from Jon Snow, she practices and repeats moves, whether alone at Winterfell or against her teacher, Syrio Forel. Repetition also comes in handy when Arya repeats the names of her enemies before she goes to sleep every night.
Repetitive listening is another great tool for remembering lessons. The same way we learn song lyrics is also how we can learn and recall information.
Don’t become lazy like Walder Frey
Laziness is tricky—it can sneak up on you. But when it comes to studying, sometimes you have to fight it as hard as Arya fights to be a Faceless Man. Turn off the screens and get to work.
Arya seeks revenge on Walder Frey. Why? Walder Frey just wanted his daughter to marry the Stark boy. What’s so wrong with that? Some might even say he had every right to murder Robb, Robb’s pregnant wife and his mother, and all of the Stark-family bannermen at the Red Wedding. OK, fine, but after all of that, you would be smart to stay vigilant. Don’t become lazy. Walder Frey does. And then he is fed his sons in a pie before having his throat slit.
8. Like Brienne of Tarth, cultivate focus
Brienne of Tarth reveals that she was mocked and bullied for her height and lack of feminine graces, but she learns how to turn those attributes to her advantage to defeat her enemies. Eventually she is appointed an important member of the Kingsguard by King Renly Baratheon. Aside from being loyal to those she vows to protect, Brienne is focused.
Learn to focus and avoid distractions while studying: Multitasking is inefficient, so direct your attention to one task at a time. Work during your high-energy hours, and set goals. Effectively managing your schedule means you’ll also have adequate time to rest and create a good cycle of healthy habits. Brienne of Tarth would not have been able to fight the Hound while walking uphill backwards if she hadn’t committed to learning to swing a sword—or if she stopped mid-battle to check for a heart emoji text from Tormund Giantsbane.
Don’t quit when things get tough like Joffrey Baratheon
King Joffrey doesn’t react well when things don’t go his way. He has all his father’s illegitimate children wiped out. Then he incites a riot when someone throws dung at him, and he retreats to his castle. At some point, setbacks might just feel like a big pile of crap, but have faith in yourself that you can rise to the challenge, like Brienne. Don’t shirk responsibility and look for others to blame, like Joffrey.
9. Like Jon Snow, organize an effective study group
Studying can be social and fun—just ask Jon Snow and the Brothers of the Night’s Watch. They practice together to become warriors, and Jon knows that becoming expert swordsmen will require everyone working together to get better. By forming into groups, the brothers can focus on acquiring the important skills they will need to kill White Walkers.
Study groups are exceedingly effective when it comes to helping us learn. One study found that 85% of students polled said studying in a group boosted their grades. Find a few classmates you like and invite them over for snacks and a study session a few times a month. Experts say this is the most effective way for students to turn the information they get in class into something personally meaningful. Before tests, you can all work together toward the same goal, like Jon and the brothers working to protect the Wall.
Don’t be like the Lannister twins and limit yourself
Siblings Jaime and Cersei limit themselves by maintaining a cozy “study” group of two. And, you know, sometimes your study group’s limitations can hold you back, especially if you don’t share the same goals. We know Jaime is starting to have real doubts about the direction in which Cersei is taking him, but because he loves her, he’s been going along with it.
If communication is a challenge, if you have different objectives, if you give more than you get, you may want to rethink the relationship. A study group should hold you accountable—to yourself, to the group, and to the process of learning. If that’s not happening, you may want to rethink the relationship. As Jaime probably should have done 7 seasons ago.