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Study Skills Tips

Good study habits are learned. One is not born a "good student." It is essential to form efficient patterns of study and concentration in order to be successful in school and to use your potential to the fullest. Many students can increase their grades substantially by following the basic principles described below. An efficient plan for using time and energy then provides time for other activities, and allows one not to have to worry continually about "wasting time" or not studying.

  1. In the Classroom: Having good habits in class cuts down on study time required outside class.
    • Come to class prepared to learn. Make sure you have all materials and completed assignments ready. Think of the questions you want to ask the professor.
    • Take notes in outline form. Listen for the main points that the professor is trying to make, jotting down related material underneath. If you miss a point, leave a blank space and fill in later. If your notes are disorganized, it might be helpful to reorganize your notes as soon after the lecture as possible. Write down all assignments and any suggestions the teacher may have.
    • Participate in class discussions and ask questions. Learning comes from active involvement and thought. Participation also helps keep you from being bored and makes the class more worthwhile for others.
  2. Homework/Tests:
    • Reading Assignments: Rather than simply reading the assignment, you will gain much more if you:
      1. Skim over assigned pages, reading the introduction, topic headings, summary and any review questions, in order to have a general picture of what you are to look for in the material, and what it is all about. Organize the material in your head. Read for a purpose.
      2. Read and make an outline of the main points, and/or highlight the main points in the book. Grasp the principles that underlie the details. Relate what you read to previous learning, and to your own life and culture. At test time you can relearn in 5 or 10 minutes the main points that it took you 1 or 2 hours to read originally.
      3. Review from memory, without the outline, restating in your own words the main ideas and key facts, then learn those you missed.
      4. Utilize the study aids at the end of the assignment. Answer the review questions and solve any problems. Study with a dictionary, learning any new words. Prepare to take part in the next class's discussion. Jot down any questions you may have, and clarify them by bringing them up in class.
    • Writing Papers: Organize and outline what you want to say before beginning to write. State the purpose of your paper, expand and explain your theme, and finally conclude, restating your main points. Write ahead of the due date so that you have ample time to check and correct it before handing it in.
    • Taking Tests: Review the material frequently throughout the course, and less work will be required at exam time. Always review at least the main points of the lecture and reading notes before a test. Recite the main points and key facts aloud without looking at your notes. Check on your memorization after about 30 minutes to determine if you have really retained it. Ask yourself what the professor thinks is important or might ask. Pretend you are the professor and have to explain the essential ideas to the class. To be assured of knowing the material at the exam, over learn beyond the point to which you think you have mastered the material.
  3. Concentration: If you have difficulty concentrating, try to determine the cause, and then work out a solution.
    • Perhaps you have trouble studying because of distracting thoughts such as an e-mail you should write, an errand to run, an upcoming event, or an embarrassing incident that that happened to you earlier. Write each thought or problem down. This clears your mind for present study but will still remind you to do or think about those things later.
    • Or, maybe there are distracting external noises (TV, others talking, etc.). Ideally, you should study alone or with others who are quietly working. Try to pick one place and only work there (rather than eating, talking or socializing in that spot).
    • Perhaps your interest or motivation is low. Make a list of reasons for learning, getting good grades, and being a success, as well as a list of the undesirable consequences for not studying.