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Study Strategies:  How to Get the Most from Your Classes

Many students believe that studying entails six hours the night before an exam, but in reality, studying is an everyday time management skill. Once you have completed your courses for the day, the trick to becoming a prepared student is to re-read, re-copy, and review all of the material that you covered that day in classes, and utilize any academic support systems available (study groups, tutors, study guides, etc.). Right? Well, it depends on your learning styles and preferencesClick here to learn more about how you learn best.  Once you have determined your style(s), learn more about the study strategies that work best for you.

You ask, "But how do I study for a test?" If you have been studying for your classes on a daily basis, then the night before the exam should be spent reviewing, once again, your notes, graphs, and handouts that pertain to the exam. Reviewing may seem to be a waste of time, but in the long run, you will be saving your energy and an immense amount of time.  For more information on preparing for exams, click here.

It is possible that the study skills you used in high school (if you used any at all) may not work for you in college, and with a more complicated lifestyle, studying can become a burden; but with a few simple changes in your habits, studying can become part of your day, just like brushing your teeth, eating lunch, and sleeping. "Never say never." With just a few adjustments to your study skills, university pressure will be alleviated.

Study Time Tips

  • Learn to say "No" to distractions (parties, movies, TV, etc.).
  • Do not study for more than two hours at a time.
  • Use the 30-3-2 schedule. Study for 30 minutes; take a 3-minute break, and when you return, take 2 minutes to review what you just studied.
  • Prioritize. Stay organized. Get a planner, set study times, and stick to them.
  • Try to study during daylight hours. Natural light is more conducive to learning.
  • Study in a positive atmosphere: good lighting (not dim), a clean (distraction-free) work area supplied with all the materials you need to study effectively, comfortable (but not too comfortable) seating with a work surface (i.e. table, desk, etc.), any munchies necessary to curb your hunger pangs, etc. (Your bed and/or bedroom are not conducive to study because your body/mind equates sleep and relaxation to those locations.)
  • Have a regular study location that is free of distractions.
  • When re-writing your notes, take time to predict possible test questions.
  • Use your old exams, quizzes, and handouts for study material. Use them to predict test questions.
  • Use concept maps, time lines, process diagrams or part/function diagrams as visual representations of the material you need to know.
  • Create mnemonics that will help you remember information by organizing it and triggering recall. Remember these: HOMES, ROY G. BIV, or Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally?
  • Sharpen your listening skills and note taking skills. Studying will become review time rather than crunch time.
  • Utilize academic support services available to you. Supplemental instruction (SI), tutoring, review sessions, and study skills workshops are offered for many courses and subject areas. Check out the Learning Center or ask a professor or fellow classmate for assistance.

The SQ3R Method of Study

Created by Francis P. Robinson in 1941, the SQ3R method of study is one of the most common and easily adaptable study techniques for university students. You can follow all steps as written, or modify them to best fit your learning styles.

SQ3R is an acronym for the following activities (or steps):

  • Survey: Before reading a chapter, skim the contents, visuals, headings, bold-faced words, etc. This step allows you do develop a framework, a context for what you are about to read. It is important that you develop an idea of what you plan to learn from the material.
  • Question: Based on the textbook headings and bold-faced words, end-of-chapter questions, of beginning-of-the-chapter outline, form questions that anticipate finding the answers to while you read. You may also with to use a study guide handed out by the professor prior to reading the chapter.
  • Read: Read the selection section by section...reading with a purpose: 1) to learn and understand the information in the chapter and 2) to answers the question(s) you created.
  • Recite: Stop reading after you have completed each section, and check to see if you can answer your question(s) for the section.
  • Review: After reading the chapter, go back and review each section by answering the questions you created, highlighting or marking important points/information in the text.

Suggestion: If you come across confusing material mark it and continue on, or seek help by asking questions of your professor, a tutor, or classmate. By simply rereading time-and-again material that is difficult or hard to understand, you will only frustrate yourself. Make questions in your notes or in the margins of your book and seek the answers from a fellow student or the professor. Although the SQ3R appears to be a study-reading technique, you can also apply it to your lecture classes and lecture notes. Preview study guides, textbooks, etc. prior to arriving at your lecture course. Create questions about information you hope to learn. While paying attention to the lecture, take notes about important information. If you find that some material is confusing, be sure to mark that in your notes so you can ask questions when appropriate (during a question/answer period, during professor's office hours, at tutoring sessions, with classmates after class, etc.). You can review your notes alone or with classmates in study sessions and can compare the textbook material with lecture material.

These are only a few study techniques that students have used to attain academic success. The Learning Center staff can assist you in developing a study routine with techniques that work for you! Stop by and check us out or attend one of our workshops offered each semester! Virginia Tech's useful study skills information.

Test-Taking Strategies

So you have a test in your most difficult class? Relax!Beyond the many services that the Learning Center offers, the LC can help you better prepare yourself for the ultimate challenge of being a student: test-taking. Test-taking can be a very frustrating event for many students. You can, however, use a variety of strategies to better prepare yourself for test-taking. The anxiety you may feel will decrease if you use these helpful tips. As a student, you will encounter many different instructors, diverse teaching styles, dissimilar testing situations, and various kinds of tests. Thus, you may want to try using various strategies to better suit your needs, and to actively engage yourself in enhancing and improving your test-taking abilities.

"A Test is a Test. . ." NOT!

Every professor creates tests suitable for the course and subject matter to be mastered, and unless you have had a particular professor several times, the chance you have of "figuring out" a professor's testing style is slim without consulting the professor or other students who have had him or her.  By using the hints below, you should be able to prepare for your exams in the most effective ways possible for each class.

Test-Preparation Hints

  • Attend class regularly, especially the class before an exam. The professor will usually give helpful hints regarding the exam.
  • About a week or two before the test, ask your instructor about what you can anticipate being on the exam.
  • Start preparing for your exam at least two weeks in advance.
  • Listen carefully during lectures. Professors will often stress important topics or points with body language, voice intonation, or repetition. Put a mark in your notes by that information so you remember that it is important.
  • Predict and make practice test questions. Utilize your lecture notes, textbook notes, handouts, previous tests and quizzes, and sample tests from each chapter.
  • Study with a group that has good study habits.
  • Use note cards to quiz yourself on concepts and vocabulary.
  • Repeat information aloud. Hearing it is sometimes more effective than reading it for the millionth time.
  • Review ALL class information for the exam. Professors often throw in questions based on information other than what they specifically talked about in class.
  • Never cram for an exam, but do review the night before the exam.
  • Get a good night's sleep and eat a healthy breakfast. Your mind, like your body, needs rest and energy to perform well.

Test-Taking Techniques

  • Always read the directions carefully.
  • Do a "memory dump" as soon as you get the exam.  Jot down all formulas, mnemonics, and anything else you can remember from your studies on a blank scratch paper or in the test margins.
  • Skim the test to get a sense of what it covers so you can allot your time appropriately. Note the "weight" of questions. Questions worth more points should be completed in a timely manner, whereas the questions worth one or two can be finished after the larger, more difficult ones are complete.
  • Do the easiest questions first, and put marks next to the questions you are unsure of. When you have completed the exam, go back and finish the "marked" questions.
  • Don't be afraid to ask the professor if you have a question; perhaps others may have the same questions about confusing items or directions.
  • Look for key words that might trigger the right answer. Occasionally, the information needed to successfully complete one question lies within another question.
  • For essay exams: Before you start, "brain-storm" for a minute so you can recall the information needed to answer the question. Then set up a brief outline of your points so you do not forget anything while you are writing.  This way, if you run out of time, you can jot down the items left in the outline for partial credit.hink If possible, save time to PROOFREAD!
  • For multiple choice tests: Always read all the choices; then mark the answers you know are not correct. Continue until you know the correct answer or can submit an educated guess.
  • For true and false questions: Watch for words that change the meaning of the statement (i.e., qualifiers like "always" and "never").  And remember, all parts of a statement must be true for the answer to be "true."
  • Always write carefully and legibly.
  • Ignore the pace of other students; always take your time.
  • Always save enough time to go through the test a second time.

This is just an overview of test-preparation and test-taking techniques. Stop by the Learning Center or attend one of our workshops to learn more about how you can improve your testing skills.  For more information contact a Learning Center Student Manager at (906) 635-2849 (ext. 2849) or the Director of The Learning Center at (906) 635-2294.

Time Management Strategies

Many students find their first few weeks of college confusing and frustrating. Even the potential "A" student from high school will discover that college is full of challenging experiences. Or, perhaps you are a "seasoned" university student with too many things on your plate. You're finding it difficult to manage all of your responsibilities and still have some personal time. To help you keep things straight, here are a few time management tips. . . .

Goal Setting:  The First Step to Time Management

To ensure that you use your time effectively, you will need to set goals and priorities for yourself.  Three main types of goals should be considered as you plan your academic goals: long term, short term, and immediate.

Long Term Goals are things that you would like to accomplish during the next few years or beyond.Short Term Goals are the stepping stones to long term goals. They help you think about what you need to accomplish in order to reach your long term goals. Setting short term goals (i.e. passing your class with a "B" or better) gives you the motivation to keep working toward that long term goal. Immediate Goals are a series of practical steps you can take in order to achieve your short term and long term goals. As a college student, you should attend all your classes, do the required assignments, and schedule study time each week. Take time out at the beginning of each day to set your immediate and daily/weekly short term goals (i.e., to-do list). By meeting your immediate and short term goals, you'll be well on your way toward achieving your long term goals.

Using Your Study Time Effectively

Choose the best place to study for you so you can concentrate on your work, avoiding distractions and procrastination. Create an office at home just for studying with all the equipment you will need, including a comfortable chair, a desk, a good lamp, paper, and writing utensils.The library is also a good place to study since it provides you with a variety of quiet study areas, excellent resources and very few distractions.Identify your peak concentration times during the day. When are you most alert and able to concentrate? Are you most alert in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening? Tackle your most difficult assignments and subjects during peak concentration times, and leave other mechanical or routine tasks that require less concentration for times when you are less alert. For example, you could copy your lab report, do your laundry, or check your e-mail when you are not at your peak.

Three Easy Ways to Organize Your Time

  1. A Master Schedule helps you schedule time and activities for one semester.
    • Step One: organize class times, lab times, and any other fixed-time activities
    • Step Two: organize your work schedule, commuting time, and extra-curricular activities
    • Step Three: organize house chores, sleeping, eating, and leisure activities, anything that operates on a flexible schedule
  2. A Detailed Weekly Schedule includes specific times for studying particular subjects and completing homework assignments for each course, as well as meetings, appointments, etc.3. An Assignment-Oriented Weekly Schedulehelps you estimate your study time and assignment due dates.Keep in mind that, in order to properly prepare for college and be effective as a student, you should incorporate a variety of study methods into your daily routine.  Your schedules and goals should also be systematic and realistic, making them easier to follow and achieve. For a schedule of our Time Management workshops, or to view time management videos, gather sample schedules, have a tutor help you get started on your new time management system, or collect more time management information, stop by the Learning Center.

Check out the blank schedule format below to get you started!

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