Study Skills

Ask any classroom full of students how they study, and you're likely to get a lot of different answers. There will probably be many similar answers, but most people have different methods, locations, and techniques that shortens their study time somehow. Sometimes shortcuts are a great thing- like a shortcut that avoids heavy traffic. The trick to using shortcuts with studying is knowing which ones work, and which ones don't!

One of the best ways to ensure that your study time will be used effectively is to take notes during class. Ensuring that your notes make sense to YOU is really important. Your class notes should translate what your teacher is telling you into something that you can remember. For example: the definition of onomatopoeia is, 'the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named.' If you have a long list of literary terms, the strange spelling of onomatopoeia might get lost with your other lit terms. Writing "sizzle" or "buzz" next to it helps to translate the definition and make it memorable.

There are times when you really should write things down verbatim- like when you're leaning how to solve a new type of math problem, or a specific definition. (Perhaps it's something your teacher might introduce by saying, "This WILL be on the test.")

Highlighters are a great tool to draw attention to particularly important areas within your notes. Highlighting the entire page, however, effectively cancels out whatever the highlighter might have drawn your attention to. Save your highlighter for the really important stuff- things you're having trouble remembering. Depending on whether you are using a textbook issued to you from your school (K-12), or one you own yourself, you may be able to highlight in your textbook, as well. Remember though, save your highlighter for things you're having trouble remembering.

Consult outside resources- like this website, a tutor, another website, a book from the library. When you do a little bit of work outside of the classroom, you're more likely to remember whatever it is you're studying. The reason for this is that the more we are exposed to and experienced with something, the more familiar we are with it. (Did you really think that your math teacher assigned you 25 quadratics equations because she simply doesn't like you?) Practice, practice, practice!

Try to draw connections between what you're leaning with something else going on in your life. Let's say you're studying theories of speciation and evolution in your Biology class. On Friday night, you find yourself watching "Planet Earth," on the Discovery Channel (or even the Lion King). Let your mind wander back to Bio! Let yourself think about the specific adaptations each of the animals you might see that make them successful (or unsuccessful) in that environment. Think about ways that environment might have helped to shape those organisms.

Location is another consideration with studying. The best study environments are quiet. A place where there are minimal distractions and good lighting. Some people enjoy listening to quiet music while they study (headphones are a great way to block out other noise). What location is best for you will really depend on what’s available to you. Consider staying after school to study in the library if home is particularly loud.
Always give yourself the flexibility to take a break if you need it. If you’re starting to get a headache, take a break. If your homework is starting to become more and more confusing, take a break. If your hands are starting to hurt from all the writing you’ve been doing, take a break. A break from studying should last anywhere from 15 seconds (during a specific math problem, for example) to one hour. Hour long study breaks should be reserved for longer studying sessions – like when you’ve been working on homework for three hours straight on a Saturday afternoon. Most study breaks should last 10-20 minutes.


Jessica S.

Highly Effective Teacher with 10 + Years Experience

400+ hours
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