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Five Top Tips to Improve your Study Skills

Updated on December 21, 2013
Weekly planners can be very helpful in getting yourself organised. Many are available to download for free from various websites.
Weekly planners can be very helpful in getting yourself organised. Many are available to download for free from various websites. | Source

Get Organised

Being organised and planning your studies in advance can help to allow yourself enough time for tasks and to arrange study times around other commitments with more ease. There is no real right or wrong way to plan as different things work for different people and situations and it may take some time to find what works best for you. Some ideas to try could include:

  • Using highlighter pens to mark sections of your text books or written notes. You can also take this a step further and use different colours to code different information such as key concepts, definitions or important terms.
  • Use post it notes to mark pages in text books as they won’t fall out like regular bookmarks can while you are still using the book. You can also write on the portion of the post it note that is sticking out so you know what it is marking. This can save you time when looking for a certain section or revising.
  • Try to set aside small slots of time regularly rather than one long session once a week and stick to these as closely as possible. Many people find that they learn more and more easily when working for many shorter sessions compared to one longer one.

Source

Reading Skills

Reading is all about extracting information from texts with the aim of remembering for future use within your course and beyond. It can be helpful to read through a section or chapter once without writing notes so you can concentrate purely on reading. Afterwards you can make notes and also go back over any parts that where difficult or you didn’t understand when reading it the first time. If you have them, it can also be good to read any assignment or essay titles are requirements at the start of the relevant work so that you can make notes and/or mark sections of information that you will need to refer back too when completing them. This can save time later on.

When reading, regularly stop and think about what you have read. How much did you take in and understand? How does it relate to and compliment/contradict what you already knew about the subject in question? Thinking about what you are reading will help you take more in and can help to pinpoint what if anything may need some extra work in order to fully understand or remember it.

Always studying with good light to avoid straining your eyes and make sure that you are comfortable and warm to avoid unpleasant distractions. Do not study when you are overtired, rushing or stressed as it will most likely make you feel more stress and pressure and you will learn less.

Written Work

Before starting any piece of written work, thoroughly read through the instructions so you can be sure of what is expected of you. Take care to ensure you are answering the question or other instructions as no matter how much or how well you write your piece, if it isn’t in answer to what has been asked of you then you will not get the marks. Note terms such as ‘explain briefly’, ‘compare and contrast’ and ‘discuss the’ as these will direct you towards the kind of response that is required and help with how you should structure your written work. Always write in your own words and use correctly formatted references to show information sources or direct quotations within your work. In assignments and test papers each question may be allocated a number of marks that are often shown in brackets. These can be used as an indication of how much information is expected in the answer. For example: a twenty mark question would need more than a five point question. Any people suggest that one point when marked equals one point or piece of information.

Keep a copy of written work in case any is lost or damaged. It can also be useful for revision or reading at a later date to recap information or perhaps if you go on to study other similar courses. Many people find a good technique to adopt is to proofread a piece of written work once it is finished and then to leave it for a day or more before re-reading it. On the second reading you will often notice spelling and grammar mistakes or other areas where improvement can be made that you missed first time round.

An example of a colourful mind map.
An example of a colourful mind map. | Source

Mind Mapping

This technique can be helpful in planning out essays and other written work and also for revising. Mind maps can be made on paper or using software such as Inspirations, which has a selection of templates to get you started as well.

On a plain sheet of paper, write your key idea, question or subject in the middle. Now draw branches off from that with main or important facts. Then add more branches from these to add more information and details. If things from different branches link, you can draw a line between them as well. Colours and boxes can be used to separate text and make it more ordered if you like. You can also use different colours or highlighters.

Prioritise

Although it can be hard, thinking about things you need to do in order of priority can ensure that you reach your study goals. It is better to finish your assignment that is due in tomorrow and it be all you complete that day than to accomplish five other things that could have been done at a later date. Depending on any other commitments you may have such as work or caring for children time can be very limited and so prioritising can be even more vital to ensure things get done and on time. Writing a list, writing on a calendar and using reminder and alarm functions that are available on many phones, laptops, tablets and other similar items can be useful tool in using the time you have available.

© 2013 Claire

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