The most common reason for a rough start in college is not a lack of ability; it is generally caused by poor study habits and time management. Students leave high school with a wide range of study skills, but most students go through high school without needing to study as much or as intensely as will be required in college. Different techniques work well for different students and in different disciplines. What follows are a few suggestions that may be helpful for you. Like anything else, good study skills generally require time and practice to develop. Don’t get discouraged, but be persistent in your efforts.
How Much Time Should You Spend Studying?
- Study as long as it takes to master (not memorize) the material. Your objective is to study effectively and successfully, not for a specific number of hours.
- The actual number of hours you spend studying will vary from your classmates. But, you will probably need to study far more now than you ever did in high school. For some subjects, you may spend two or three hours outside of class for each hour you spend in class.
When Should You Study?
- Studying should be an ongoing process. Study as the material is being presented, not just the last couple of days before a major test.
- It is particularly important to review your notes later on the day the lecture was given, even if the review is brief. A quick review that same day promotes the movement of material into long-term memory. More review will still be necessary, but not as much as otherwise might be the case.
- For most people, it is far more effective to study in many short sessions than to cram during long study sessions.
When you study – study. When you have fun – have fun. Don’t mix the two.
The Basic Key to Success: Studying is an Active, not Passive process
- Keep a pen in your hands at all times, and use it. Write terms and concepts over and over – in your own words. Don’t just look at your notes!!!
- Read your assignments actively also. Preview the material and read with objectives in mind. Write key terms, concepts, and your own questions in the margins. Don’t just highlight entire pages of text.
- Use every sense possible. Examine and reproduce charts and figures; repeat concepts and terms aloud, etc.
- Remember, “One time is no time at all.” Study difficult material over and over again.
- Test yourself realistically. Can you reproduce key figures and flow charts on your own? Can you explain a process to a classmate in our own words? Are your self-tests realistic? For example, can you only explain mitosis to a classmate if you just looked at the notes yourself two minutes ago?
Take Good Notes in Class
- Arrive on time and be prepared. Quickly review the previous day’s notes in order to orient yourself to what is ahead.
- Within reason, write down as much information as is possible. Don’t assume that you’ll remember something later.
- Don’t worry about neatness in class; your notes are only for you. Don’t take the time to write in complete sentences.
- Try taking notes in hierarchical form, where details and specifics are indented under broader concepts.
- Leave plenty of blank space to separate concepts and add notes later.
Copy / Study Your Notes Later
- Recopying and organizing your notes is a great, active study method.
- Use your own words and organization; concentrate as you make this new copy of your notes. If you can only copy over and memorize the original wording, you probably don’t really understand the concepts.
- Copy your notes over neatly so that they will still make sense to you when the material is not fresh – like at test time or during finals.
- Integrate lecture notes with notes from your reading assignments. Find answers to you own questions whenever possible.
- Use flash cards for appropriate material (terms, diagrams, flow charts, etc.).
- Study independently and with classmates. It can often be beneficial to discuss concepts with a partner or have a classmate test you on your knowledge. However, it is also important to spend a certain amount of time studying and concentrating on your own. This is especially true near test time.
Tips on Overcoming Test Anxiety
- One of the best ways to overcome test anxiety is to do your best to prepare for the test. It gives you confidence before the test and peace of mind after the test – regardless of the results.
- Ideally, get plenty of rest the night before. If you plan to study late, do so two nights before the test.
- Don’t talk to your classmates about the material just before the test. It may just make you nervous.