Study Tips for Students
Effective Study Habits
Preparing for Exams
Ten Traps of Studying
Effective Study Help Habits
- Decide what to study (reasonable task) and how long or how many
(chapters, pages, problems, etc.). Set and stick to deadlines.
- Do difficult tasks first. For procrastination, start off with
an easy, interesting aspect of the project.
- Have special places to study. Take into consideration lighting,
temperature, and availability of materials.
- Study 50 minutes, and then take a 10 minute break. Stretch,
relax, have an energy snack.
- Allow longer, "massed" time periods for organizing
relationships and concepts, outlining, and writing papers. Use
shorter, "spaced" time intervals for rote memorization, review, and
self-testing. Use odd moments for recall/review.
- If you get tired or bored, switch task/activity, subject, or
environment. Stop studying when you are no longer being
- Do rote memory tasks and review, especially details, just
before you fall asleep.
- Study with a friend. Quiz each other, compare notes and predict
- Review regularly.
- Plan to study ahead, so that the night before an exam, all you
do is review material.
- Avoid all-nighters!
Return to top
Preparing for Exams
1. When the Exam is Announced:
- Find out what the exam will or won't cover.
- Find out what kind of exam it will be: objective, short essay,
long essay, or a combination.
2. Exam Study:
- Prepare summary sheets for large amounts of lecture and
- Spend several nights before an exam making a final review of
- Stress the following areas in your review:
- Points emphasized in class or in the text
- Areas the professor has advised for study
- Questions in study guides, past quizzes, and reviews at the end
of textbook chapter
3. Preparation by Type of Exam:
- For objective exams:
- Study as if it were an essay exam.
- Stress specifics.
- For definitions of key terms and examples
- List items.
- Create flash cards.
- For True/False
- Write some false statements.
- Essay Exams
- Stress concepts.
- List probable questions.
- Prepare a good outline answer and practice it.
- Problem Exams:
- Memorize formulas if needed.
- Practice problems.
Return to top
Tens Traps of Studying
1."I Don't Know Where To Begin"
Take Control. Make a list of all the things you
have to do. Break your workload down into manageable chunks.
Prioritize! Schedule your time realistically. Don't skip classes
near an exam -- you may miss a review session. Use that hour in
between classes to review notes. Interrupt study time with planned
study breaks. Begin studying early, with an hour or two per day,
and slowly build as the exam approaches.
2. "I've Got So Much To Study . . . And So Little
Preview. Survey your syllabus, reading
material, and notes. Identify the most important topics emphasized,
and areas still not understood. Previewing saves time, especially
with non-fiction reading, by helping you organize and focus in on
the main topics. Adapt this method to your own style and study
material, but remember, previewing is not an effective substitute
3. "This Stuff Is So Dry, I Can't Even Stay Awake
Attack! Get actively involved with the text as
you read. Ask yourself, "What is important to remember about this
section?" Take notes or underline key concepts. Discuss the
material with others in your class. Study together. Stay on the
offensive, especially with material that you don't find
interesting, rather than reading passively and missing important
4. "I Read It. I Understand It. But I Just Can't Get It
To Sink In"
Elaborate. We remember best the things that are
most meaningful to us. As you are reading, try to elaborate upon
new information with your own examples. Try to integrate what
you're studying with what you already know. You will be able to
remember new material better if you can link it to something that's
already meaningful to you. Some techniques include:
Chunking: An effective way to simplify and make
information more meaningful. For example, suppose you wanted to
remember the colors in the visible spectrum (Red, Orange , Yellow,
Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet); you would have to memorize seven
"chunks" of information in order. But if you take the first letter
of each color, you can spell the name "Roy G. Biv", and reduce the
information into three "chunks".
Mnemonics: Any memory-assisting technique that
helps us to associate new information with something familiar. For
example, to remember a formula or equation, we may use letters of
the alphabet to represent certain numbers. Then we can change an
abs tract formula into a more meaningful word or phrase, so we'll
be able to remember it better. Sound-alike associations can be very
effective, also, especially while trying to learn a new language.
The key is to create your own links, then you won't forget
5. "I Guess I Understand It"
Test yourself. Make up questions about key
sections in notes or reading. Keep in mind what the professor has
stressed in the course. Examine the relationships between concepts
and sections. Often, simply by changing section headings, you can
generate many effective questions. For example, a section entitled
"Bystander Apathy" might be changed into questions such as: "What
is bystander apathy?", "What are the causes of bystander apathy?",
and "What are some examples of bystander apathy?"
6. "There's Too Much To Remember"
Organize. Information is recalled better if it
is represented in an organized framework that will make retrieval
more systematic. There are many techniques that can help you
organize new information, including:
- Write chapter outlines or summaries; emphasize relationships
- Group information into categories or hierarchies, where
- Information Mapping. Draw up a matrix to organize and
interrelate material. For example, if you were trying to understand
the causes of World War I, you could make a chart listing all the
major countries involved across the top, and then list the
important issues and events down the side. Next, in the boxes in
between, you could describe the impact each issue had on each
country to help you understand these complex historical
7. "I Knew It A Minute Ago"
Review. After reading a section, try to recall
the information contained in it. Try answering the questions you
made up for that section. If you cannot recall enough, re-read
portions you had trouble remembering. The more time you spend
studying, the more you tend to recall. Even after the point where
information can be perfectly recalled, further study makes the
material less likely to be forgotten entirely. In other words, you
can't overstudy. However, how you organize and integrate new
information is still more important than how much time you spend
8. "But I Like To Study In Bed"
Context. Recall is better when study context
(physical location, as well as mental, emotional, and physical
state) are similar to the test context. The greater the similarity
between the study setting and the test setting, the greater the
likelihood that material studied will be recalled during the
9. "Cramming Before A Test Helps Keep It Fresh In My
Spacing: Start studying now. Keep studying as
you go along. Begin with an hour or two a day about one week before
the exam, and then increase study time as the exam approaches.
Recall increases as study time gets spread out over time.
10. "I'm Gonna Stay Up All Night 'til I Get
Avoid Mental Exhaustion. Take short breaks
often when studying. Before a test, have a rested mind. When you
take a study break, and just before you go to sleep at night, don't
think about academics. Relax and unwind, mentally and physically.
Otherwise, your break won't refresh you and you'll find yourself
lying awake at night. It's more important than ever to take care of
yourself before an exam! Eat well, sleep, and get enough