This web page on study skills is designed to help you improve your learning and understanding, and ultimately your grades.
No two people study the same way, and there is little doubt that what works for one person may not work for another. However, there are some general techniques that seem to produce good results. No one would argue that every subject that you have to take is going to be so interesting that studying it is not work but pleasure. We can only wish.
Everyone is different, and for some students, studying and being motivated to learn comes naturally. If you are reading this page, it’s likely that you are not one of them, but don’t despair, there is hope! Your success in high school and college is dependent on your ability to study effectively and efficiently. The results of poor study skills are wasted time, frustration, and low or failing grades. It’s your life, your time, and your future. All I can say, upon reflection of many.
This guide is designed to help you develop effective study skills. It is not a magic formula for success in preparing for tests, or written or oral assignments. Studying any material requires work!
Effective Study skills are about more than understanding
Effective study skills must be practiced in order for you to improve. It is not enough to simply “think about” studying; you have to actually do it, and in the process use information from what you do to get better. This is the central idea of this page. All that follows depends on this single concept. There is a saying that goes like this: “Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.” If you want to be an achiever, take this saying to heart.
The value of a schedule
Before you even begin to think about the process of studying, you must develop a schedule. If you don’t have a schedule or plan for studying, then you will not have any way of allocating your valuable time when the unexpected comes up. A good, well thought out schedule can be a lifesaver. It’s up to you to learn how develop a schedule that meets your needs, revise it if necessary, and most important, follow it.
A schedule saves time
All schedules should be made with the idea that they can be revised. A good schedule keeps you from wandering off course. A good schedule, if properly managed, assigns time where time is needed, but you’ve got to want to do it!
Making every hour count
A schedule should take into account every class, laboratory, lecture, social event, and other work in which you engage. There are givens such as classes and so on that have to be incorporated. You must focus on the other “free time” available and how you will use it. Make a weekly schedule and block off the 24 hour day in one hour increments. Indicate times for classes, labs, lectures, social, and work time. Also block off a period for sleeping each day. With what is left over, plan time for study. This gives you a rough road map of the time available. Of course, you can revise your schedule as circumstances warrant.
When to study
The problem of when to study is critical. A good rule of thumb is that studying should be carried out only when you are rested, alert, and have planned for it. Last minute studying just before a class is usually a waste of time.
Studying for lecture courses
If your study period is before the lecture class, be sure you have read all the assignments and made notes on what you don’t understand. If the study period is after the lecture class, review the notes you took during class while the information is still fresh.
Studying for recitation courses
For classes that require recitation, such as foreign language, be sure to schedule a study period just before the class. Use the time to practice. Sometimes, practice with others can help sharpen your skills in a before-class study period.
Making and revising a schedule
Don’t be afraid to revise your schedule. Schedules are really plans for how you intend to use your time. If your schedule doesn’t work, revise it. You must understand that your schedule is to help you develop good study habits. Once you have developed them, schedule building becomes easier.
The Process of Study
How to use your time Page
Time is the most valuable resource a student has. It is also one of the most wasted of resources. The schedule you develop should guide you in how to allocate the available time in the most productive manner. Sticking to your schedule can be tough. Don’t dribble away valuable time. Avoiding study is the easiest thing in the world. It’s up to you to follow the schedule you prepared. A good deal of your success in high school or college depends on this simple truth.
Where to study
You can study anywhere. Obviously, some places are better than others. Libraries, study lounges or private rooms are best. Above all, the place you choose to study should not be distracting. Distractions can build up, and the first thing you know, you’re out of time and out of luck. Make choosing a good physical environment a part of your study habits.
Everybody has thinking skills, but few use them effectively. Effective thinking skills cannot be studied, but must be built up over a period of time. Good thinkers see possibilities where others see only dead-ends. If you’re not a good thinker, start now by developing habits that make you ask yourself questions as you read. Talk to other students who you feel are good thinkers. Ask them what it is they do when they think critically or creatively. Often times, you can pick up valuable insights to help you become a better thinker.
The SQ3R method
The SQ3R method has been a proven way to sharpen study skills. SQ3R stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. Take a moment now and write SQ3R down. It is a good slogan to commit to memory to carry out an effective study strategy.
Survey – get the best overall picture of what you’re going to study BEFORE you study it an any detail. It’s like looking at a road map before going on a trip. If you don’t know the territory, studying a map is the best way to begin.
Question – ask questions for learning. The important things to learn are usually answers to questions. Questions should lead to emphasis on the what, why, how, when, who and where of study content. Ask yourself questions as you read or study. As you answer them, you will help to make sense of the material and remember it more easily because the process will make an impression on you. Those things that make impressions are more meaningful, and therefore more easily remembered. Don’t be afraid to write your questions in the margins of textbooks, on lecture notes, or wherever it makes sense.
Read – Reading is NOT running your eyes over a textbook. When you read, read actively. Read to answer questions you have asked yourself or questions the instructor or author has asked. Always be alert to bold or italicized print. The authors intend that this material receive special emphasis. Also, when you read, be sure to read everything, including tables, graphs and illustrations. Often times tables, graphs and illustrations can convey an idea more powerfully than written text.
Recite – When you recite, you stop reading periodically to recall what you have read. Try to recall main headings, important ideas of concepts presented in bold or italicized type, and what graphs charts or illustrations indicate. Try to develop an overall concept of what you have read in your own words and thoughts. Try to connect things you have just read to things you already know. When you do this periodically, the chances are you will remember much more and be able to recall material for papers, essays and objective tests.
Review – A review is a survey of what you have covered. It is a review of what you are supposed to accomplish, not what you are going to do. Rereading is an important part of the review process. Reread with the idea that you are measuring what you have gained from the process. During review, it’s a good time to go over notes you have taken to help clarify points you may have missed or don’t understand. The best time to review is when you have just finished studying something. Don’t wait until just before an examination to begin the review process. Before an examination, do a final review. If you manage your time, the final review can be thought of as a “fine-tuning” of your knowledge of the material. Thousands of high school and college students have followed the SQ3R steps to achieve higher grades with less stress.
A primary means by which you acquire information is through reading. In college you’re expected to do much more reading than in high school. Don’t assume just because you’ve “read” the assignments that is the end of it. You must learn to read with a purpose. In studying, you may read the same assignment three or four times, each time with a different purpose. You must know before you begin reading what your purpose is, and read accordingly.
Getting the Main Idea
Getting the main idea in reading is central to effective studying. You must learn what the author’s central idea is, and understand it in your own way. Every paragraph contains a main idea. Main ideas are perfect for outlining textbooks. Make it a habit to find the main idea in each paragraph you read.
Extracting Important Details
Extracting important details means that you locate in your reading the basis for main ideas. There is usually one important detail associated with every main idea. The more important details you can identify, the easier it will be to review for examinations because you have made a link between an idea and information that supports it. The more links you can make between details and ideas, as well as ideas themselves, the more powerful will be the efforts of your study.
Don’t Read Aloud to Yourself
Generally, reading aloud to yourself does not help you study more effectively. If you move your lips while you read, you’re not reading efficiently. If you read aloud or move your lips while you’re reading, you are reading slowly, so stop moving your lips. Try putting a finger over your lips. Your finger will remind you not to move your lips. Make an effort to read faster and retain more – after a while, you’ll be surprised how little effort it will take.
Like reading, note-taking is a skill which must be learned and refined. Almost invariably, note taking, or the lack of it, is a constant deficiency in the study methods of many high school and college students. Learning the ingredients of good note taking is rather easy; applying them to your own situation depends on how serious you are in becoming a successful student.