Study Skills Summary

Study hints and Shortcuts

What exactly should you be doing during your study time?

Studying is not as hard as you think.  Sure, it takes time and effort, but if you follow a few proven study techniques, you can decrease the amount of time you spend at the books and increase the amount you learn.  In fact, we are convinced that study skills play as important a role in college success as intelligence.

17 ways to study smarter

1. Attend classes.

Your teacher has already identified the highlights and important points of your textbook.  Since it's the information your professor thinks is important that will appear on the test or exam, it makes sense to go to class and find out what that is.  Pay attention to last five weeks of the semester.  It's been said that 50% of course's work takes place in the last third of the term.

2. Know your instructor.

Learn what's needed to get through each subject.  Study the syllabus (course outline) and refer to it periodically to make sure you're on track.  Find out your instructor's testing format, grading/marking system and expectations.  You'll be able to tailor your work to meet his requirements.

3. Schedule regular study periods.

The most effective way to learn anything is to rehearse it regularly.  Whether you are practicing the piano, sports, or reviewing your notes, you are learning through the principle of repetition.

4. Be realistic.

When you make up your schedule, decide how much time you really want to study and divide that time among your courses. It's better to spend half an hour on each subject than to plan one hour for each one and not follow through.

5. Establish a regular study area.

When you study in the same place every time, you become conditioned to study there. Your mind will automatically kick into gear, even when you don't feel like studying.

6. Study short and often.

Your brain takes in information faster and retains it better if you don't try to overload it. Four short study periods a week are more effective than two long ones for two reasons: (1) frequent repetition is the key to building your memory, and (2) if you leave a long time between study periods, you may forget a good portion of the material you studied.

7. Start study sessions on time.

It sounds like a small detail, but it's amazing how quickly those 10-minute delays add up. Train yourself to use every minute of your scheduled time.

8. Study when you are wide-awake.

The majority of people work most efficiently during daylight hours. In most cases, one hour during the day is worth 1 1/2 hours at night. That's one of the reasons we encourage you to use the hours between classes and other small pockets of time during the day wisely. Decide what your best time is and try to schedule your study time accordingly. You accomplish more when you are alert.

9. Set a specific goal for each subject you study.

You'll accomplish more, faster if you set a specific goal for each study session. Let's say you've set aside 30 minutes to read your accounting text. If you start reading without a particular purpose, you may get only 9 pages read. But if you set a goal of 15 pages in that time period, you'll probably finish all 15.

10. Start assignments as soon as they are given.

If you do nothing else from this chapter, do this. A little work on an assignment each week will allow you time to give attention to its quality. Your workload will be spread out, so you'll avoid a log jam near the end of the semester.

11. Study your most difficult subjects first.

You're most alert when you first sit down to study, so you'll be in the best shape to tackle the tough stuff. You'll also feel better getting the worst out of the way, and you won't be tempted to spend all of your time on easier or favorite subjects.

12. Review your notes regularly.

Taking good notes is the first step; reviewing them regularly is the second. As we keep saying, the best way to learn anything is to review the information (aloud, if you will) often.

We've outlined a review schedule below. You may want to add to it if you're having difficulty with a particular subject.

1st review Same day (reduce to key words)
2nd review Later the same week
3rd review 1 week later
4th review 2-3 weeks later
5th review Monthly

You'll retain up to 80% of the course material in your long-term memory.

13. Take regular breaks.

The general rule of thumb is a 10-minute break for every 50 minutes you work. Don't study through breaks. They rejuvenate you for your next hour of studying.

14. Vary your work.

Try to give yourself some variety in the type of studying you are doing. For example, if you tried to read textbooks for three hours, you'd not only get bored, you'd have trouble processing the information. Instead, alternate reading, taking notes, doing homework, and writing papers.

15. Problem solve.

For courses that require you to solve problems, such as math, physics, chemistry and statistics, spend a good portion of your study time working on problems. If you get stuck on a homework question, don't spend the rest of the night on it. Go on to the next question and ask for help the next day.

16. Reward yourself.

When you complete one of the goals you set for yourself, give yourself a reward. The reward system gives you an incentive to reach your goals, and a pat on the back for achieving them.

17. Keep on top of it.

Letting work pile up can leave you with an overwhelming task. It's easy to feel that you'll never get on top of it again. If you find yourself falling behind, you may need to improve your study skills. Maybe your time management skills need some work. Or maybe the solution is as simple as cutting down on your social time. Identify the problem as soon as you can, and don't let it become unmanageable.


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revised 01.13.2000 20:31