Study Tips

"Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when you have to do it, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a person's training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he or she learns thoroughly" (Thomas Huxley).

General Guidelines

  • Make sure you attend all of your classes. If you have to miss a class for an emergency, notify the professor before class. Make sure you check with your professor to see what you have missed (announcements, assignments) and to get a copy of any handouts.
  • Never miss classes on test/exam days (makeup exams are not guaranteed and can be more difficult and there may be other consequences).
  • Take responsibility for your work (both good and bad). Don't blame your professor for your bad performance.
  • Go to class well-rested and with a clear head. Avoid any drug or alcohol use!
  • Doing well in class requires time and effort! Don't assume you can "slide by" without doing much.
  • Spaced practice is much more effective than massed practice (i.e., cramming).
  • Think of college as your job for the next four years.
  • Make use of a "month-at-a-glance-calendar" for all your classes. Read the syllabus for each class and record exam dates and due dates for assignments ahead of time.
  • Make a schedule for every day and stick to it.
  • Don't fall behind in any classes because it will become more and more difficult to catch up as the semester passes.
  • Try to avoid activities that keep you from doing what you really should be doing. For example, avoid watching TV or talking on the telephone before studying for a test Do what you really need to do first then reward yourself with more desired activities afterwards.
  • Avoid procrastination!
  • If you are having a problem in any of your classes, do something about it as soon as you recognize that you might be having trouble instead of just complaining or worrying.
  • Make use of any support services that the college offers (e.g., study groups, counseling services) that you may need.
  • Make sure you know how to use the library effectively. If you have any questions, ask the librarian.
  • Leave enough time to get any "inter-library" loan materials that you may need.
  • Make use of your faculty advisor. They are here to help you!
  • Plan your semesters carefully. Don't take on more course work than you can handle. If you play any sports, it is your responsibility to make sure that the games/practices don't interfere with the classes you are taking.
  • One of the biggest complaints of students is that they say they have too much to do. Schedule your time carefully. Don't be afraid to say "NO" to activities that you simply can't find time to do. Carefully consider whether you can handle a part-time job or other time-consuming activities.
  • Carefully manage or avoid these common "time grabbers":
    sleeping too much; talking on the phone; watching TV; listening to music; casual reading; card games; recreational computer use (e.g., Games, Internet). This is not to say you shouldn't relax, but don't overdo it!

Recommendations For Learning Course Material Effectively

  • Read each chapter two times. The first time before the class lecture, and the second time afterwards.
  • Make sure you read all handouts! The professor is giving you these for a reason.
  • Buy and use the student study guide if available. Many of the questions reviewed in these guides may be similar to the actual class test questions.
  • Schedule two hours of study time for every hour you spend in class. This may sound like a lot, but you will need at least this much time to study effectively.
  • Make sure you carefully read and review the syllabus. Note when assignments are due, when test dates have been scheduled and so on.
  • Use the Premack Principle. Complete all of your studying BEFORE going out, meeting with friends, talking on the phone, watching TV, etc. Reward yourself by engaging in these or other special activities afterwards.
  • If you get a good grade on your exam, reward yourself by doing something special.
  • Learn from your mistakes. For example, if you did poorly on a test, try to identify what you did wrong and take steps to correct for this. Don't be afraid to talk to your professor about any questions you may have about the material being covered or how to improve your performance.
  • Practice positive self-statements. Tell yourself you can succeed.
  • Maintain a schedule of doing schoolwork even when a specific assignment is not due. That is, study nightly from 7-9 or 10 even when you have no "homework".

How To Listen More Effectively in Class

  • Sit in the front row of the classroom.
  • Don't sit next to your friends.
  • Never carry on a conversation while the professor is lecturing.
  • Try not to daydream. Check yourself frequently and get back on task.
  • Set a goal to ask at least two reasonable questions in every class. Of course, in order to do this, you will have to pay attention.
  • Be prepared to answer all of the questions the professor asks in class, even if you only do so in your mind.

How To Take Notes Effectively

  • Listen to what the professor says before taking notes. Make sure it makes sense in your mind, or else your notes won't make any sense either. Ask questions when something is not clear.
  • Use a loose leaf notebook so that you can replace or change the sequence of your notes. Use a separate notebook for each class or at the very least, separate each class with a divider.
  • If it is permissible, tape-record each class, and review these after class.
  • Ask the professor for examples. Make sure you write the examples in your notes as well because you may not remember them later.
  • Pay special attention to any material the professor writes on the board, displays on an overhead, or specifically says is important. These include examples of concepts, definitions, new terms and names of significant individuals. When in doubt, ask the professor.
  • After class, integrate your notes with the text. Usually your text covers the material in more detail so it should become clearer to you.
  • IF YOU DON'T WRITE IT, YOU PROBABLY WILL NOT REMEMBER IT! Too many notes are better than too few.

How To Study More Effectively

  • Try to study at the same place every time. Don't leave any materials in your study area that might be distracting (e.g., photos, magazines).
  • Pay close attention to the section headings and sub-headings in your book. These will tell you the most important aspects of that section. Also take note of any highlighted words, names or definitions and any figures or tables presented in the text.
  • Make sure you read the chapter outline or the review section which is usually given at the end of the chapter. Note the important terms and names which are also given at the end of the chapter. Don't ignore tables or boxes. These often emphasize important information.
  • Think about what you read. Does it makes sense? If not, you are not likely to remember it. Review any sections that you still don't understand. Make use of the study guide and don't be afraid to ask classmates or your professor for help.
  • Make use of study groups before the test rather than studying alone. Make sure you don't study in places with a lot of distractions. Leave plenty of time for studying.
  • Make sure you know what general material (chapters, handouts) will be on the test (sounds silly, but some students do not know).
  • Make sure you know general concepts rather than simply memorizing a number of facts.
  • Try to apply what you have learned. How does the information fit together?
  • Try to anticipate all potential questions which might be on the exam and PRACTICE answering those questions.
  • Good study techniques always involves writing. Be willing to re-write your notes in outline form and to originate information on a blank sheet of paper. Many tests ask for recall of information as opposed to simple recognition.

How To Take Tests More Effectively

  • Get a good night's sleep before the exam.
  • Make sure you get to class on time.
  • Make sure to bring a watch with you.
  • Don't drink too much coffee or caffeine drinks before the test. They might increase your anxiety.
  • Read the test instructions very carefully before starting the test.
  • Relax!
  • Review the test before you start so you know how much time you can spend on each section.
  • Allocate adequate time for each section and stick to this. Don't spend too much time on any one question. If you don't know the answer, skip it and return to it later.
  • If you have the time, review your answers before you hand in the test. make certain your answer responds to the question. You may not receive credit for correct information that is irrelevant.
  • Don't leave any answers blank. If you have to, guess. It won't hurt you any more than leaving a question blank.
  • If a question is not clear, ask the professor for clarification. Even they make mistakes at times!
  • On multiple choice questions, make sure you choose the best answer. Sometimes more than one answer is correct.
  • Don't be afraid to change your answer if you think you made a mistake.
  • For true/false questions, don't choose your answers based on chance. In other words, sometimes all of the answers may be "true" or "false", or there might be a long string of either one answer.
  • Be very careful of questions that include the words "all", "always", "never" or other absolutes. They tend to be "false".
  • Check the other test questions carefully. Sometimes they give you hints or answers to some questions.
  • Make sure your answers are legible. You are responsible for communicating your ideas. A professor cannot grade what they cannot read.

After The Test

If you didn't get the grade you would like, obviously something is wrong. In other words, you need to change what you are doing. If you do not change, the next grade is very likely to be the same (most students' grades are very consistent across the semester because they don't change their habits).

Review your wrong answers after the test. These may show up again, or they may be the basis for other material to be presented in class.

Don't be afraid to talk to your professor about how to improve your grades or study habits.