When I was in high school, my dad was always telling me to “work smarter, not harder.” I rolled my eyes at this advice at the time, but now I see the wisdom in his words. If you’re going to spend two hours on a Thursday night studying for your history exam, doesn’t it make sense to spend that time in the most productive way possible? Developing effective study skills and learning strategies can help you work smarter. Here’s some tips on how to do just that.

#1: Don’t cram.

Most of us learn better when we study smaller amounts of information over longer periods of time. This is why “cramming” for an exam isn’t terribly effective! Studying for one hour every other night is better than a three or four hour study marathon.

#2: Make reading active.

The best students don’t just read. A textbook, after all, is not a novel. They underline, write notes in the margins, read out loud, create outlines—anything that makes reading more active. One method is to skim a chapter first, noting the main points, then read in depth, then summarize the main points.

#3: Start a study group.

Study groups work for many students, even if you think you already know the information. Explaining a concept to another student solidifies and clarifies the information in your mind in important ways.

#4: Break information into “chunks.”

Organize information in ways that make sense to you. Break bigger topics down into smaller ones and then summarize the smaller pieces. Create an outline or a diagram that organize the information in a way that makes sense to you.

#5: Talk with your teachers.

Go to their office hours or approach them after class. Ask questions. Most of our faculty will be delighted with your interest.

#6: Most importantly, figure out what works for you!

Identifying specific study strategies that work for you, your learning style, and your course subject are crucial. Each semester, we offer classes that help you develop the skills you need to be a successful college student. Your instructors can also help you find the best ways to learn in their discipline or program.

Whether you need to improve your reading comprehension, memorization, or note taking skills, we can all learn how to learn better—and smarter.

What study tips do you have?

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