Developing good study skills is one of the keys to achieving academic success. For most people, their memory needs constant review to retain information that is taught in classes. On average, 50% of what we learn is forgotten within 20 minutes, another 25% is forgotten within 24 hours, the next 13% is gone within one week, and the little bit that remains is forgotten within a month. Studying effectively can help you to retain more information, for a longer period of time. Being able to retain information is important in the school setting since concepts often build on themselves. If you’ve forgotten the first step, the second and third steps become extremely challenging to complete.
Explore the book first. Is there a glossary? Index? Bibliography? These are all places you can refer to if you have trouble with one particular topic.
Take it a chapter at a time. If you are assigned 3 chapters, break the reading up chapter by chapter. The first time you read through a chapter, just skim it. Pay close attention to the headings and side notes. Doing this will familiarize you with the content so that when you go back and read completely, you already have a pretty good idea of the main points.
Read the chapter thoroughly, and make notes. After you have skimmed through the chapter, go back and read through making notes in margins, or highlighting key points. Be mindful not to highlight the entire chapter (which I catch myself trying to do often!). Try to stick to highlighting information that helps you more fully understand the key points. Write down any questions that you still have while you are reading. For some people, it helps to read aloud if they are having trouble understanding a portion of the reading.
Review. Go back and review your notes and highlighted pieces. See if you have found the answer to any of the questions that you wrote down. If you still have questions, pose them to your instructor at the next class.
Repeat for each chapter!
DECIDING WHERE TO STUDY
Everybody is a little different as far as where they feel most comfortable studying. Whether you prefer the library, your living room, or the kitchen, make sure that it is a place where you can spend the time you need with as little distraction as possible. Choose a place that has good lighting, temperature, and ventilation. I prefer a cooler room, since if it is too warm, I tend to want to doze off.
Too much clutter can be a huge distraction. It will be very hard to find your pen to write notes if it’s constantly getting buried under piles of papers and books. Organize your area before you begin. Clear your desk of any books, papers, and other items that are not necessary for the class you are preparing to study for.
ORGANIZING YOUR TIME
The general rule of thumb, is to expect to spend 2-4 hours studying for every class hour. This can vary depending on the subject, so get a feel for it as the class goes on and adjust accordingly.
Spend your time wisely. Do not attempt to do all the studying for the week in a 10 hour cram session. Your brain retains information more effectively with shorter periods of study. For each hour of study time, take a 10-20 minute break. Eat a light snack if you are hungry during break times, as concentration can be hindered when you are overly hungry.
KEEPING YOUR CONCENTRATION
There are many different ways of keeping yourself on task, and what is effective varies greatly person to person. Get creative with it if you need to!
Use a timer. If you catch yourself daydreaming often, try using a kitchen timer to give yourself audio cues. Set it for every 20 minutes or so (depending on how often you catch yourself) and use it as an audio cue to ask yourself…”Am I on task?” If so, reset it and move on. If not, get your head back in the game, reset it and move on.
Try study groups. Many people benefit by studying in groups. Set up a time to study with your peers. That way you can help each other stay on task, and it has the added benefit of two (or more) heads are smarter than one.