Realizing academic success doesn’t come without hard work and effective study strategies. It may seem as easy as completing the assigned readings and paying attention in class, but the best study strategies are far more complex. The first step is to consider what study tools help you the most as you craft a plan. Next, take advantage of tips and suggestions from teachers and experts so that you can make the most out of your time in school.
Attend Class and Be Engaged
It may not seem like studying, but every time that you go to class, you have an opportunity to study. Follow your syllabus and be prepared for class. If you read the assigned material before you get to class, learning will be reinforced as the teacher lectures about the content. Often, the teachers will expand upon the reading as they lecture. Be sure to ask questions so that you can clarify anything that seems confusing or is difficult to understand.
Take Extensive Notes
Your class notes are one of your most important study tools in the academic toolbox. Take notes as you’re reading the textbook and take notes during class. After class, organize your notes and underline anything that is reinforced by the teacher during class. Keep your notes organized in a three-ring binder so that they’re handy when it comes time to study for an exam.
Practice Study Hygiene
Only you know the conditions that will best inspire you to focus and learn. Pick a few locations that are free from distraction and signal you to study. Set a regular schedule so that studying becomes a pattern or regular part of your day. Limit the time that you allocate to studying to provide balance. Incremental and regular studying will help you retain information more effectively.
Take A Study Tools Class
One of the most important study tools you can use is to take a study skills class. A class will help you learn more about your learning style and effective ways to help you increase your ability to concentrate. You’ll also learn techniques to increase memorization and listening skills. If you take a study skills class, you’ll become more efficient at studying and managing your time.
Use a Planner or Calendar
Purchase a planner or use an electronic calendar to organize your studying responsibilities. Write down all of your assigned readings, papers, presentations and tests in your planner. Block out study time to ensure that you’re on track to meet academic deadlines. If you’ve a visual representation of the big picture, it will be easier to plan your time and avoid crash studying at the last minute.
Set Study Goals
Goal setting is one the most critical study strategies that you can use to be successful. At the beginning of the semester, assess your course load and set realistic and stretch goals for academic success. Block out the time that you’ll need to meet your goals. Add extracurricular activities to your plate that make sense after you determine your class goals. Periodically assess your goals to make sure that you’re staying on track.
Give Yourself a Break
It’s important to schedule breaks into your study schedule. Infusing fun and relaxation into your day will help you recharge and be ready to work hard. Pick activities and physical exercise that you enjoy as a way to give your mind a timeout from intense concentration. Once you accomplish your daily academic responsibilities, use a planned break as one of your regular study strategies.
Create Study Guides
As you prepare for a test, a study guide is one of the most important study tools in your academic toolbox. Select a format for your study guide that works best for your learning style. Even as you create a study guide, you’ll be reinforcing your learning. Here are a few formats to consider:
Use note cards to learn vocabulary or other key content concepts. Write the concept on one side of the card and the description on the flip side. You can also use notecards to help master possible test questions and answers. The flashcards can serve as one of your self-study tools to prepare for a test or exam.
Use a big piece of paper and colored markers or pencils to create a mind map of the content for a class or text. Write the main concept in the middle of the page and circle it. Draw lines around the circle and add in the branches of information that relate to the main subject.
If you prefer a block style of learning as one of your study strategies, create a linear chart. Label that main concepts across the top of the chart and fill in the information in each column underneath the concepts. This is one of the study tools that may work best for science content.
Look for study websites for students that serve as an online study guide maker if you prefer an electronic format.
Form a Study Group
When you study with other people, you have the opportunity to learn new perspectives about the class content. Seek out the smartest and most dedicated student in your class and establish a regular study session. You can even divide up the reading and take turns explaining it to one another. Use a study group to prepare for a test by quizzing each other and reviewing challenging subjects from the class.
Serve as a Coach to Others
When you teach or tutor others, you deepen your own learning. Volunteer to serve as a tutor or partner study with someone that’s struggling. Even if you feel that you could use extra help, you’ll be surprised at how fun it will be to study when you’re preparing to help someone else. Speaking about the content aloud will help you piece things together in a new and different way.
Meet With Your Teachers
Take the time to regularly meet with your teachers. You can use the time to ask questions about anything that seems confusing or unclear. Even if you don’t feel that you need the extra help from a teacher, it will help you to learn more about the subject, if you discuss it with an expert. An added benefit is that your teacher will see first-hand about your dedication to being a strong and dedicated student.
Use Failure as an Opportunity to Learn
Try not to be discouraged if you fail a test or do poorly on an assignment. Each time that you miss the mark, you’ll learn more about your weaknesses. If you start to feel discouraged, channel this emotion into the drive to learn more. Seek help from a tutor, classmate or your teacher to bolster your understanding. If you run toward the challenge of increasing your knowledge, you’ll soon realize academic success.
Celebrate Each Time You Succeed
It’s important to build rewards into your academic map as one of your study tools. An incentive to study may be as simple as a night out with your friends. Plan a bigger reward at the end of the semester when you see your final grade. The ultimate reward is a report card that reflects your goals and provides proof of all of your hard work and successful study strategies.
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.