Study Skills

Many of you reading this are involved in a sport or a creative activity such as music, art or drama. Can you imagine what your chances of success in these fields would be if you did not receive instruction on how to make changes and improvements to your performance?

Sports people, musicians, writers, and actors are constantly looking at ways to make their performance better. Success in any of these fields of activity rarely happens without making adjustments and changes to training if needed. Study is no different.

As a first step in training yourself to get better at studying, it is well worthwhile taking time out to look critically and honestly at the precise way you go about studying and rate your study performance as it now stands. Many companies also realise the importance of this approach in business.

The most successful companies and organisations spend a sizeable amount of their budget exploring ways that their workforce can be more efficient. This involves workers and managers working together and looking closely at how they go about their work. The improvement in ‘work practice’ that results brings benefits both to the business and to the staff.

Good Study Habits

The following habits are central to improving your study skills

1. Decide what to study (reasonable task) and how long or how many (chapters, pages, problems, etc.). Set and stick to deadlines.

2. Do difficult tasks first. To avoid procrastination, start off with an interesting aspect of the project.

3. Have special places to study. Take into consideration lighting, temperature, and availability of materials.

4. Study 50 minutes, and then take a 10 minute break. Stretch, relax, have an energy snack.

5. Allow longer, "massed" time periods for organising relationships and concepts, outlining and writing papers. Use shorter, "spaced" time intervals for rote memorisation, review, and self-testing. Use odd moments for recall / review.

6. If you get tired or bored, switch task / activity, subject or environment. Stop studying when you are no longer being productive.

7. Do rote memory tasks and review, especially details, just before you fall asleep.

8. Study with a friend. Quiz each other, compare notes and predict test questions.

Study Traps

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. Prioritise! Schedule your time realistically.
2 I've Got So Much To Study . . . And So Little Time"
  Preview. Survey your syllabus, reading material, and notes. Identify the most important topics emphasised, and areas still not understood. Organise and focus in on the main topics. Adapt this method to your own style and study material.
3 "This Stuff Is So Dry, I Can't Even Stay Awake Reading It"
  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 points.
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 better remember new material if you can link it to something that's already meaningful to you.
5 "I Think I Understand It"
  Test yourself. Make up questions about key sections in notes or reading. Keep in mind what the lecturer has stressed in the course. Examine the relationships between concepts and sections. Often, simply by changing section headings you can generate many effective questions.
6 "There's Too Much To Remember"

Organise. Information is recalled well if it is represented in an organised framework that will make retrieval more systematic. There are many techniques that can help you organise new information, including:

• Write chapter outlines or summaries; emphasise relationships between sections.
• Group information into categories or hierarchies, where possible.
• Information Mapping. Draw up a matrix to organise and interrelate material

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 over-study. However, how you organise and integrate new information is still more important than how much time you spend studying.
8 "I'm Gonna Stay Up All Night Until I Get This"
  Avoid Mental Exhaustion. Take short breaks often when studying. When you take a study break, and just before you go to sleep at night, don't think about study. Relax and unwind, mentally and physically.

Source: NUIM Study Skills Module

Study Skills Video Guide.

12 Steps to Improve your Study Habits

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