Study Skills

Tips from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Studying 101: Study Smarter Not Harder


Reading is not studying

Simply reading and re-reading texts or notes is not actively engaging in the material. It is simply re-reading your notes. Only ‘doing’ the readings for class is not studying. It is simply doing the reading for class. Re-reading leads to quick forgetting.

Think of reading as an important part of pre-studying, but learning information requires actively engaging in the material (Edwards, 2014). Active engagement is the process of constructing meaning from text that involves making connections to lectures, forming examples, and regulating your own learning (Davis, 2007). Active studying does not mean highlighting or underlining text, re-reading, or rote memorization. Though these activities may help to keep you engaged in the task, they are not considered active studying techniques and are weakly related to improved learning (Mackenzie, 1994).

Ideas for active studying include:

  • Create a study guide by topic. Formulate questions and problems and write complete answers. Create your own quiz.
  • Become a teacher. Say the information aloud in your own words as if you are the instructor and teaching the concepts to a class.
  • Derive examples that relate to your own experiences.
  • Create concept maps or diagrams that explain the material.
  • Develop symbols that represent concepts.
  • For non-technical classes (e.g., English, History, Psychology), figure out the big ideas so you can explain, contrast, and re-evaluate them.
  • For technical classes, work the problems and explain the steps and why they work.
  • Study in terms of question, evidence, and conclusion: What is the question posed by the instructor/author? What is the evidence that they present? What is the conclusion?


Using Mind Maps to help you learn






Cornell Note Taking

Click to access cornell%20note%20taking%20system.pdf


Brain Booster Tips

Tip #1

Your brain loves color.  Use color pens  or use color paper.  Color helps memory.

Tip #2

Your brain can effectively focus and concentrate for up to 25 minutes .  Take a 10-minute break after 20 – 30 minutes of studying.

Tip #3

Your brain needs repetition.  It is better do short frequent reviews than one long review.  What counts is how many times your brain sees something, not how long it sees it in any given sitting.

Tip #4

Your brain seeks patterns and connections.  When you are learning something ask yourself, “What does this remind me of?”  This helps your memory because the brain connects new knowledge to something you already know.

Tip #5

Your brain is like a sea of electro-chemical activity.  Both electricity and chemicals flow better in water.  If you are dehydrated, you cannot focus as well as you should in class or when you are studying.  Headaches are often connected to dehydration too.  Drink plenty of water…not sodas, juice or coffee.


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