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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.


Want to study more effectively? Well, you are not alone! Thousands of Red River College Polytechnic students come to the Academic Success Centre every year asking for just this kind of help. They know they can do better in their courses, but they’re just not sure how. On this page, and in the sidebar to the left, you’ll find a list of tips we’ve seen help Red River College Polytechnic students. And, if you don’t get what you need on this page, remember you can always connect with an Academic Coach for one-on-one assistance. 

Study Skills Strategies

The most important tip is to become an active learner. Active learners take ownership of their studies through questioning their approach to learning and by consciously managing their attention, life and study strategies.

Other simple things like organizing your notesmaking concept cards for review, and self-testing can dramatically increase how much course material you are able to remember and use in the future.

All of these study activities should occur using spaced practice, or the intentional visiting and revisiting of material over time. Check out this video by the Learning Scientists for more info:

Take a look below for a few of our favorite study tips. Which ones do you already use? Which ones will you try?

Take 15 minutes after each class to review the day’s class material and lectures. Daily reviews like this are enhanced when you actively manipulate and play with your text. Rewrite what you’re reading in your own words. Create self-tests. Make up games for yourself!

Before reading an article or book, ‘pre-read’ it by examining headings, pictures, graphs, figures, and appendixes to better understand what it covers and how the info is organised.This will serve as a kind of advance organizer that will make the reading more meaningful and enhance memory (Howard, 2006, p. 546).

Use the 5 Day Study Plan to ensure you chunk information, reflect, revisit and self test yourself on new material. This plan lays out a study strategy with brain-based learning principles in mind.

Use Retrieval Practice to better implant knowledge into long term memory. Check out the video below on how you can harness the power of this study tool.

Don’t multitask when studying as it will be harder to retrieve information during testing.  We can only perform one cognitive function at a time and do it well.

Reorganize new material you have read or heard in class. This will help convert the material to long-term memory

Set goals and develop a purpose. Answer the question, why am I studying this material? How does it relate to my long-term goals?

After studying for an hour, take a break and exercise or walk around the area. This increases oxygen levels in the brain and speeds up the learning process.

Put important points on flashcards and review them often. You could do this activity while riding the bus.

Ask for help when needed and connect with an Academic Coach.

Howard, P. (2006). The Owner’s Manual for the Brain. Austin Texas: Bard Press.
Jensen, E. (2008). Brain-Based Learning. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.
Posner, M., Rothbart, M. (2007). Educating the Human Brain. Washington: American Psychological Association.

Study Myths

Five Myths About Studying

Many students have misconceptions about learning. Believing these myths results in developing bad habits that are counterproductive to academic success. Below are some common myths about learning in college.

Myth I    Studying more or longer results in better grades.

It is not just how long you study that is important, but how well you study – think quality not quantity. Learn and use appropriate strategies to develop an efficient study system that works for you.

Myth II    There’s one study system everyone can use.

Each student has to discover the best system for studying based on individual learning style, available time, reading and writing abilities and course load. Practice and trial and error are required to find the most strategic studying methods that work.

Myth III  Knowing the course material is enough.

Many college-level courses are designed to go deeper than simple knowledge of material. They require you to apply the knowledge to new situations or to think critically using analysis and/or cause and effect to problem-solve.

Myth IV  Cramming the night before will keep material fresh.

Regular review and study over a longer period of time results in actual learning and retention, which is preferable to relying on cramming the night before to do well on a test or exam.

Myth V    Writing has very little impact on learning.

Research indicates that writing more, including making class and textbook reading notes and creating study/ review sheets, will improve your retention.

Reference: Hansen, R.S. & Hansen, K. (2008). The complete idiot’s guide to study skills. New York: Alpha