General Study Skills
Students will be aware of specific study strategies and understand how to access study skills resources.
Review the differences in expectations between studying in high school and college. (Some differences are offered
in each section below.) Students who rarely needed to study outside of class time in high school need to be aware
that college will be different.
Review the standard guideline of 3 hours of study time per credit formula. Ask students to calculate how much time
they are actually devoting to studying vs. how much the formula suggests they should.
Explain that the biggest factor for success is using a system that works. What worked in the past might not work
now. Encourage them to try new strategies until they find one that helps them achieve their goals.
High School College
Teachers remind students of deadlines, provide time Many instructors will not remind students of
in class to complete assignments, and allow students deadlines or allow late assignments without
to turn in assignments late. penalties. Unless the course is a studio or lab
course, students should not expect time during
class to work on projects.
o Use schedules to control how time is spent. Use a planner (hard copy or electronic) to set blocks of time
in order of priority: attending class, going to work/practice (if relevant), maintaining a healthy lifestyle
(exercise, eating, sleeping), studying, and socializing/relaxing. A balanced approach is best.
o Use time wisely. Brains function best during the day, and social activities often take place at night. Plan
study time throughout the day. Schedule time after lecture classes to review and tidy-up notes. Schedule
time before participatory classes to review material and prepare for activities/discussion. If a course will
be particularly challenging, review the tutor schedule and professor’s office hours and then schedule
study time for the course during the time those resources are available.
o Stick to the schedule. Don’t make it a question of ―Should I study today?‖ instead ask, ―What should I
study today?‖ Use the schedule and get into the habit of studying.
High School College
Teachers provide worksheets that identify key points Professors expect students to be able to identify
or write detailed notes on the board. key points on their own.
Tests cover only material discussed in class. Tests cover points discussed in class plus
information from reading assignments.
Reading assignments are shorter in length; a high Reading assignments are longer in length; a
school student may read one chapter a week. college student may read one chapter a day.
o Use an active reading system. Read with a pencil, pen, or stylus in hand. Take notes, underline key
points, write questions and comments in the margin. Always read an assignment before attending class
so the discussion helps solidify your understanding.
o Use the SQ3R system. SQ3R = Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. Google ―SQ3R‖ for numerous
sites explaining the details of this active reading system.
High school College
Students write what the teacher puts on the board or Professors may provide PowerPoint slides, but
what the teacher tells them is important. most expect students to determine what
information to place in their notes
o Take notes. Students may believe they have memories strong enough to remember important
information, but research shows this is not the case. In a study, students listening to a lecture without
taking notes forgot 25% of what they had heard within 48-hours.*
o Use a clear system. The Cornell or Outline approaches are two of the best because they encourage
students to user their notes by writing questions in the left margin for quick review.
o Listen carefully. Avoid distractions, look at the speaker, listen for transition words that can help you
organize notes—in summary, in conclusion, for example, to illustrate, etc. On average a typical college
student spends 53% of class time listening*; if you tune out or become distracted, you miss a lot.
o Review your notes often. Students should work with their notes each week and master material as the
course progresses. (Note – Students who use OneNote can easily create review sheets and search for
Test Taking Strategies
High school College
Tests cover smaller chunks of information. Tests may cover an entire semester’s worth of
Teachers often provide detailed review sheets or in- Professors may provide a review sheet, but
class study sessions. many will not, expecting students to study
from notes, past quizzes, etc.
Tests focus on recalling memorized facts. Tests focus on recalling facts, but also on
o Prepare. The best way to prevent text anxiety is to be prepared. Follow the time management tips and
set aside study time for each class. Review notes and keep up on reading assignments. Start studying for
the final exam the first week of class; don’t wait until the last minute and cram.
o Ask questions. If a professor doesn’t provide details about an upcoming test, ask about the format. Ask
if they have a sample or past test to look at. Some will, some won’t, but it never hurts to ask.
o Wisely use the time available. Read directions. Circle items you are uncertain about. Don’t leave
answers blank. If time remains, review your answers.
SMARTHINKING Study Skills Handbook. This handbook provides excellent information on time management, note-
taking, and test-taking skills. It also provides an excellent opportunity for having students set up SMARTHINKING
GS 100 University Experience site > Student Handouts
Web sites offering information on SQ3R. North Carolina State offers a good one here:
How to Study in College by Walter Pauk. The library has a copy.
*Information regarding listening skills taken from Pauk’s How to Study in College.