As you dive into a new semester, it’s a great time to think ahead about how to make the most of this school year. One great exercise: think about what kind of a person and student you are.
How do you learn?
Ask yourself some questions, like:
- Are you a procrastinator?
- A thinker who likes to take your time?
- Are you more of an audio or visual learner?
You might consider taking a learning assessment to help you really understand how you learn and study most effectively—talk to your college’s advising office or career center for suggestions.
Next, brainstorm study techniques based on what you’ve learned about yourself.
- Do you focus better after exercise, in the mornings, or at night?
- Do you study better independently or in a study group?
- Do you process information better by reading it or drawing it out/talking yourself through it?
Embrace good habits.
No surprise here, but good habits are the underpinning to your success in college. It isn’t enough to show up for class and study for tests a day or two before. You need to embrace a few important study methods for every single class you take:
Taking notes is essential for effective learning and studying because it gives you something to refer to later on (the most important concepts discussed in class, examples, and more). Note-taking helps many students process information during a lecture and encourages active listening. Need note-taking tips? Check out the Evernote or Note Taker apps for iPads. Dartmouth University also offers a plethora of helpful note-taking tips (video and handouts).
Review your notes.
The best notes in the world won’t do much if you don’t review them! Spend time reviewing your notes (and reorganizing them if needed) after each class, preferably within 24 hours of the class while the information is fresh in your mind.
Read your textbooks.
The best way to get the most out of your textbooks is to truly engage with the text. How? First, preview any chapter before you dive in. Pause after each major section to say aloud or write down what you’ve learned and what questions you have. At the end of a chapter, answer your questions and jot down key takeaways and points you learned in the chapter. If you still have questions or are confused about particular topics, go see your professor.
Make a plan for exam studying.
Ideally, if you stick to the above strategies for each class—taking good notes, reviewing them regularly, reading your text carefully and processing information as you read—by the time a test rolls around, you won’t have to start from zero. However, it’s still important to get as much information about what will be tested and develop a step-by-step study plan well in advance of the test itself. Attend any test review sessions that your professor holds. Get help with challenging concepts beforehand if needed. And most important, give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Cramming is almost always stress inducing and ineffective.
The key is commitment.
Good study habits are critical–and what better time to develop them than at the start of a brand new year? These are some of the basics, but there are many others that will help you study effectively, stay organized, and be the best student you can be. Stick to those good habits and the results will show in your school performance.