SCS Study Guide

SCS Academic Advising's Keys to Success in Science Courses at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Suggestions for Academic Success

  • Attend every lecture
    • Read the text material before lecture and take thorough lecture notes
    • As soon as possible after lecture, rewrite and/or review your notes, rework example problems and write notes to yourself in the margins
  • Do the assigned reading in an active, not a passive fashion
    • Always read the book with paper and pencil ready
    • Work through example problems as they arise and so some sample exercises in each section
    • Make notes on material that you want to ask questions about later
    • Diligently try to solve problems before asking for assistance
  • Begin the problem sets as soon as they are assigned
    • Aggressively tackle problems after you have reviewed the relevant material
    • Do NOT look at the solution to a problem until you have worked on it seriously (could be as much as 20 minutes!)
    • The best preparations for exams is working problems through to their completion without having to refer to your notes or the text
  • Utilize tutoring services and TA and professor office hours productively
    • Attend office hours regularly, ~once/week
    • Keep in mind that the tutor and TAs are there to help you work through problems, not give you the answers
    • Bring your work to the help session so that someone can show you where you went wrong
  • Support people may ask you questions to help you solve the problem. Begin preparing for exams early
    • Keep your notes organized, your quizzes handy and constantly review material
    • Index cards with important formulas and information may be helpful
    • You can pull them out to review at any time
    • Don’t leave papers to the last minute
    • Research topics beforehand
    • Create an outline
    • Support people may ask you questions to help you solve the problem
    • Be proactive, not reactive and seek help at the first sign of struggle
    • You should be spending approximately  3 or more hours of study time for every hour you spend in class
    • This isn’t counting laboratories
    • Therefore, plan to spend around 9+ hours (some weeks will be more) on physical science and math classes each week
  • Two Types of Learning
    • Rote Learning - Involves verbatim memorization, Easily forgotten. Cannot be manipulated or copied to novel situations e.g. remembering phone numbers, dates, name, etc.
    • Meaningful Learning - Learning that is tied and related to previous knowledge and integrated with previous learning, can be manipulated, applied to novel situations and used in problem solving tasks. Meaningful learning is a continuous, ongoing process; repetition is the key

Study Strategies

The Study Cycle with Intense Study Sessions

Phase 1: Read or preview chapters to be covered in class… before class.  Read the headings, bolded words, look at the pictures and graphs. What are some questions you have?

Phase 2: Go to Class.  Listen actively, take notes (“Answering those questions you made from above”), and participate in class.

Phase 3: Review and process class notes as soon as possible after class (within a few hours)

Phase 4: Incorporate Intense Study Sessions



Study to learn, not to make the grade!

The ability to:

  • Think about thinking (know about knowing)
  • be consciously aware of oneself as a problem solver
  • to monitor and control one’s mental processing
  • use appropriate learning strategies
  • Have a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset

Exams - Hints

Spend enough time reviewing and mastering material

Aim for 100% mastery

Use study sessions for clarification

Use the Study Cycle with Intense Study Sessions

Use TAs, peers and instructors for help if you do not understand how to solve a problem

Remember to put your short and long term goals first

When you make an appointment with yourself to study,


Intense Study Sessions

2-5 minutes:

  • Set Goals for next 40 minutes

30-40 Minutes:

  • Read text more; Selectively highlight
  • Make notes in margins
  • Try working on example problems on your own

before looking at solution; compare methods

  • Work on homework problem/lab

5 minutes:

  • Review what you have just studied

10 Minutes:

  • Take a break


Special thanks to former Chemistry Director of Undergraduate Studies, Gretchen Adams, who provided much of this material.