A Study Strategy that Works

The understanding of Science or any subject is something that requires effective studying and completion of work in a timely fashion. For some of you, that may be a relatively unknown activity! It is more than just “reading the book and notes”. It is also more than “memorizing the notes and the book”. Most certainly there will be the need for memorization in some courses – science, for example, has many unique words and vocabulary phrases. But you want to, and need to, make things make sense. They usually will, but do not let your mind rest until they do. If there is a topic or idea that you really do not understand, take steps to remedy the situation – read your textbook, ask other students, or speak with your teacher. When asking a question of your teacher or tutor, make certain that you bring along your notes and that you have read the corresponding section in the book and notes.

Here is a unique, though recommended, study procedure:

Study topics one at a time. Use your notes (Cornell Notes work well), any handouts, your textbook, and perhaps other materials as you study. After you feel that you do understand the particular subject or concept fully, cover or close your notes and textbook. Then, explain the topic to someone such as your parents or another student (or even if it is an “imaginary someone”, such as a picture on the wall), giving all the details as you go. If you get stuck, go back to your notes or text, clear up the problem, and try again. When you have mastered the topic, move on to the next one. Continue this procedure until you finish the lecture notes taken that day.

Keep up to date. Always try to study the lesson material during the afternoon or evening of the same day as the lesson. Treat material as though during the next class period you are going to have an examination on everything you have studied so far! Absolutely one of the most common problems occurs when students arrive on test day with a “fuzzy” understanding of the class material – even simple problems then become a challenge.

Although there may not be an assignment each and every night, you will be working on problems, projects, lab reports, or questions, among other things, almost continuously as the year progresses. Students who willingly spend twenty to thirty minutes each night (although some extra time will required occasionally) on the material and turn in homework and classwork on time do much, much better than students who attempt to master entire chapters in one evening!

Give it your best effort and you will be successful!!!


Your idea of studying, closing one's book/notes, and then explaining what one has learned to the "imaginary someone" is wonderful! It is nice to form a study group where that "someone" need not be imaginary, but when students have web-based courses or cannot otherwise meet with a group, your idea is a great option.

Hi Monika. Thank you for the comments. Being able to explain what you learned, even if it is to yourself in a mirror is definitely a good way to ensure that you understand the material. I have found that if parents ask their students to explain one thing from each class for 2-3 minutes for each topic at least a few times a week, if not every night, it really improves the students' abilities and grades. If students can explain to their parents what they learned in math and their parents understand, then they really do know the material.

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