Improving Your Study Skills

How can you improve your study skills? Start by asking yourself the question, "Who am I?"

It may sound like a simple question but, according to some experts, knowing yourself – sometimes called "intrapersonal intelligence" – is just as important to your success in school as your ability in math or language.

Find your "study style"

Improve your study skills by defining your study preferences. Do you study best when curled up on a comfy chair, or do you fall asleep? Do you like a bustling study environment, or are you easily distracted? When do you study best – early morning, during the day, or late at night? All these factors are important in determining the best study routine for you.

Strategies for success

The following five strategies can help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your study skills, and how you can get the most out of you study time.

  1. Get Started

    Ask yourself: Am I the type who dives right in, or is getting started the most difficult part of any task? An effective way of beginning an assignment is to break it into smaller parts. For example, if you have four chapters to read, start with only one or two chapters in the first session.

    Once you've broken the assignment down this way, your first task is more manageable and you'll find it easier to begin. After that, schedule as many sessions as necessary to complete the entire assignment. Knowing that part of the assignment is already completed will make it easier for you overall.

  2. Time Management

    Do you use your time well? The key to time management is planning. Map out study sessions in writing, so that you can see how much needs to be accomplished in an allotted study time.

    To manage your time successfully, you need to see the study plan – much like a builder needs to see the blueprints for a building. Using a calendar or a day planner can be helpful for this purpose. In addition, schedule study sessions in time slots that fit your study habits; for example, every day after school, or every evening after dinner.

  3. Organize Assignments

    Are you the organized type? If not, you could try using a color-coded folder for each area to be studied (e.g., a red folder for English, a green folder for social studies, etc.). All loose notes and materials related to that subject area should be placed in the folder regularly, so that when it's time to study, you'll be prepared.

  4. Take Notes

    Do you have trouble taking notes? Trying to write down a teacher's speech word-for-word is nearly impossible and infinitely frustrating. Instead, pick out key words and phrases; this will help you learn to summarize your thoughts. Think of each note-taking session as if you are creating the skeleton or the frame of the area covered. The skeleton still needs to be "fleshed out", however, in order to provide a full picture. You can do this by going back and adding more details to your notes after each session.

  5. Review material

    Do you avoid reviewing material until right before the test? This is a bad idea. No other study skill is more important than reviewing, which you should do at least three times before a test.

    First, review as soon as possible after your first contact with the subject matter – immediately after class or after school, for example. This session will reinforce the material that is still fresh in your mind. At regular intervals afterward – weekly, monthly, or whenever your schedule permits – review the material again. Then, immediately before a test, review the material once more. Repeated contact with the material will help you know it inside and out.

Knowing how to get the most out of a study session offers many rewards, not the least of which are increased time for other pursuits, greater confidence, and better grades. Answering the question "Who am I?" in relation to the study process will improve your skills and insure consistent success.

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