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Study Skills

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."
~ M. K. Gandhi

Certain steps are necessary to begin the studying process. The following is a list of preliminary steps:
  1. Get organized. Organization is a key part of the studying process. How can you be an effective learner if your lecture notes are scattered between three notebooks? One of the best organizational tools is a three-ring binder. Purchase a three ring binder for each of the courses you are currently taking. In that binder mark off a section for course syllabi, lecture notes, reading notes, class handouts, and exams and quizzes. By marking off the different sections of your binder and placing the information in the proper section when it is received, you will not waste precious studying time searching for that handout you lost because it will be in its proper place.

  2. Time Management. It is difficult to maximize the 24 hours in each day to their fullest potential. Time is often wasted thinking about the many tasks that need to be completed and the lack of time to complete these tasks. A student that practices good study habits learns to balance his/her time between social and educational activities. If you feel overwhelmed sometimes with the amount of work given by your instructors and you don't know where you are going to get the time to do it, then map out your day. Take a weekly time schedule and mark off your regular activities, i.e. sleeping, eating, class time, and then look at your free time. Fill-in areas of your day with study time. You will find that if you spend a little time each day on your studies you will not have to become a prisoner of the books on Saturday and Sunday.

  3. Choose a comfortable environment in which to study. The area where you study will determine your productivity. If you are in an area that is too hot you may get tired and want to sleep. If you are in an area that is too cold you will have a difficult time concentrating on your studies because you will be concentrating on how cold you are. The different factors that you must consider when choosing a study area are temperature, lighting, furniture (desk or table, chair or floor), noise level, and pedestrian traffic. If your current study techniques are not working for you, then try a change of scenery first.

  4. Don't Procrastinate. Students who procrastinate often experience side effects such as nervousness, stomach problems, and higher levels of stress. By keeping current with your work you will not only improve your grades, but you will also maintain or improve your current health.

Just as certain steps are needed to begin the studying process, there are other steps that need to occur on a continual basis, regardless of the course or material being presented, each and every time you study.
  1. Take ownership of your education. Become an active learner. Prepare for class by reading the information and taking notes. Question the texts that you read. Question your instructors. Participate in class discussions. All of these steps will reiterate the information that is being presented in class.

  2. Read. This is a simple step that is often overlooked--read the information required for class as it is assigned. Do not wait until you have six chapters of economics to read for 8:30 tomorrow morning.

  3. Take notes both in-class and out. When you are reading, write notes in your notebook or in the margins of your text. By doing this you will be better able to keep up with the class lecture because you will only need to supplement your notes.

  4. Talk about the information. When you speak about the information that is presented to you in your classes, you need to process the information before stating it. This helps you to think through the concepts and also to hear the information as you are saying it.

Study Methods

Visualizing-create pictures in your mind as you are hearing or reading information.
Concentrating-stay focused on the information so it commits to your long-term memory.
Relating-associate the information with something that is familiar to you.
Repeating-saying the information out loud will help commit it to your long-term memory.
Reviewing-review your notes daily to commit them to your long-term memory.

SQ3R Method
The SQ3R was developed by Francis P. Robinson in 1941. It is a simple and effective method of studying. It was not designed to be used for test cramming, but to be adapted into every day use.

Survey-glance through the assigned reading chapter and look at the vocabulary words (usually in bold or italics), graphs, pictures, charts, and timelines. By doing a survey of a chapter before you begin reading, you will have a basic idea of the upcoming information.

Question-While you are surveying question the chapter information. Follow the basic five questions you were taught in elementary school: who, what, when, where, why. By doing this you will know what information to look for when reading because you will want to find the answers to these questions.

Read-once you have finished surveying the chapter and developing your list of questions you want to begin the reading process. While reading watch your use of highlighters. If too much information becomes highlighted, the marking of information becomes useless. Use a pen instead of a highlighter. When you are done reading a paragraph, write notes in the margin of the book to guide your studying later.

Recite-Discuss the information that you read with a classmate or your roommate. By doing so there is a repetitive process of reviewing the information; you will also realize the information that is confusing to you if you have difficulty discussing it.

Review-Read the chapter a second time. Rereading is a crucial step in understanding the information. By reading the chapter a second time you will be reinforcing the concepts you understood and clarifying the concepts that were unclear.

READ Method
Read the notes-If you are a student that diligently takes notes during class and never looks at them again, you are wasting your time. Notes were meant to be reviewed and analyzed. Try to read over your class notes as soon as you can after taking them.

Evaluate what you have read -Analyze what you have read and rearrange your notes in order of importance.

Ask questions -Question the information in your notes. Ask yourself what the instructor meant when the information was given. If you have any notes that are unclear to you, go back to the chapter and search for the information. If this method proves unsuccessful, go to the instructor of the course for clarification.

Determine the main issues -If you can answer the question, "What were the main areas covered?" after the first three steps, then you have a strong grasp of the information. If you are unable to answer this question, repeat steps 1-3.

Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic devices are techniques that assist you in storing information in your long-term memory.

If you have difficulty remembering information use a song or jingle. Sing your class notes to a favorite song-look at how quickly you can remember the lyrics to your favorite song. Your class notes will come to you in no time.

Another way to remember information is to make-up a sentence with the first letter of each word in a series. This also works very well with lists. For example, if you need to remember the items that comprise Stephen Toulmin's Model of Argumentation, you could use the following:

Claim Cindy
State Reason Saw Ralph
Grounds Grow
Warrant Wings
Backing Before
Conditions of Rebuttal Cindy Ran
Qualifier Quickly

Practice this along with the definitions of each word. When you get into the test/quiz, write your sentence and the corresponding terms and definitions. By doing this you have the information right at hand.

In elementary school most students are taught that Roy G. Biv stands for the colors of the rainbow-red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. If you have a list that you need to remember, try to formulate an acronym (word) for you to remember it by.

Story Lines
If you have an active imagination, try to create a story to remember long pieces of information.

Miscellaneous Study Tips:
  1. Make your own study guide. Use information from your textbooks, class discussions, lectures, and class handouts.
  2. After you have completed your study guide, give it to a friend and ask him/her to make you a "test". Try and take the test without using any references.
  3. Use note cards for key terms/concepts. Make the cards each day after class (will take five to ten minutes each day) for the terminology explored during class lecture/discussion. Do this for every class. Review all the cards each day. When the time comes to study for a test, pull out your cards and review. By this time you will know almost all, if not all, of the words. Using different color note cards for each class will help you keep the information separated.
  4. Make yourself a daily schedule and "To Do" list. Schedule your day the night before so you know what you need to do when you wake up. This helps to relieve stress that accumulates when you do not accomplish all that needs to be done.

Information obtained from:
Sherfield, R. M., Montgomery, R. J. & Moody, P. G. (2003). Cornerstone: Building on your best. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


In order to be able to take comprehensive, logical notes, you must take ownership of your education. Taking ownership means becoming an active learner and completing all assignments and readings before class begins.

To become an active learner follow these steps:

Before Class
  • Review your notes from the previous class and any outside assignments before class.
  • Find a seat near the front of the room (preferably front center).
  • Bring the required materials to each class.
During Class
  • Constantly evaluate the material being presented.
  • Use the Cornell note-taking style. This style suggests that you set up your paper with a wide left-hand margin of 1 to 2 1/2 inches. The section in the left margin is left blank for now. After class, fill in this area with words that will trigger your memory about the class discussion.
  • Write down all specific items (definitions, formulas, dates).
  • Leave lots of white space in your notes so you can go back after class and add clarity to your notes without cramming information into small spaces.
  • Mark your notes with the corresponding page number from your book.
  • Use a three-ring binder for each class so you can insert handouts, activities, homework, etc, between your class notes.
  • Use pictures, diagrams, and other artwork that is relevant to your course (not doodles).
  • Use abbreviations, shorthand, and symbols.
  • Listen for clues from your professors.
After Class
  • Review your notes within 24 hours of class.
  • Use color-coded highlighting or some other system to identify different categories of material.
  • Fill in the left-hand column of your notes with key words and phrases.
  • Conduct a weekly review session for each class.
  • Develop mind maps from your notes.
  • Review your notes the day before the next class using key words and phrases.

Information obtained from:
Beierlein, J. G. & Wade, B. K. (2002).Navigating your future: The principles of student success. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Co.


One of the most useful study skills for both in and out of class is a summary. Summarize the information in each chapter that is assigned in class. By doing this you are condensing a large amount of information into only the most important points.

Some of the benefits to summarizing are as follows:
  1. Increase your comprehension of a chapter in a textbook or an article you have read.
  2. Improve your note taking during lectures.
  3. Enhance your writing by allowing you to analyze how other authors connect their ideas.
  4. Prepares you for tests, book reviews, presentations, and discussions.

Follow these steps to effectively summarize:
  1. Read the article at least two times. The first read is a preview. The second read is for understanding.
  2. After reading twice, go through and mark any areas that were confusing (put a ? next to these areas).
  3. Try to summarize each paragraph into your own words-use the margins of your book for your summary.
  4. Underline and label the following:
    Topic-can usually be determined from the title and first paragraph of the selection.
    Main Ideas-after identifying, state in your own words.
    Major Details-facts, reasons, examples.

Rewrite the summary in paragraph form using the following guidelines:
  1. Write the title of the selection, the author's name, and the main points in the first sentence.
  2. Write the supporting details which prove the author's main ideas. Use signal words and phrases to make connections between the author's main idea and the supporting evidence.
  3. Leave out any minor or repetitive information.
  4. DO NOT include personal reaction to the article in your summary.

Information obtained from:
Avleri-Gold, M & Pintozzi, F. (2000). Taking charge of your reading: Reading and study strategies for college success. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.