Improving Your Study Methods
student-sheet A and
Read the vocabulary
terms and definitions out loud (taking turns with your partner), then
work with your partner to fill in the missing information below. As you
do, notice the words that you have trouble understanding (this will tell
you about weaknesses in pronunciation and/or listening). If needed, spell
missing words for your partner, but DO NOT let your partner see your page!
When you finish, use your eyes to compare papers (to be sure you have the
complete information). For extra oral practice, talk about the
Underlined words are in the
I. How to Take Good Notes: The Five R’s
A. Recording – write down ____________________________ and
1. Use an ______________________ to show the difference between
major and minor information
a. In your notes, indicate the material’s significance
by using an ________________________ [e.g., (A,B,C) for main points, but (a,b,c)
for supporting points]
b. Listen closely for your _________________________ signal
words that indicate major points (such as “this is important” or
“be sure you understand this”)
c. Take lecture _____________ using only ____________________
half of your page; leave the other side free for complementary
notes on this topic from your textbook.
to mentally _________________________ the flow of the lecture,
don’t just passively listen
a. Develop a big picture _________________: don’t get
distracted by isolated facts.
b. Concentrate on the overall _____________ or ________________
of the lecture. How do sub-points support that theme?
– summarize the _______________ in a simple form
Summarize using your own words instead of trying to copy the
Remember that notes are reminders, not a transcript or
______________ of the material.
Copy verbatim only definitions and other material that needs to be
Quickly write notes in brief phrases, not complete sentences.
c. Develop _____________________ system of abbreviations
for long __________________ (e.g., medc=medicine, medl=medical)
C. Revising – look over and fix the material as soon as possible
after recording it
1. Fix (revise) confusing fragments of
________________________ in your __________________.
2. Clarify abbreviations; be sure you will still know
_______________________ a month from now.
3. __________________________ some connecting thoughts or facts
missing? If so, find them!
4. Don’t be afraid to ask a ____________________ or your
_____________________ for help.
D. Reflecting – think about what you’ve written down
1. Did you get the meat _______________________ of the
lecture? Can you see the big picture?
2. Can you discover ______________________ of your professor’s
3. Do you see both general information, and particular
E. Reviewing – review your notes ____________________ you
took them, and also before the exam.
1. Involve more senses by reading your notes out loud.
2. Begin early when ________________________ for exams; make time to
review __________________, not just one time.
II. Studying for Exams
A. Compile all of your source material (lecture notes, textbook
notes, handouts, things you have found on the Internet, etc.), and
___________________________________ before starting.
B. Begin studying early for the upcoming test; this requires planning.
1. Gauge starting time on the number of exams and conflicting
assignments. (If you have more than one ___________________________ due on
the same day, then decide which one you will start working on first, and
begin early enough to get everything done.)
2. Start studying at least three to four days prior to your
3. Take into account the time needed for extracurricular
__________________________. (You need to do more than “just study”; be
sure your schedule includes time to exercise, honor work or family
commitments, and spend time with your friends.)
C. Be an efficient studier. (see section III below)
D. Concentrate ______________________ on lecture notes and
________________________ on reading material. (Most teachers choose to
lecture about the most important things in the textbooks, and design exams
to find out if you understood what they considered to be most important.)
E. Keep your eyes on the big picture.
1. Integrate information from many sources in order to get a
more complete ____________________ of the material.
2. Analyze each bit of information to determine its
_______________ and role in the overall concept.
F. Consult your professor if your __________________ or textbook are
G. Study using the following suggested procedure: (1) carefully
study your lecture _______________; (2) with each section of
_______________, find supporting ideas in pertinent reading
material (i.e., review and take ________________ from your books and
handouts); (3) go over the ___________ once again in reverse order and be
sure you can tie the whole concept together.
III. Being an Efficient Studier (Do the most in the least
amount of time.)
A. Study a subject no longer than two hours at one sitting.
B. Take short breaks approximately every _______________________ (at least
stand up and walk for a minute to get your blood moving)
C. Stay focused and concentrate deeply while studying.
1. Minimize interruptions (turn off your mobile phone) and
background noise (don’t be near an interesting ____________________ or a
2. Set a goal to be accomplished before taking your next break
(e.g., “get to ________________” or “finish question 2”).
D. Don’t waste small amounts of ______________________, use them to study.
(Believe it or not,
you can accomplish a lot in just ten minutes.)
1. Read a section of a required book.
2. Recite a ____________________________ to memorize.
3. Study a review sheet or review your notes.
4. Discuss class-related topics
IV. How to Prepare for and Take an Exam
A. Before the exam
1. Exercise the night before, get plenty of sleep, and eat a good
2. Get up early, and spend some time looking at key notes to refresh
3. Walk to class (walking gets your blood moving); arrive about 15
minutes before the test starts, and just relax while you wait.
4. Do not study once you’re inside the classroom; cramming
will only create confusion for you in the test.
5. Trust your preparation (say to yourself: “I’ve studied hard, so
I’m ready for this”), but never be over-confident (over-confidence
makes you careless).
B. During the exam
1. Quickly look over the test pages, looking for parts that will
need more time (like essay questions); then go through the test carefully
and methodically. Look at the back of test pages (if it is printed
“double-sided” then you don’t want to leave half of it blank!).
2. If you truly don’t have an answer for an item, skip over
that questions (i.e., don’t waste time thinking about what you don’t
3. Watch the clock to be sure you have time for every section. Many
teachers do not allow mobile phones in the classroom, so wear a watch
(don’t plan to use the clock in your phone).
4. Take a short “mental break” in your seat for a minute or two if
you start to feel yourself panicking, but don’t “look around the
room” (lest teachers think you are cheating).
5. Make an educated guess when you are not sure of the answer: e.g.,
eliminate choices that are clearly wrong, and then look for clues to show
you the best remaining answer.
6. If you have extra time, check your paper before turning it in; be
sure you didn’t leave anything blank, but don’t change any answers unless
you are sure you made a mistake (your first guess is normally best). Be
sure your name and other essential information is on the paper.
V. Dealing with School Frustrations
A. Consider the past unchangeable, and study to change the outcome of the
B. Realize that you are never defeated until you accept defeat.
C. Keep your studies moving forward. Review to prepare for the next
test or course, and learn from your mistakes (especially in “skills
courses” like a foreign language). But do not waste time thinking too much
about what you have done wrong (like trying to prove that your answer
wasn’t really incorrect).
D. Realize that the first grades of the semester will probably be the
worst. Instead of being discouraged, remind yourself that you will do
better next time, once you are used to the subject or professor.
E. Put forth your best effort; after that, don’t worry. If
you truly do your best, you have nothing to be ashamed of, even if the
results are disappointing.
F. Religious people often find peace and strength through prayer (such as
peace of mind before an exam, and the strength to forgive someone who hurt
you). If you are looking for extra help, this might be a great place to
G. No one is perfect, so forgive your friends and teachers, just as you
want them to forgive your own mistakes. Remember that forgiveness is a
great source of peace and harmony.
Sources: This information was adapted for Chinese students by Michael
Krigline, M.A., in 2009, based on a handout given to new students at
Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina. The
original material listed this source: Harves, Gene. Harves Guide to
Successful Study Skills. New York: New American Library, 1981.
For discussion questions and vocabulary, see the
main article (click
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