Learning to Study Smart Is One of the Most Important Skills You Will Learn in University
It doesn't matter if you are in your first year or doing a PhD, there are always ways to improve your academic performance by finding study strategies that work for you.
Why Are Study Skills Important?
- Learning study skills will not only help you in university, they will also help you succeed in life.
- Good study skills can increase your confidence, competence, and self-esteem. They can also reduce anxiety about tests and deadlines.
- By developing effective study skills, you may be able to cut down on the numbers of hours spend studying, leaving more time for other things in your life.
- Good study skills can improve your ability to learn and retain knowledge.
- Students who use effective study skills may feel their work and effort is more worthwhile.
Before You Study
Look at the Big Picture
Ask yourself these questions: How many exams do I have to study for? What are the dates of these exams? How much time do I think I should dedicate to each subject? What is my grade going into the exam, and what is the exam worth towards my final grade?
In university it may seem like there is always a paper due or an exam coming up. Prioritize and plan out what needs to be done first, what needs your best effort, and what can wait.
Schedule what and when you want to study. An agenda is one of the best tools you can use to organize school life.
Give Yourself Plenty of Time
Cramming is not the most effective way to study. When you start to study weeks in advance, you have more time to reach your academic goals. You also have time to ask questions about everything you do not fully understand.
Set Up a Study Area
Find an area where you can spread out your notes, your computer, and your books. Try to find somewhere that is well-lit, comfortable, and where there is little distraction. There are good options for study spaces in all the libraries across campus.
When You Study
Make Your Own Notes
What are the titles, headings, and subheadings? Are there any bolded words? These can be great indicators of what information is important.
Having beautiful notes and a perfectly highlighted textbook doesn’t matter if you do not understand the information. Don’t be afraid to get messy when scrawling out ideas on paper and connecting them in your head.
Put It in Your Own Words
Paraphrasing is a great technique to help you really understand material. Try reading over a page or paragraph of information, covering it up, then repeating the information in your own words.
Find someone who does not understand the material and teach it to them. Doing this can help you understand concepts in less time than studying by yourself.
Should I Study by Myself or in a Group?
At different points in your learning process you may find that you benefit more from studying on your own than in a group, or vice versa. The key is to know where you are getting the most from your efforts and are the least distracted.
What Material Should I Start With?
Start with the most challenging sections and move on from there. Spend only a little time quickly reviewing the material you know well.
Exams are among the most important and stressful parts of university life. Exam anxiety is a common and normal reaction. It can become problematic, however, when it is intense, persists over time, or interferes with academic performance.
Try the Pomodoro Technique
- Decide what you want to accomplish and estimate how long you will study for. Then break your work into pomodoros.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes, and start studying.
- Minimize your distractions during the pomodoro interval.
- After 25 minutes take a short 5-10 minute break.
Tips for Taking Exams
- Get an adequate amount of sleep the night before.
- Give yourself time in the morning to go through your regular routine, eat a good breakfast, and plan your study strategy for the day.
- Quit studying at least half an hour prior to the test.
- Avoid getting to class too early. Time before exams is usually spent worrying.
- Use strategies to ease tension and anxiety if they start becoming too much.
- Sit where you feel comfortable and will not be distracted.
- Don’t be your own worst enemy. Don’t talk to yourself in a way that discourages you or makes you doubt your abilities.
- Read each question slowly, twice. Underline or highlight key words and phrases. Reword the question in a way that makes sense to you.
- If you cannot answer a question, take a deep breath and go to the next one. Return to the questions you are unsure about later.
There are many tools and applications that can help you stay organized and study more efficiently, including:
- Google Calendar (agenda/planner)
- iStudiez Pro (schedule/assignment planner)
- EasyBib (automatic citations)
- Duolingo (language learning app)
- StudyBlue (flashcards)
- Wolfram Alpha (answer search engine)
- Focus Booster (pomodoro timer)
U of S Student Learning Services
Learning Services offers great resources for help with beating procrastination, starting assignments, dealing with deadlines, note-taking strategies, exam anxiety, and much more. For more information visit the U of S library.