Developing Study Skills



By Jose Munoz, 2020-2021 SCS Student Advising Leader:

As an undergraduate, staying disciplined and organized to study for exams is essential to succeed in your classes. Most students will experience that exams will total for anywhere near 30% to 80% of your class grade. This could induce unnecessary stress if you do not prepare well for upcoming exams and choose to cram instead. 

The first part of developing better study skills would be to clear your schedule and designate specific times to study. Finishing assignments before their deadline, your portion of group projects, and other obligations will allow for a less intense study session. Your mind should be free of other issues when studying. Account for the level of difficulty of an exam and make sure you estimate how many hours of studying you’ll need. If you overestimate, you’ll have more free time. Underestimating usually is obvious and can be fixed if you study early. Personally, clearing my schedule days in advance allows me up to three days of studying with two study sessions per day. Two study sessions per day helps me gauge whether I need to do more or less work.

Once your week is somewhat clear, designate general periods for strictly studying and break times. The goal here is to chip away at the material that will be on a test. Studying is a long-term goal and it’s important to realize it will not be accomplished all at once. Find a nice quiet space, discover what background sound works for you, select a handful of topics to review, and repeat another day. What works best for me is to rotate between different types of studies. First, I will study alone, marking topics I do not understand as well as marking ones I do not need to go over again. Next, I study in groups as teaching someone else defines whether you truly know a topic or not. This also helps me regain knowledge on topics I could not cover myself. Finally, I ask the professors and teaching assistants questions until I feel comfortable to revert to individual study.

Ideally, studying should occur in the weeks before the exam. If you begin to cram for exams multiple issues will occur. Cramming can lead to higher stress levels, loss of sleep, and poor retention of information. Staying well-rested and sleeping will boost the retention of information. Cramming is inefficient because there is no plan or goal laid out to fulfill. Cramming for a test will also lead to prioritizing the wrong material, or carelessly skipping over certain subjects. 

Studying is important to undergraduate life that will even carry over into studying for internships and future job positions. The key points to take away: finish unrelated assignments early, set a study schedule, studying is a long-term goal, and do not cram. As you continue to learn what is best for you, your skills will develop over time and become more efficient.