Improving Your Study Skills


Begin your studying with the goal of learning the material rather than trying to cram for the test. If you begin with this goal, then it is imperative that you don't wait until a week before the test to learn the material. There is simply too much information to learn at that point.

In order to learn the material well for the test, plan to learn some information every day. To make sure that you have enough time to learn all the information by the time of the test, organize your time and lay out your schedule for what you need to learn each day so you are ready for the test in time.

What to Do While Learning

Read your textbook everyday, so you learn some new information from the text each day. Learning is more effective if you do a little at a time, rather than big chunks in one sitting. Ask yourself questions as you read. If your reading doesn't answer the questions, bring those questions to class to ask the professor at an appropriate time.

Write down things that surprised you about the topic that you're reading about or that increased your knowledge about that topic. This will help you remember things are new or that are contrary to what you thought was true.

Look up and learn words you don't know. This means knowing what the word means and how to use it properly in a sentence AND knowing how to pronounce it properly and confidently. If you can't pronounce the word, it becomes "that b-something, something thing" which is not an effective label when it comes to test time!

Before going to class, reread the relevant sections of the text, so you have some idea what the lecture will be about. This will prepare you to compare mentally what the text said with what the professor is saying. This is an opportunity to rehearse (practice remembering) what you've learned from the text and to integrate the text material with the lecture material.

Review your lecture notes each day; ask questions about things you don't understand or are confused about or that are incomplete in your notes. Review the previous class period's notes before starting class, so you're oriented to the day's lecture. Compare the professor's review to what you have in your notes to make sure you've got the main points written down.

Compare your lecture notes to the textbook. Use one to fill in the gaps in the other. You might divide your notebook in half and write notes from the text opposite the relevant lecture notes.

Learn each topic thoroughly before going on to the next topic. This will reduce confusion among similar-sounding or -looking topics.

Study when you're alert and can concentrate. If staying awake, alert, and focused is a problem, try the following suggestions:

Do not study in bed; use your bed only for sleeping. Sit in a comfortable chair with a table or desk at a comfortable height. Adjust the angle of the light or tilt the book or notebook to reduce glare and make reading comfortable.

Start with short periods of studying or reading (10 min.) and increase the length gradually over a two week period; this means that after reading for 10 minutes, you switch to another activity, like working on an assignment that's due. After 10 minutes of that, switch to reading for 10 minutes, and so on.

Break large tasks (like reading 50pp) into small pieces, alternate more likable tasks with those you don't like, and play mental games with yourself to keep your interest level up.

Put the clock away. Having a clock available can be distracting and makes your studying less effective if you're checking the time frequently. If you have an appointment to keep, set the alarm to go off, but then put the clock where you can't see it.

Learn the material well enough to be able to recall it, not just to recognize it, and to be able to recall it under different conditions, so you can answer theoretical questions, integrative questions, comparative questions, applied questions, factual questions, etc. Don't just memorize the information.

After you've learned a certain set of information, test yourself. One thing to do at the beginning of your studying is to make up your own questions. Use same techniques or test form with which you will be tested. Save them for this testing time. Try to answer the questions you've made up. Be hard on yourself--did you get the answer exactly? If not, relearn the material.

Applying these strategies should result in being well-prepared for your next test.