10.5 Effective Studying


Now that you know more about the assignment/test/quiz/exam you can create an effective study plan. We have already seen how important your environment is (where and when you work best) and that regularly blocking time in your schedule will help reduce your stress when we looked at time management, goal setting, reading and taking notes.

Effective studying is an ongoing process of reviewing course material. The first and most important thing you should know is that studying is not something you do a few days before an exam. To be effective, studying is something you do as part of an ongoing learning process, throughout the duration of the term.

The word 'study' in game cubes
Photo by WOKANDAPIX, Pixabay License

Studying Every Day

Studying begins after each class or assignment when you review your notes. Each study session should involve three steps:

1. Gather your learning materials

Take time to merge your class notes with your reading notes. How do they complement each other? Stop and think. What do the notes tell you about your material? What aspects of the material are you unsure about? Do you need to reread a part of your text? Write down any questions you have for your professor and ask questions in class or via email about things you are not sure about. This helps avoid last minute problems, keeps you moving forward, and will reduce your stress.

2. Apply or visualize.

What does this material mean to you? How will you use this new knowledge? Try to find a way to apply it in your own life or thoughts. If you can’t use the knowledge right away, visualize yourself using the knowledge to solve a problem or visualize yourself teaching the material to other students.

3. Cement your knowledge.

If you use the two-column notetaking method, cover up the right side of your notes with a piece of paper, leaving the questions in the left column exposed. Test yourself by trying to answer your questions without referring to your notes. How did you do? If you are unsure about anything, look up the answer and write it down right away. Don’t let a wrong answer be the last thing you wrote on a subject, because you will most likely continue to remember the wrong answer.

Studying in Course Units

  1. At the end of each unit, or at least every two weeks or so, use your notes and textbook to write an outline or summary of the material in your own words.
  2. After you have written the summary or outline, go back and reread your outline from the prior unit followed by the one you just wrote. Does the new one build on the earlier one? Do you feel confident you understand the material?

Studying before the Exam

  1. At least a week before a major exam, challenge yourself to come up with some really tough open-ended questions. Think about how you might answer them. Be sure to go to any review sessions the professor holds.
  2. Pay special attention to those items the professor emphasized during class.


More Tips

Schedule a consistent study-review time for each course at least once a week, in addition to your class and assignment time.

  • Keep to that schedule as rigorously as you do your class schedule. Use your study time to go through the steps outlined earlier; this is not meant to be a substitute for your assignment time.

Use study tools that work for you!

  • Think back to how you learn. Would it help to study and discuss things with others? Would you learn better by rewriting your notes or reading them out loud or both? It may take time to figure out what works for you. The more techniques you use, the better chance you have of encoding the information in a way you can retrieve it quickly.

Get yourself in the right space.

  • Choose to study in a quiet, well-lit space. Your chair should be comfortable but provide good support. Remember that libraries were designed for reading and should be your first option.

Minimize distractions.

  • Turn off your cell phone and get away from social media, television, other nearby activities, and chatty friends or roommates. All of these can cut into the effectiveness of your study efforts. Multitasking and studying don’t mix.

If you will be studying for a long time, take short breaks

  • Consider using the Pomodoro technique here. Get up, stretch, breathe deeply, and then get back to work. (If you keep up with your daily assignments and schedule weekly review sessions for yourself—and keep them—there should be almost no need for long study sessions.)

15 Studying”  from A Guide for Successful Students by Irene Stewart and Aaron Maisonville is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.



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Fanshawe SOAR Copyright © 2023 by Kristen Cavanagh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.