Top 10 Study Tips for Students

Posted by Nichole Johnson |

Friday, September 13, 2013

You’re about to start the fourth week of classes. That means the work is getting harder and outside distractions might make things a little more challenging. So if you’re hitting the books only to find they’re hitting back, Director of Academic Success Bruce Epps offers these Top 10 Study Tips for Students.


1. Elevate your thinking. 

Move from high school-level thinking to college-level thinking. Most new college students have a hard time with this transition, particularly when it comes to developing their critical thinking skills. Ask your professors for explicit instructions on how to incorporate critical thinking into your college work. 


If you’re given a group assignment, ask for details about what’s expected of the group, and make sure your partners know their roles. If you’re assignment is research writing, ask about the best way to find, evaluate and work with academic sources. Hint: The library has lots of resources to help you. 


2. Divide and conquer. Don’t delay and crash.

Procrastination is your frenemy — most college students embrace it, but it brings them (and their grades) down in the end. Psychologist William Knaus estimates 90 percent of all college students procrastinate and 25 percent of those are chronic procrastinators. Break out of your old patterns and embrace time management. For every hour you spend in class, plan on spending two or three outside of class studying and completing assignments. 


Don’t take on the whole assignment at once. Divide projects into smaller tasks and give each a start date, end date and a box you can check when it’s complete. For example, for writing assignments you’d create separate due dates for finalizing a topic, creating a working draft, editing, creating bibliographies, etc. 


3. Know as you go.

The key to getting ready for an exam and reducing test anxiety is daily preparation. Gather as much information as you can about the exam format and the content that will be covered. Talk with your professor to get specific advice on how to prepare for the exam, especially how to make effective use of notes, textbooks, course lectures, PowerPoint presentations, etc. Read over notes daily, paraphrasing and summarizing as you go to gauge your understanding of the material. Draw explicit connections between related concepts, and practice answering possible exam questions.


4. Express yourself (and your ideas).


It’s common for students who are fully capable of comprehending key course concepts to struggle with developing those ideas further by making connections, seeing the “big picture,” and using what they already know to help them engage in their own original thinking. To develop and solidify your understanding of new ideas, try expressing them out loud or on paper. Don’t just think about them. You’ll be amazed at the clarity that comes with writing and articulating your ideas. 


While you’re at it, connect those ideas to what you already know by questioning yourself. Ask, “What do I already know about this? How does this new information connect with what I already know about this subject?”


5. Don’t just re-read; re-process.

If you want to improve your recall, you have to process content multiple times in multiple ways. Some students take a minimalist approach to reviewing course material by re-reading chapters or looking over their notes. But to optimize your recall, try reprocessing the material in a different way. Use a different strategy or technique each time you review the material — write new notes by paraphrasing, summarizing or creating flash cards. (They’re not just for second-graders, you know.)

If you’re a visual learner, try creating a chart or info graphic. There are lots of free and fun web-based info graphic tools out there. We found this list helpful, along with this one



6. Knowledge is its own end, but setting goals and celebrating progress are worthy mile markers.

We all know the pursuit of knowledge is its own reward, but that can be hard to remember when you’re trying to keep your head above water in a tough class — no matter how talented the professor is. Lack of motivation, interest and focus can occur even at Capital, where your professors care deeply about engaging you.

Stay motivated and keep a positive attitude by identifying a real purpose for taking a course (other than the fact that it’s required!). Set your own goals for learning, and reward yourself for accomplishing individual tasks. Remember, liberal learning is about drawing connections between things that seem unrelated, including the class you’re struggling with. If you master that skill, you can apply it to any field you pursue in college or later in life.

7. Understand the importance of practicing skills. 

Mastering a skill takes practice, so look for opportunities outside of the classroom to practice and reinforce the skills you’re being taught in class. Changing the context and practicing newly learned skills in different environments or disciplines will reinforce core principles and help you apply your knowledge to any problem or challenge. It’s about learning how to think, not what to think. 


8. Read like you’re having a conversation.

Communication is an active process, whether it’s a conversation with a friend or an exchange of information between an author and a reader. Just as you would engage actively in a conversation with a friend, so should you engage with what you’re reading. To absorb the material, use the SQ3R method — Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review — and write in the textbook margins. Don’t just passively underline or highlight text; paraphrase, summarize, question, connect and even elaborate in the margins or on a separate sheet of paper.


9. Be a good listener.


The average college student spends 14 hours a week in class listening. Content-heavy courses with a strong lecture component can make it easy to lose focus. To stay engaged and retain the information, become an active listener. There are techniques that can help, including TQLR — Tune In, Question, Listen, and Review. You also should become familiar with the concept of selective listening and the features of a lecture — introductions and conclusions, repetition and emphasis, overarching themes, linked concepts — to get the most out of it. 



News-Study-Tips-Partners-30010. We’re all in this together, so ask for help. No one’s judging.

Students often make the mistake of insisting that they “go it alone” when it comes to studying. But learning is a highly collaborative process, and most successful college students make smart use of the peer learning and collaboration resources available to them. Everyone at Capital is here to help you succeed. 

So stop by the second floor of the library to discover the resources in place to help you. You’ll find academic support services like peer tutoring, study and review sessions, and supplemental instruction for students at all ability levels, not just remedial courses. At Capital, our peer tutoring services are designed to benefit all students at all ability levels.

Understand that this is the time in the semester when things get a little more complicated for new students, whether it’s because of a relationship, a roommate issue, scheduling, financial aid or something else. Some students even start questioning their major, and that’s OK. That’s the point of introductory courses.

Exploration is key, and the second floor of the library is the hub of that exploration and of student success. Along with Academic Success, you’ll find Career Development, where you can talk to a professional career counselor about your learning interests, education and career goals (even if they’re changing), and Student Success, the one-stop shop, of sorts, for removing barriers to student success.

Academic Success provides peer tutoring, individualized study strategies consulting, peer academic advising, supplemental instruction, workshops, and other academic support services in these and other areas. Contact Academic Success at 236-6327 (or 236-6461) or for more information or to schedule an appointment. Contact Student Success at or 236-7200 for help with any other issue that’s keeping you from reaching your full potential at Capital. 

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