Study Skills to Pay The Bills: 10 Tips to Keep You From Cramming

By Adrianna Domingos-Lupher

Going back to school as an adult learner can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.  When I taught College Success for a local community college, I absolutely loved my adult students for one simple reason: they really wanted to be there. My adult or “non-traditional” students were my most motivated students, but they were also my most nervous and insecure students.
 
One their biggest concerns?  Mastering the art of studying.  Lucky for them, our College Success class was all about teaching students the skills they needed to become studying ninjas.
 
True story.
 
Here are my top 10 study tips for kicking butt this school year.
 
10 Steps to Becoming a Studying Master
 
1. Start studying from day one.
 
That’s right. Day one.  When school starts, studying starts.  Hit the books hard and establish your study routine immediately.
 
2. Find (and friend) the smart kids.

 
Geek is the new chic…find the smartest students in class, make friends, and then start a study group with them.  Whatever you do, remember this: your study group is a study group and not a social hour.
 
If you’re the smarty pants don’t brush off the students seeking your help.  The most significant marker of content mastery is the ability to teach what you know to others.
 

3. Accept the fact that you suck at mornings or embrace your inner early bird.
 
Pay attention to your body and your energy levels. Notice what times of day you feel the most energized and focused and try to schedule your study sessions at those times.
 
If you’re an early bird, capitalize on that.  If you’re a night owl, don’t bother lying to yourself about waking up early to study.
 
4. Location, location, location!
 
It doesn’t matter how much time you have to study if you’re in the wrong environment.  If you’re easily distracted, stay away from high traffic areas like coffee shops and library entrances.  If you’re a napper, don’t study in bed or while laying down.   It might take you a few locations to figure it out, but once you do it will improve your productivity many times over.
 

5. Prep your work station.
 
Study like a boss.  Make sure you have everything you need for a successful study session.  Keep your books, notebooks, pens, pencils, calculators, highlighter, and any other school related items easily accessible.  Also, if you’re a snacker, don’t forget to have a drink and snack handy.

A word to the wise: Avoid crunchy and messy snacks.  They can distract you from the study process!
 
6. Chunk it up.
 
The average adult has an attention span of approximately 20 minutes.  Break your studying into 20-minute segments with a 5-10 minute break in between.   This “chunking” method…yes, that’s a thing…works for reading assignments as well.
 
7. Use the right study technique for each subject.
 
Study techniques are not one-size-fits-all for all subjects..  Some classes, like math classes, require that you interact with the text as you read it.  When studying math and science, be prepared to work out examples as you go.  With lecture based and heavy-reading classes, have a notebook and highlighter ready to go.
 
8. Dual Notebooks are twice as nice.
 
Have you ever found yourself furiously jotting down notes during class only to open your notebook three days later and not understand what the heck you wrote?  Try the 2-notebook system.
 
Use one notebook for taking notes in class and a second for transcribing your notes from class when you get home.  By rewriting your notes, you are giving  yourself and opportunity to reflect on what you learned in class and figure out any gaps in your understanding.   Rewriting your notes is literally a study session in itself!

9. Read like a champ and get more out of it by mastering SQ3R.
 
Don’t knock SQ3R (survey, question, read, recite, and review) ‘til you rock it.    I truly believe that this is THE way to read to maximize your ability to retain information (read: comprehension).  This method is especially useful if you’re not an avid reader or if you’re tackling challenging subject matter. 
 
10. Remember that studying is a skill…not a talent.

The more you practice structured, technique-rich studying, the better you’ll get at it.  It takes awhile to learn what works best for you so don’t be afraid to try new approaches.

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