The best apps for students

Posted on 1st Feb 2024 in University study, Technology

University Queensland explore some of the best study apps for high school students, to help you transform your smartphone from a distraction into a handy assistant.

Is your phone your worst enemy when it comes to studying? Do constant notifications stop you from getting into the study zone? Or are you guilty of letting a 5-minute social media break turn into an hour-long TikTok session?

No judgement – we’ve all been there.

The good news is you don’t need to lock your phone away in a box or turn it off every time you sit down to study. (That would be madness.) In fact, with the right apps installed, your smartphone could become a convenient study buddy. Here are our top 10 useful apps for students.

Apps to help concentration

The best concentration apps can help you get into the right mental zone for absorbing information. This category looks at apps that keep you from getting distracted (e.g. with white noise or by blocking other apps).

1. Forest

Some of us need a little external motivation to stay focused while studying. And that’s fine.

The Forest app provides a visual incentive by letting you plant a virtual tree and then basically holding that tree hostage until your study session is over.

Want to check your Instagram for a second? Tempted to do a quick online shop between textbook chapters? Go ahead. You’ll just have to come to peace with watching your tree wither and die first.

But if you stick to your focus time, you’ll enjoy watching your trees flourish. Over several study sessions, you can build a delightful digital forest – a pleasant reminder of all your productive hours.

Bonus: The Forest app is a partner of Trees for the Future. This organisation plants real trees on behalf of the virtual ones that pro users grow (over 1 million trees and counting). So, using this app to block other apps while studying can help the environment as well as your grades. Not bad at all.

  • Available on: iOS, Android, Chrome
  • Average rating: 4.8/5 on App Store, 4.6/5 on Google Play
  • Cost: $5.99 on App Store, Free (with ads) on Google Play – in-app purchases available on all devices

2. Freedom

Freedom is an app that locks your phone while studying (or any other time you need to focus). Flag the apps and/or websites that distract you, and Freedom will block them – great if the self-motivated apps like Forest don’t quite cut it for you. You can set a scheduled session in advance or start some ‘Freedom time’ whenever you need it.

Freedom blocks time-wasting apps and websites across all your devices, so your iPad won’t tempt you away while you’re studying on your MacBook.

Did you know? Most smartphones have built-in tools for tracking screen time and setting limits. They might not be as fancy as Forest and Freedom, but they can get the job done in a pinch. Look for ‘Screen Time’ (iOS) or ‘Digital Wellbeing’ (Android) to explore your options.

  • Available on: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Chrome
  • Average rating: 3.4/5 on App Store, 3.9/5 on Google Play
  • Cost: Free for basic features, premium subscription available ($40/year)
  • Note: Please check your school's policy before downloading this or any app to your school computer.

3. White Noise Lite

Silence can be deafening when you’re trying to focus, but your favourite tunes might not help so much either. There’s nothing quite like finishing an important note only to realise you started writing lyrics halfway through the sentence (thanks a lot, Billie).

A bit of white noise can help you focus without drawing too much attention to itself. The White Noise Lite app lets you build custom soundscapes to suit your preferences with a wide range of sounds including beach waves, breezes, camp fires, chimes, rain, running water and even a vacuum cleaner (hey, if that's what gets you in the mood for study, you do you).

Packing up the textbooks for the night? Switch from your studying mix to your snoozing mix for a restful sleep.

  • Available on: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Chrome
  • Average rating: 4.7/5 on App Store, 4.7/5 on Google Play
  • Cost: Free for lite version, $1.49 for full version (no ads)
  • Note: Please check your school's policy before downloading this or any app to your school computer.

Productivity apps for students

Alright, so you’ve got distractions out of the way and some background sounds on loop. Now let’s talk about some good apps for students that will help you get the most out of your study time. The next two study apps help you organise your schedule and stay on top of assignments so you can achieve more and cram less.

4. Todoist

Todoist can organise your school subjects, assignment deadlines, homework and… pretty much your whole life, if you want it to. This is one of the best apps for students because it keeps your schoolwork on track while also holding you accountable.

The Todoist app provides handy features including:

  • recurring due dates (great for weekly homework)
  • quick add (add new assignments and tasks on the go)
  • favourites and priorities (flag the subjects you need to focus on)
  • sections and subtasks (divide intimidating projects into small, simple steps)
  • integrations with other apps (e.g. Google Calendar and Dropbox).

With all your tasks and due dates kept neatly in Todoist – rather than floating around in your head – you’ll be free to focus on your studies.

  • Available on: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows
  • Average rating: 4.7/5 on App Store, 4.5/5 on Google Play
  • Cost: Free for basic, $5.50/month for pro (extra features)
  • Note: Please check your school's policy before downloading this or any app to your school computer.

5. myHomework

While Todoist is fantastic if you need to juggle your studies with other parts of your life, myHomework shines as a dedicated school-stuff planner.

This study app for high school students tracks all your classes, projects, assignments and tests, and it sends you reminders of due dates. The myHomework app also syncs across all your devices, so you can check your assignments and timetable from anywhere and anytime – at school on your laptop, at home on your tablet or on the bus on your phone.

  • Available on: iOS, Mac, Windows, Chrome
  • Average rating: 4.1/5 on App Store
  • Cost: Free for basic features, premium subscription available ($7.99)
  • Note: Please check your school's policy before downloading this or any app to your school computer.

Apps for sorting your study notes

Are you the type of student who needs their notes neatly alphabetised or colour-coded? Or do you thrive on the chaos of having your notes jumbled together? Either way, these study apps can store your notes safely online and organise them any way you like.

6. EverNote

Evernote gives you the freedom to take notes on the fly and edit them with rich formatting tools. This means your notes will look exactly how you like them when it’s time to revise them. And if you didn’t organise them, no problem. The powerful search tool will find what you need – even in handwritten notes and pictures. You can also add documents, images and audio recordings to your notes.

Not sure how to sort your notes? Evernote provides handy templates to get you started – check out ‘Class Notes’, ‘Cornell Notes’ and ‘Project Overview - School’. The app also lets you sync your notes across devices (two devices on the free plan, unlimited on premium).

Top tip: Evernote isn’t just a good app for studying. It’s also a great app for life during and after high school. If you find it helpful at school, it will continue to serve you well at uni and work.

  • Available on: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows
  • Average rating: 4.4/5 on App Store, 3.8/5 on Google Play
  • Cost: Free, premium subscription available ($10.99/month)
  • Note: Please check your school's policy before downloading this or any app to your school computer.

7. LiquidText

Taking digital notes has never quite captured the flexibility and satisfaction of pen and paper… until now. LiquidText delivers the best of both worlds. This app works on an iPad, Mac or Windows computer, but it really hits its stride with a touchscreen and stylus. You can handwrite notes, connect items by drawing lines and use gestures to zoom from page to page.

From creating mind maps to highlighting class materials, LiquidText gives you versatility and feels great to use. This is what makes it one of the best apps for students who use an iPad and/or touchscreen laptop.

  • Available on: iOS (iPad only), Mac, Windows
  • Average rating: 3.9/5 on App Store
  • Cost: Free, premium subscription with student discount available for $29.95
  • Note: Please check your school's policy before downloading this or any app to your school computer.

Mindfulness apps to put you in a study-ready state of mind

A healthy, happy mindset can make a huge difference for focusing and absorbing your notes. That’s why some of the best study apps aren’t about studying at all. Instead, the next two suggestions are good study apps for students because they’ll get your brain ready for productive study sessions.

8. Headspace

Headspace is all about – you guessed it – getting into a positive headspace. This app provides a wide selection of:

  • guided meditations
  • mindfulness courses
  • sleep exercises
  • focus playlists.

One of Headspace’s newer features is The Wake Up, which provides a daily bite-sized story to inspire or motivate you each morning. The app also has a large library of articles addressing topics that could help you with your study routine. These range from sleeping better and waking up fresh to relieving stress and improving self-esteem.

  • Available on: iOS, Android, web browsers
  • Average rating: 4.8/5 on App Store, 4.1/5 on Google Play
  • Cost: Free, extra courses and exercises available via Headspace Plus ($19.99/month)

9. Happify

Like Headspace, Happify aims to improve your mental wellbeing, which can help you study and perform better at school. Happify swaps the meditation-based approach for science-based activities and games that lift your mood, though it does offer guided relaxation sessions as well.

  • Available on: iOS, web browsers
  • Average rating: 4.3/5 on App Store
  • Cost: Free; Happify Plus subscription available ($21.99/month)

Flashcard apps

The flashcard technique can help you lock in knowledge before an exam, especially if you’re studying:

  • another language (translation flashcards)
  • mathematics (formula flashcards)
  • an info-heavy subject (key definitions flashcards).

However, physical flashcards are time-consuming and a little wasteful. Using a flashcard app is a faster and eco-friendly approach.

10. Anki

The Anki program provides powerful, intelligent flashcards. This app aims to help you remember things, whether those things are facts, terms, equations, geographical points, details in images or even guitar chords. Anki uses a proven scheduling algorithm to automatically test you on the material you’re most likely to forget soon.

Since the app syncs across all your devices, you can use any spare minutes (e.g. at recess or waiting for the bus) to brush up on any of your subjects. Anki also has a considerable library of pre-made decks on all sorts of topics.

Note: When you search for ‘AnkiMobile’ or ‘AnkiDroid’, you may find ‘AnkiApp Flashcards’ as well. This is a separate yet similar app that has slightly less functionality.

  • Available on: Mac, Windows, iOS (AnkiMobile), Android (AnkiDroid)
  • Average rating: 4.1/5 on App Store, 4.7/5 on Google Play
  • Cost: Free on Mac, Windows and Android, $38.99 on iOS
  • Note: Please check your school's policy before downloading this or any app to your school computer.

The final word

All these apps for students aim to give you an edge in exams and help with your schoolwork in different ways. We recommend trying a combination of the ones that seem relevant to you. Just be sure to trial them for a while before committing to any premium subscriptions.

Great news: Finding the best study apps for you while you’re still in high school can set you up for a healthy relationship between your phone and studies in university as well. (P.S. If you’ll be graduating soon, you might enjoy this article about transitioning from school to uni.)

Please note: Pricing and average rating info is from the apps’ various store profiles, updated in May 2022. This data is susceptible to change.

By the way, these are not sponsored ads. We just genuinely think these apps are helpful. Are they the best study apps for high school students? We'll let you be the judge of that!