How to Beef Up Your Study Skills
Once upon a time, educators believed that people were either "good students" or "bad students."
Good students found it easy to absorb information and pass tests about it.
Bad students found it hard to soak up information and pass tests about it.
Some educators foolishly believed that the ability to study efficiently was an indicator of intelligence - that good students were smarter than bad students.
Then all that changed. Psychologists realized that studying wasn't directly tied to intelligence. They started to understand that some very intelligent people simply lacked specific study skills that could be taught.
So, what are good study skills? Here are some simple approaches that we recommend to our students at StraighterLine.
Does your mind wander when you have to read a long passage? If so, your reading skills need a quick tune-up. Here are some steps to take:
First, minimize distractions. Find a quiet place where you can read and concentrate.
Second, get an overview of your reading selection by skimming it. Pay special attention to chapter titles, subheads and boldface text. After you skim, you'll have a good idea about what your reading selection is all about.
Third, dig a little deeper by skimming the first and last sentences of each paragraph to discover the main ideas they contain. Make notes in the margins or highlight important information or ideas.
Fourth, read each paragraph or short section more closely. As you do, identify its main idea and supporting arguments. Again, make notes or use a highlighter.
Fifth, retell the information to yourself or to someone else. When you explain aloud the main idea and supporting arguments, you cement the information in your mind.
Sixth, review what you have read, and the notes you took, every few days.
Seventh, reflect about the material. Try to see how it fits into the bigger picture of the subject or course that you are studying.
Whether you are taking notes on online course materials, lectures, or reading assignments, here are some steps to success:
Write the main ideas larger than the supporting ideas. (Or underline them, or write them all in capital letters.) This technique helps you remember the big ideas and makes it easier for you to review them later on when you study your notes.
Leave lots of white space. Cluttered notes are overwhelming and harder to read.
Make a separate outline that summarizes your notes. It should clarify the main points and supporting information.
Write in your margins or highlight important ideas. The idea is to make the most important material stand out from surrounding information.