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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.


There’s no doubt about it, starting college will place extra demands on your time. The math is simple! Think about it - you have 168 hours in a week and need to budget sleep, eating, transportation, classes, work, and recreation. In the time remaining , you will have to make some decisions about managing your time since you may need 8 to 10 hours per week of study time for each subject you’re enrolled in.

When deciding how to allocate your precious time, consider the tips and tricks found below. And remember, there’s always help if you need it – connect with an Academic Coach to learn more about how you can master the art of time management.

Time and Self Management Tips

Want to have more time at the end of your studies instead of more studies when you’ve run out of time? Check out these quick tips.

Take Charge: Decide what you will do with your time instead of wondering where the time has gone.

  1. Take two 24 hr days from your schedule: one weekday and one day on the weekend.
  2. Write out how much time you spend each day re: sleep, class, schoolwork, travel, your job, exercise, eating, with friends, on social media, etc.
  3. Add up those hours. Is it more than 24 hrs per day?
  4. Do the exercise again, but write in how much time you will spend on each in order to be the best you, maxing your effectiveness as a student by balancing sleep, social life, exercise, and studies.
  5. Create a 24 hour schedule for weekdays and weekends. Stick to it! You’ve sacrificed much to be a student. Make sure to max your effectiveness!

Use a Helper: Find the time management tool that works for you.

Make Friends with an Organizer! Whether it's a physical calendar, a calendar on your phone, or another type of calendar or day planner, find something that works best for you.

  1. Ask around and see what organizing system others use to keep track of due dates and study schedules. Choose a system.
  2. Add in all test, exam, and project due dates.
  3. Add in reminders at weekly intervals for where you want to be at in a project or in your studies. For example, a week before a paper is due, plan to have the rough draft completed; a week before the draft, have outline completed; a week before that, have most research completed. For an exam, have review of certain chapters a week before the exam, etc. Many forget to schedule reminders and then are stressed at the last minute.

Make It Bite-Sized: Research shows that studying in 20-30 minute blocks with 3-10 minutes breaks produces greater gains than studying for hours without a break.

  1. Stay disciplined: Don’t let your small break become watching an episode(s) of your favorite show. Save it as a reward for when you’re done studying.
  2. Use your break to get some quick exercise, food, etc.
  3. When you study—stay focused: Put your phone out of reach; close down email and any other distractions.
  4. Use the 5 minutes before class and the 2-5 minutes after class to quickly “anchor” the material in your mind.
  5. A healthy body leads to a sharper mind.

Remember the BIG THREE:

  1. Minimum of eight hours of sleep a night.
  2. Regular physical activity-even just a walk or sit-ups every 20-30 minutes of studying.
  3. A healthy diet.

Still need more time? Here are one dozen ways to stretch your study time:

  1. Study on the bus. Make flashcards of appropriate materials, and keep these in your pocket to review while you ride the bus or carpool.
  2. Recite content while you fold laundry, do dishes, dust, vacuum, or do any other repetitive, mindless chores. Reciting while you are physically active can really support learning and memory.
  3. Come in 30-60 minutes early at least one day per week. Use that time to organize yourself, review notes, recap/re-write notes, do homework.
  4. Stay late an extra hour or two at least one day per week. Use that time to organize yourself, review notes, recap/re-write notes, do homework.
  5. Get up early on Saturday morning and do your homework/studying before you get into your other Saturday activities. You’ll have a lot more fun on Saturday night if your homework is done – right?
  6. Get organized. Get a study place, assemble all the tools and materials you will need to work on a subject for 45 minutes – 1 hour, then get down to business. Make a pact with yourself that you will use that space for studying only and stick to it. Eventually you will condition yourself to begin working as soon as you sit down in your “study spot”.
  7. Make a “to do” list. You can do this for each day, week, etc. List the tasks you have to complete, and follow the list, checking things off as you get them done. It is motivating; it makes you want to get on to the next task. Consequently, you waste less time.
  8. Set a specific goal for each study session. Consult your “to do” list. If you know what you want to accomplish, you will not waste time procrastinating. As you reach your goals, check them off your list.
  9. Prioritize your tasks. Budget time according to mark values and due dates of different assignments.
  10. Invest some time in learning to increase your reading speed. It seems counter-intuitive, but reading more quickly supports comprehension. When you read a little bit faster than your normal comfortable rate, you make yourself concentrate. Accept that reading to study and learn is work, and learn ways to make your reading time productive.
  11. Don’t recopy notes. If you feel the need to rewrite notes, re-work them into a new format. For example, if you take outline notes in class, re-write them onto a poster in web format, or create a question/answer page. Changing the format of written material is a powerful learning tool.
  12. Be careful when you study in a group. It is really easy for groups to get off-track and waste time. At the beginning of each group study session, clarify the goal(s) for that session, and keep your activities focused on that goal. Keep socializing separate from studying.

And remember, we’re always here to help. Connect with an Academic Coach today for more time management tips!

Tip Sheets

Use the tip sheets below to apply the information learned in this section.

Time Management