AcE Tips for Academic/Study Skills

Ten Steps To Academic Success

1. Set individual academic and personal goals.
2. Choose courses carefully, especially during your first year.
3. Know and use resources.
4. Meet and get to know faculty.
5. Learn actively.
6. Manage your time well.
7. Know and actively use reading skills.
8. Develop strong listening and note-taking skills.
9. Develop and improve your writing and speaking skills.
10. Get involved in co-curricular activities; learn skills and gain experience.

More Tips

  • Set goals.
  •  If you don't know what you want to achieve as a student, you won't know how to get there or if you've accomplished things.
  • Use an appointment book.
  •  If you keep all your appointments, due dates, test dates in your head, you won't have any room left for the new information you are learning about in classes.
  •  Know your learning style.
  •  Develop techniques and strategies for compensating for possible differences between your learning style and your instructor's teaching style.
  •  Be an active reader.
  •  Be a text detective: ask your text good questions and it will yield good answers.
  • Participate in study groups. Share the load of reading and studying with other students - you will learn better by teaching them, and you will be exposed to ideas you didn't come up with on your own.
  •  Take notes.
  •  Use the Cornell, outline, mapping or charting method to condense and synthesize reading, lectures and discussions.
  • Organize your study materials. If you organize your materials as you proceed through a course, you will retrieve information with greater ease later.
  •  Draft papers. Never turn in the first draft of a paper - always leave time to re-work it before your professor sees it.
  •  Slow down on tests. Anxiety makes you skip over parts of questions. Read every word carefully.
  •  Don't replace protein with caffeine. Protein and complex carbohydrates are an energy source that won't leave you jittery.

Planning Study Time

  1. Use daylight hours. Research shows that 60 minutes of study during the day is the equivalent of 90 minutes of study at night (Pauk, 1989, p. 45).
  2. Study soon after lecture type courses: retention and understanding are aided by a review of your lecture notes immediately after class: eg., one study showed that students who wrote a 5-minute review test following a lecture remembered one and a half times as much material as students who did not review, when tested 6 weeks later (Pauk, 1989, p. 104).
  3. List and do tasks according to priorities: remember Parkinsons' law that "work expands to fill the time available for its completion." If you allot 2 hours to read 10 pages, it'll probably take you 2 hours to complete this 30 min. task.
  4. Start long jobs ahead of time: avoids cramming and the resultant poor quality ("If only I had more time...")
  5. Discover how long to study: as a rough starting guide, for every hour in class you should plan to study for two hours outside of class. Then, adjust up or down as necessary to achieve your goals.
  6. Plan blocks of time: in general, optimum efficiency is reached by planning to study in blocks of one hour -- 50 min of study followed by a 10-min break (Pauk, 1989, p. 45). Shorter periods are fine for studying notes and memorizing materials. Longer periods are often needed for problem solving tasks and for writing papers.
  7. Have an agenda for each study period: be specific regarding the task that you hope to accomplish during each planned study period.
  8. Use spare blocks to review notes and for study groups. Students can get the most of their studying done in a normal "work day" if they treat school as a 9 - 5  job.

Study Tactics Checklist: H.D. Beach & J.A. Parsons

Students have found the following ideas very useful for learning better in less time. When you sit town to study, review the list and select those tactics you will use. Then use them, and put a line under that item. Keep track of those that work best for you and make them part of your "study habits."

Time Management and Goals

  1. Underset rather than overset goals.
  2. Make up a weekly list of things to accomplish.
  3. Make up a "to-do" list for tomorrow and set priorities.
  4. Keep track on paper of time studying and what you accomplished.
  5. Reward yourself for finishing items on your "to-do" list.

Reading. Comprehending and Remembering

  1. Use PSQ5R.
  2. Set your purpose before beginning to read or study.
  3. Prepare study sheets that reorganize the information in ways that fit your learning style (e.g., Tables, Figures, Flow Charts, etc.).
  4. Survey reading materials and notes to find the Focus and Perspective before you begin to read or study.
  5. Practice remembering the information (reciting and writing) without the aid of notes, text or study sheets. Remember you won't have these during the exam.
  6. Form a study group and spend time asking each other questions and "teaching" one another the most important material.
  7. Read selectively to satisfy your stated purpose. When you have, stop, recite and move on to something else and reward yourself.
  8. When reading something you must remember, test yourself by attempting to recite it in your own words.
  9. Study something until you can recite it before you underline or write it into your notes.
  10. Use methods of diversion and relaxation that keep you alert and relaxed.
  11. Relate material to your life, job and daily activities.

How to AVOID CRAMMING for Tests

©Academic Skills Center, Dartmouth College 2001
I. ORIGINAL LEARNING must take place. You have to learn the material before you can review it.

II. EARLY REVIEW is most efficient, most productive.
     A. Before you attempt to learn new material in class or through reading:
          1. Glance over previous chapters or notes.
               • Run through your mind what you already know.
Since memorization of new material is most effective when it is associated with the material already known, this process brings all available mental "hooks" to the surface.

B. Immediately after learning:
     1. Rework your notes, adding material that comes to mind. (Don't recopy; this is wasteful.)
          • Order and organize what was learned. (Star, use arrows, additional comments, etc.)
          • Integrate new material with what you already know.

Forgetting is most rapid right after learning. Review helps combat this. Relearning is easier if it is done quickly. Don't wait until it's all gone.

III. Space initial early reviews to support original learning. Several brief periods spread over 5 or 10 days is usually enough to ensure good recall for intermediate review.

IV. Intermediate review is important when work is spread out over several months or longer. For example, when the final is 4 months away, follow this schedule:

  •  Original learning
  •  Immediate review of limited material same day (5-10 minutes)
  •  Intermediate review of material covered so far, after 2 months
  •  Final review, before exam

Intermediate and final reviews should stress understanding and organization of material.

V. Final review is a REVIEW, not "cramming" of unlearned material. No new learning takes place except to draw together the final main currents of thought.

  •  Be brief. Review entire semester's work in 2-4 hours. Set a limit and stick to it.
  •  Outline and organize from memory. Don't bother copying.
  •  Recite - in writing or out loud - to a friend or self.

VI. Use "Spaced Review" rather than "Massed Practice." 60 minutes used in 3 groups of 20 minutes each is more effective than 60 minutes used all at the same time.

  •  Break up learning period for any one subject
  •  Avoid fatigue
  •  Better concentration and motivation.