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Some strategies for becoming a better student

. . .but first here is a small word from your sponsor.

Convincing your brain to study and not to party is one of the biggest problems students face. Overcoming procrastination - or putting things off in favor of more pleasant activities - is the biggest obstacle for almost any student. Let's admit it, nobody enjoys studying !

Students need to understand how negative messages stored in the subconscious brain are sent to the conscious brain with respect to how a student views studying. Let's see if we can explain how this process works. People do four things in their everyday lives - they see, think, feel and behave. People are a product of their learning experiences. This means that everything a person is exposed to at that time is stored in the subconscious.

An example is the following: A student has hated history since high school. This information is ultimately stored in the subconscious and when the student goes to college he has to take History 1301. Guess what the subconscious will say to the student when he tries to study? "Hey, what are you doing? You hate history, it is dry and boring. You will never pass this course!" These are the negative messages that the subconscious will send to the student. Some students are not aware that this process is taking place and tend to blame someone or something else for their dislike of history.

It is not easy to confront the subconscious because your thoughts about what you like or dislike are embedded in your thinking. The cognitive strategy is to talk to the subconscious and convince it to say good things like, "I need to study to get a good grade in my class. I have to go to class to take notes." It is not known if people are born with the skills to deal with the subconscious or if it is a skill to be taught.

If you find yourself having problems dealing with procrastination and need some assistance, contact the Testing Services & Academic Accommodations Department for further assistance. Check out the links below for more help.



How to Study Effectively

  • Get texts early - read the first 50 pages before the first day of class.
  • Sit as close to the front as you can get.
  • Attend class - BE THERE! - "A" students miss less than one class per 45 and "B" students miss more than four classes.
  • Enter into class discussion.
  • The first and last minutes of class are the most important - so don't be late and don't leave early.
  • Copy down everything on the board, regardless.
  • Try to find a fixed place for study and nothing but study.
  • Always turn in homework on time and neatly done.
  • Study your hardest subject(s) when you're most alert.
  • Always turn in homework on time and neatly done.
  • Schedule study time to your biological clock.
  • Improve note taking.
  • Review right after class.
  • Don't be afraid to drop a course that isn't working.

Time Management

  • It's making the best use you can of that most precious resource - TIME.
  • It really means managing and disciplining yourself.
  • Good time management enables you to . . .
  • achieve more.
  • have more free time.
  • lead a balanced life.
  • meet deadlines effectively.
  • Avoid perfectionism.
  • Know your instructions.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Don't overcommit.
  • Know what's important - assign your priorities.
  • Learn to schedule - use a planning guide and focus on goals.
  • Know your peak times - high energy times.
  • Control interruptions - they take up your time.
  • How to Prepare a Weekly Schedule . . . make a list of everything you plan to do
    1. Record fixed time commitments: classes, labs, church, work, etc.
    2. Schedule activities essential to daily living: eating, sleeping, etc.
    3. Schedule review time: before or after class.
    4. Set a block of recreation time.
    5. Schedule preparation periods: for each course, schedule sufficient time for preparing outside assignments.


One of the oldest strategies for developing systematic and efficient study habits. Over the years, people have implemented this study strategy in a variety of ways and you may do the same.


  • Also called pre-reading.
  • Look at titles, subheadings, charts, illustrations, topic sentences.
  • Be on the lookout for unfamiliar vocabulary.


  • As you think of questions, write them down (Who, What, When, Where, Why, How).
  • The purpose of this step is to get your brain into gear (remember the subconscious and conscious mind).
  • Leave room for your answers in the margins of your book or on your own paper.


  • Read the chapter, searching for the answers to your questions.
  • This is called reading actively.
  • Recite.
  • Recite the answers to your questions without looking at your notes.


  • Always review!
  • Repetition and review are the keys to memory.


Note taking

Sitting near the front of the class facilitates concentration.
l, it Label each page of your notes with the date, topic and page number.
Try to use abbreviations (e.g., &, impt. w/o, etc.)
Focus your attention totally on what the speaker is saying.
Try to write your notes in outline or listing form.
It is better to have too many notes than too little.
In genera is wasteful (remember time management) to go back and rewrite your notes.
Learn to interpret a professor's signals about what is important.

  • Title and/or introduction - "Today what I want to cover is " , "The point is "
  • Organizational clues - ". . . four points . . ." , "Three causes . . ."
  • Change of topic - "Next what I want to discuss . . ."
  • Cues Regarding Importance - "I emphasize"
  • Voice Inflection - Words or phrases that are said louder.
  • The Use of Examples - several examples used to illustrate the same thing may indicate importance.
  • Writing on the Board
  • Spending Considerable Time on a Topic - it must be important.


Test taking

  • Purpose is to get an overview of the material and to begin developing questions.
  • Tackle hard subjects first.
  • Don't cram.
  • Talk to your professors about their test and how to study and what to study.
  • The night before get a good night's sleep.
  • Arrive early, try to relax and avoid talking to other people who may confuse you.
  • Read all directions carefully and look through the entire test.
  • ALWAYS - Do the easy questions first. Just because they are numbered sequentially means that they have to be done in that order.
  • Budget your time on how much you have for each question.
  • Work for the most points allowed by law. In other words, try to get a lot of points from one question by answering it, not only correctly, but also concisely.
  • Save your guesses for the end then make educated guesses. Only guess if. . . you don't know the answer and you have more to gain than lose - no
  • penalty for guessing.
  • you can eliminate enough answers to put the odds in your favor.
  • you have only "clues" about a specific question
  • you are still undecided among two or more answer choices.
  • "All of the above" is generally a good guess.
  • First impressions are the best choice. (NEVER change your first answer choice unless you absolutely know it is wrong.)
  • Check your answers.
  • Learn from your tests. (Go over them with your professor.)


Increasing your reading speed

Students should be reading about 500-800 words a minute by the time they are in college. This demand is due to the large amount of reading assignments. Problems in reading are due to bad reading habits developed early in childhood and carried into adulthood. These slow reading habits are caused by sub-vocalization or pronouncing each word instead of just seeing the word and rereading lines. Daydreaming is due to the boredom of slow reading leading to lack of concentration and slow recovery from one line to another.

The formula and speed reading techniques are not related to rocket science. To check your reading speed get one of your books and count the number of words in the line, lets say 15 words. Then read normally for one minute, time yourself with your Swatch. Multiply the number of lines read, lets say 20 by the number of words in the line - in this case 15. The answer is 300 wpm. This is not bad but it's not 500 or even 800. The everyday person reads 250 wpm.

An easy technique to improve your reading speed is to use your index finger as a pacer. The pacer helps in reducing sub-vocalization and it places attention on reading material. This reduces recovery time and involves both sides of the brain for concentration.

Here is the technique:

Make a fist and allow you index finger to point forward.
Using your index finger from left to right, follow each line from margin to margin.

When you finish a line, lift your finger and bring it back to the next line as fast and as smoothly as possible. Practice going at a rate of speed faster than you can understand, making sure the words are clear to your vision.

Time yourself for one minute and apply the formula to see how fast you read. Use this technique until it becomes a habit.

The objective is to double your reading speed.

The idea behind this technique is that the faster you read, the harder it is to return to old habits. The time to use speed reading is when you sit down to read the chapter and all you want to do is become familiar with the material. This technique is sometimes called skimming where you read the chapter in parts to get some comprehension. Real comprehension comes into the equation when you reread the chapter and breakdown the material into smaller pieces and feed it to your brain for real comprehension or retention. You should be able to speed read a 50 page chapter in 30 minutes and get ready to reread and study at least one hour everyday to feed the brain.

If you would like to learn these techniques join us for a workshop on speed reading in the fall semester or come by the Testing Services & Academic Accommodations Department and watch our videos on speed reading. Good Luck.  Use active review.  It's making the best use you can of that most precious resource - TIME.

It's making the best use you can of that most precious resource - TIME.