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Academic Study Skills

This guide can assist you to increase your understanding of course material, improve your marks, and make learning a little less stressful. Here you will find strategies for time management, reading and note-taking, study skills, and test-taking.

Study Strategies for the Sciences

Know how the course is structured and how the instructor structures it.

  • Get a bird’s eye view of the entire course from beginning to end. Know what topics will be covered overall. In your texts, look over the table of contents, learning objectives for each chapter, tables, graphs, word lists, summary statements, sample questions, and the index.
  • All instructors are different, and it is a timesaver to understand how each course will be organized. Find out if they use the textbook heavily, give only lecture notes or copies of notes for review, and/or use any supplementary materials for course content.

The content of science courses progresses from the simple to the more complex.

  • Each topic builds on the information learned from a previous one.
  • Sciences tend to be accumulative in nature, so learn and understand the basics before moving on to more complex material. Practice and repeat until it becomes second nature; the fundamentals are referred to repeatedly throughout science courses.
  • Keep up with the work and don’t fall behind. Try not to miss important building blocks along the way as this could lead to gaps in understanding later on.

Learn and practice the terminology, formulas, and definitions, and memorize as much as possible. Plan to study at least five days a week.

  • Write out all important terms, formulas, and definitions in your own words and include examples where possible.
  • Review and recite them as often as possible, orally and by writing them out.
  • Test yourself on them, focusing on the ones you do not know as well, until they are second nature to you.
  • Include additional ones as you progress from chapter to chapter, reviewing old ones and practicing the new ones.
  • Write and recite explanations frequently to help the unfamiliar become familiar.

Make problem- solving a part of your everyday study sessions.

  • Work out problems every study session.
  • Review problems from previous study sessions
  • Don’t ask why if you don’t understand right away; you’ll be shown why later.

Learn the fine distinctions between related items and describe in your own words similarities and differences.

  • Facts and concepts are more easily understood and recalled when you see how they are associated or related to each other or how they fit as parts of a whole.
  • Relate what you are learning to everyday life experiences as much as possible.
  • Learn and be able to recite what is similar and what is different about the concepts in the course.

Attend all classes, take good notes in the lectures, and be an active listener.

  • Regular class attendance is one of the best indicators of success in college programs.
  • To be prepared, study each chapter/do the readings before your classes.
  • Take complete notes in class, leave spaces for unclear or missing information, and go over your notes after class to fill in anything you need to. Also, review by summarizing main topics in your own words in the margins beside your notes.
  • Listen actively – be alert and concentrate on the lecture to get all of the main points; take down any instructions/directions given by the instructor.

Review and study for tests/exams well before their scheduled dates. Here are some suggestions for studying in the sciences.

  • If a particular science is the most difficult for you, always study it first when you are the most alert.
  • Review regularly to avoid cramming when you do get a test/exam scheduled.
  • Review the topics and types of questions that are hard for you or where you tend to make the most mistakes.
  • Make up flash cards for formulas, definitions, terminology, and facts to be memorized. Study them every chance you get.
  • Write up summary sheets or make diagrams for appropriate topics/concepts. Visualize or picture these in your mind as you’re learning the information.
  • Break large technical terms into smaller chunks, learn each part, and then put the parts back together again to remember the spelling.
  • Make up mnemonic (memory) devices for lists or categories of things you have to learn.
  • Create sample tests of questions to practice, and include as many problems as possible. Time yourself when doing these tests to help you regulate your pace to coordinate with the time you’d be given when actually doing the test.
  • Have a study buddy or family member quiz you on your flash cards, study sheets, etc.
  • Form small study groups of class members, meet regularly and work on the subject together. Explaining subject material and/or quizzing each other will help you all to prepare for the test/exam.