No two people study the same way, and there is little doubt that what works for one person may not work for another. However, there are some general techniques that seem to produce good results. This article is written to help you develop effective study skills.
Besides giving ten study skills, I have included a widely accepted method of study called the SQ3R Method.
1. Believe in Yourself: Your brain is the most complex piece of bioengineering in the known universe. Every brain has genius capacity – even yours. It takes time, effort, and guided study to get access to this potential, but it is possible for anyone to do if he or she wants to badly enough.
2. Preparation: Remember the Scout Motto, “Be Prepared”. Preparing your study environment, your attitude, and your focus will have an amazingly positive impact on the effectiveness of your learning activity.
3. Organise yourself and your Work: Always have a plan for your studying. Write out that plan. Review your plan constantly, and revise it constantly.
4. Spend Time on what Matters: Set priorities and make sure your spending time on tasks that will help you accomplish the goals that are those priorities.
5. Discipline Yourself: There is no substitute for self-control and discipline. The best study techniques, tricks, and hints are useless if you have no will power to put them into practice.
6. Be Persistent: Just keep on keeping on. Persistence is more important than talent, genius, or luck. All those will be useless without persistence, but persistence can bring success without them.
7. Divide and Conquer: Simply analyse the task, divide it into smaller tasks and put them in the order of importance/priority. Then start with the first small step, complete it, cross it off the list, and go on to the next step.
8. Become an Information Filter: Filter all information by good reading and note-taking techniques. Distinguish between what is important and what is not. Filter out the unnecessary material. It takes even more practice to be confident that you have focussed on the correct material. Then master them.
9. Practice Output as well as Input: The information you study is data input, the material is processed by the brain, and you are required to create output in the form of lab reports, essays, and exam answers. Unfortunately, our biological computers create output of varying levels of quality.
10. Do Not Fear Mistakes: Mistakes are the best teachers. Without mistakes we would not have any information about how to do better the next time. The only really disastrous mistake you can make is quitting after the first step. Mistakes help you eliminate wrong ways and guide you to the right way.
The SQ3R method of Study
The SQ3R method has been a proven way to sharpen study skills. SQ3R stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. Take a moment now and write SQ3R down. It is a good slogan to commit to memory to carry out an effective study strategy.
Survey – get the best overall picture of what you’re going to study BEFORE you study it in any detail. It’s like looking at a road map before going on a trip. If you don’t know the territory, studying a map is the best way to begin.
Question – ask questions for learning. The important things to learn are usually answers to questions. Questions should lead to emphasis on the what, why, how, when, who and where of study content. Ask yourself questions as you read or study. As you answer them, you will help to make sense of the material and remember it more easily because the process will make an impression on you. Those things that make impressions are more meaningful, and therefore more easily remembered. Don’t be afraid to write your questions in the margins of textbooks, on lecture notes, or wherever it makes sense.
Read – Reading is NOT running your eyes over a textbook. When you read, read actively. Read to answer questions you have asked yourself or questions the instructor or author has asked. Always be alert to bold or italicized print. The authors intend that this material receive special emphasis. Also, when you read, be sure to read everything, including tables, graphs and illustrations. Often times tables, graphs and illustrations can convey an idea more powerfully than written text.
Recite – When you recite, you stop reading periodically to recall what you have read. Try to recall main headings, important ideas of concepts presented in bold or italicized type, and what graphs, charts or illustrations indicate. Try to develop an overall concept of what you have read in your own words and thoughts. Try to connect things you have just read to things you already know. When you do this periodically, the chances are you will remember much more and be able to recall material for papers, essays and objective tests.
Review – A review is a survey of what you have covered. It is a review of what you are supposed to accomplish, not what you are going to do. Rereading is an important part of the review process. Reread with the idea that you are measuring what you have gained from the process. During review, it’s a good time to go over notes you have taken to help clarify points you may have missed or don’t understand. The best time to review is when you have just finished studying something. Don’t wait until just before an examination to begin the review process. Before an examination, do a final review. If you manage your time, the final review can be thought of as a “fine-tuning” of your knowledge of the material. Thousands of school students have followed the SQ3R steps to achieve higher grades with less stress.
As a final word, let me tell you that the study skills presented here depend on one thing, and that is your willingness to WANT to improve and do well in school. If you really don’t want to make the effort and sacrifice, no amount of suggestions, ideas, or outlines can help much. You are the one who is responsible for your education, and effective study skills can help you. To that end, one last word of advice — study smart, not hard.