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Strategies and Skills for Effective Learning

Study Skills

Study skills involve the ability to study effectively and efficiently, and include time management, organization, and the use of lecture notes, assigned readings, and other materials from class. This method is useful for rewriting and clarifying notes (best when done within 24 hours after the class) as well as taking notes from the readings. After you have taken the notes, you can test your knowledge of the material by covering up either side of the page and quizzing yourself on the material. Try to use visuals whenever possible (e.g., graphs, pictures, mapping, timelines), and reduce and organize the writing as much as possible, using your own words for explanations and definitions. Be sure to fill in any missing information by locating it in the text or asking someone else.

Note Taking

While taking notes during class and doing the assigned readings give you a general understanding of course content, you should utilize methods of studying which will improve your understanding and your ability to remember material. One method that is especially useful is called Cornell Notes. When taking Cornell Notes, you structure your comments in two columns that provide a built-in method for self-quizzing: One third of the page is used for main ideas or vocabulary words, and two thirds of the page are used to record details, explanations, or definitions of ideas or words.

Reading Strategies

Most students are overwhelmed by the amount of reading they are required to complete in college. Professors rely on written material to supplement lectures, introduce new concepts, and provide a basis for class discussions. In most cases, it is impossible to be prepared for class without completing assigned readings ahead of time.

A frequent complaint from students is, "I read the assignment, but I didn't get anything out of it." If you decide to invest time in reading your class texts, it is important that the investment be worthwhile. Using the SQ3R reading strategy is a good way to monitor your comprehension and understanding of written assignments in order to "get something out of" your reading assignments.

This method has five steps:
  • Survey the introductory paragraphs, the subheadings, and the last paragraph or summary. Read them over and try to relate them to what you already know.
  • Change each subheading into a Question before reading a section. For example, if the boldface subheading reads "Theories of Personality Development," change it to read, "What are the theories of personality development?" Actually writing it down really helps.
  • Read the section to answer the question. Make notes in the margin, and work on highlighting important information.
  • Recite the answer to the question to yourself. This kind of rehearsal aids in recall.
  • Review the entire selection by repeating steps 2 and 4 (question and recite for each selection).

Time Management

Many students have difficulty organizing and managing their time when they get to college. The following suggestions have helped many students develop a balanced schedule that includes both work and play.
  • Use materials for keeping track of obligations and due dates for papers, tests, assignments, etc., such as a desk calendar and daily assignment book/calendar to carry with you at all times.
  • Color coding classes or assignments to keep track of them can be helpful.
  • Try a master notebook system for each or all classes, using a large three-ring binder with sections for syllabi, class notes, reading notes, tests, quizzes, papers, and handouts.
  • Use this study schedule to determine your time commitments during a typical week. Then work out a reasonable weekly schedule for accomplishing your daily activities, including small segments of time each day to read and study (preferably in the morning). Make sure to schedule adequate amounts of time to eat, sleep, exercise and relax. Write down how many hours per week you actually spend on each of the following during the week. Include preparation and travel time. Avoid making weekends your catch-up days.

Places to Study on Campus

  • Ralph M. Besse Library (lower level and 2nd floor group study rooms)
  • Residential hall lounges and study areas   
  • Empty classrooms
  • Mullen Commuter Commons
  • Pilla Atrium
  • Parker Hannifin Lounge