Effective study habits are not inherited; they are learned. Study skills and strategies are a variety of methods to help understand and effectively use your process of taking in and organizing new information, retaining information, or dealing with assignments, tests, and exams.
Good study skills are critical to your success in school. They:
Did you know that you can train your brain to concentrate better and retain more information?
Principles That Help Improve Memory
An important principle of memory is that you must pay attention to information if you want to remember it. Improve your ability to pay attention and concentrate by:
Learning is influenced by interest. We pay attention to, and remember, things that we're interested in. Try to find something interesting about the information you're studying, and you'll be more likely to remember it.
As you're studying, test yourself to see if you've learned the information. If you make errors in recall, you know that you do not have the information in memory. It's better to discover this before an exam, when you have the opportunity to do something about it, rather than during the exam.
4. Distributed practice
Try to space your study times. Studying for several one hour blocks of time, with breaks in between, is more effective than studying for several hours without a break. Research shows that immediate and long-term retention of information is greater for students who practice spaced study than for students who cram for hours at a time.
You're more likely to remember something if it's meaningful to you. If it doesn't make sense to you, it will be harder to learn. To increase your chances of remembering information, try to fully understand it and make it personally meaningful.
One way to improve your chances of recall is to repeatedly expose yourself to the information; repeated exposure to information makes the neural traces stronger. Review immediately after exposure to new material (i.e. after lectures; after reading a chapter), and on a regular basis.
The more you consciously organize material as you learn it, the easier it will be to recall the information later. Try to take notes in lectures and from your text in an organized fashion. When you're preparing for an exam, study related information in your lecture and textbook notes together.
Visualization is a powerful way to remember information. When you use mental pictures, or imagery, you engage the right side of your brain which can make learning more effective.
You are more likely to remember something if you associate it with something you already know well. For example, how do you find Italy on a map? You look for a shape of a boot. Thus, you associate Italy with something that you know very well: a boot.
Memory Aid Techniques
Here are some techniques to help you retain and recall information.
Rhymes are useful for remembering important information. Take the information you want to remember and turn it into rhyming sentences.
Acronyms are code words. Each of the letters in the code word stand for the first letter of the words that you want to remember.
Acrostics are like acronyms, except they are code sentences instead of code words. The first letter of each of the words in the code sentence stands for the first letter of each of the words you want to remember.
The key word technique is useful for remembering definitions, meanings of abstract words, or words from other languages. Associate a new word and its definition with familiar and concrete items that you already know. This involves two steps: first, take the word and think of something that the word reminds you of; then, take the meaning of the word and try to work the meaning into a mental picture you have of the word.
Create a Study Space
This is the first step in improving your concentration. If possible, find a particular place in your home to use only for studying.
Your study space should include a desk large enough to spread out on, a no-glare desk lamp, and a straight chair.
Your study space should be free from distractions, both audible and visible. Music should be instrumental; any other type of music will probably distract you. Visual distractions, such as a window with a view of a busy playground, will compete for your attention.
Take a Break
Do you catch yourself daydreaming, sitting and staring at your books, telling yourself to have more will power? Associating your study area and time with the little sermon you preach to yourself defeats the purpose of improving concentration. Instead, when you find yourself beginning to daydream, take a short break. Concentration tends to lag after an hour, so breaks are important to help maintain focus. Try studying in blocks of 30-40 minutes, followed by a 5-10 minute break.
Select a Symbol that is Related to Study
Choose a special article of clothing to wear when you study. It can be a wild hat, a colorful scarf, or any other piece of clothing that is easy to put on and take off. Wear it only when you're in your study area, and take it off when you're done studying. After a while, you will feel like studying each time you put it on.
Set Aside a Certain Time to Begin Studying
If you can make your studying habitual (at the same time each day), it will be much easier to begin studying. If this behaviour takes place at a certain time each day, you will find it much easier to start studying without daydreaming or talking about other things. Pay attention to the time of day that you focus the best.
Set Small, Short-Range Goals and Keep a Record of Your Goal Setting
For more information on goal setting please click here.
Use a Reminder Pad
When you're studying, if you happen to think of something that needs to be done, write it down on your reminder pad. After you have written it down, you can go back to studying without distraction. When you look at the pad later, you'll be reminded of the things you have to do.
Relax Completely Before you Start to Study
Sit in a comfortable chair in a quiet room. For each muscle group mentioned below, tense or contract for a count of 10, then relax slowly for a count of 10. Notice the difference between the feeling of tension and relaxation for each muscle group. The transition from tension to relaxation should be a slow one, like air slowly leaking from a balloon.
The first time through, the whole procedure should take about 20 minutes. As time goes on, you'll be able to perform the steps more quickly. Eventually, you should be able to completely relax almost at will.
If you typically read a chapter in your textbook and then, a few minutes later, have trouble recalling what you read, you're not alone. Many students benefit from learning strategies to retain and process the information in their texts.
Try the SQ4R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Record, Review) reading technique, which helps you retain and process the information in your texts.
SQ4R- A Reading Strategy
The key to being a good and successful reader is to make reading an active process, instead of simply passively moving your eyes along the page. You need to work at understanding what you are reading, search for main details, link ideas together, and understand new vocabulary. The goal is to try to do all of this while only reading the chapter once; you don’t have time to re-read!
The following reading strategy can help you become a more active reader.
S – Survey
Preview the chapter before reading it. Read the introduction to get an idea of what will be covered in the chapter. Scan the headings and subheading, pictures, graphs, etc. Get a feel for what the chapter is about and also how long you expect it to take to read. Divide the chapter into sections.
Q – Question
Before reading, turn the headings and subheadings into questions that you will try to find the answer to while reading. Write them down. This makes reading more active because you are doing something with the information. An example of a heading you might find in a Sociology text is “Ethnocentrism”. Turning this into a question could give you “What is ethnocentrism?” If ethnocentrism was a subheading under the heading “Culture”, the question could be “What is ethnocentrism and how does it affect culture?”
R – Read
Now it is time to read! While reading a section, try to answer the question you created. Look for main ideas, new vocabulary and try to link information with other things you have learned so far (from the prof’s lectures and the text). Don’t just passively move your eyes along the lines of the page. THINK about what you are reading and what it means.
R – Recite/Rephrase
Once you've read a section and found the answer to your question (which should be the main idea of the paragraph/section), ask yourself if you understand it. The key to knowing if you understand or not is if you can rephrase the idea in your own words. If you can’t do it, you probably don’t have a good enough grasp of the concept. Read it over again and look at any examples that are provided.
R – Record
Now write down the answer to your questions and any other important points that you feel are worth studying and remembering. Try not to just copy – put things in your own words. It is easier to remember something that is in our words than something that is in someone else’s. There is no need to write complete sentences. Use points as much as possible. One of the major goals of creating these notes is to condense the information as much as possible.
R – Review
Once you've pulled out the main ideas from the text and written them down, you no longer need the textbook. Spend your time reviewing the notes that you have made. It is much easier to work with a condensed version of the information. Review your notes regularly so that you will not have to re-learn everything by the time the midterm and exam come along.
Why participate in a study group?
Working Effectively in Groups
It can be exciting to form groups to complete a project, especially when you have a group full of friends. However, sometimes gaining support and cooperation from all of the group members can prove to be challenging! Some group members are unwilling to accept responsibility, while others are dominant and pushy. This kind of co-operation within the group can have adverse effects on your performance in the project. Unfortunately, this is so common that you are likely to find yourself facing similar situations in your future career.
When working in groups, it's important to foster the 5R’s:
Responsibility - Contribute as much as you can and complete the work that is assigned to you
Reliance - Help each other to learn from and complete the project
Relationship - Encourage each other to share information, exchange viewpoints, discuss learning strategies and form good partnerships
Respect - Be sensitive to each other's needs, feelings and positions
Reflection - Be aware of how much progress the group has made and how much you have contributed to the group
Forming Study Groups
Forming study groups may be your saving grace. They may be required for project work, preparing for course work or assignments, or studying for exams. Study groups can provide a support system to get you through some of those difficult classes. They allow you to cover more information by dividing up the work among the group members and they allow you to learn information you don’t know. Working in study groups allows you to explain concepts to other students to help you learn what your strengths and weaknesses are with specific information.
Here are some tips on how to form study groups:
"How to Form Study Groups in College." BookRags.com. BookRags, n.d. Web. 13 April 2016.
"Study Group Handout." The McGraw Centre for Teaching and Learning. Princeton University, n.d. Web. 13 April 2016.
Having strong skills, such as reading, document use, writing, and thinking, can help you succeed in your apprenticeship training. By having these skills, you will be able to:
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada created a document that provides tips and strategies to learn these skills.
There are a variety of tools and apps that can assist you with studying. We have tried and used some of them and others have come to our attention from faculty and students who have found them helpful.
Red Deer Polytechnic does not endorse the apps and sites listed here, and is not responsible for any technological problems that may arise from their use.
Red Deer Polytechnic recognizes that our campus is situated on Treaty 7 land, the traditional territory of the Blackfoot, Tsuu T’ina and Stoney Nakoda peoples, and that the central Alberta region we serve falls under Treaty 6, traditional Métis, Cree and Saulteaux territory. We honour the First Peoples who have lived here since time immemorial, and we give thanks for the land where RDP sits. This is where we will strive to honour and transform our relationships with one another.