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Top 10 Study Tips For University Success
While it may be true that not everyone learns in the most efficient way by doing the same things, there are certain fundamentals that you can follow in order to virtually guarantee yourself academic success during your time at University. Regardless of the degree you take or the college you enroll in, all University classes are structured in a similar way. Lectures, reading textbooks, assignments, projects, exams, midterms and final exams. Knowing the format of the class in advance allows students to create a strategy that when implemented and stuck with, results in good grades and less stress. Here are our top 10 study habits you should try to implement in your strategy for academic success in University!
#10 – Take extensive notes
Probably the most tedious of our top 10, taking good notes is hard to do consistently. In our ADHD world, many students find it difficult to stay focused long enough to register information given during lectures. However, when it comes time to write an exam/test/exam you will be glad you have a pile of notes to review and refresh your brain. Taking good notes is in itself an act of learning, as one cannot write something that does not make sense on some level. This small act goes a long way in creating the foundation for a solid understanding of the material being covered. Taking notes also has the bonus of keeping your brain busy and awake by preventing restlessness and boredom. An excellent method I learned in my first year of Engineering was to jot down everything that seemed useful in a way, almost as if you were transcribing the lecture. Later that day, transfer and rewrite the notes in an understandable form in another notebook. This will cement the information in your mind, moving the material from your short term memory to your long term. Finally, grades have become a source of income for many students as those who get excellent grades are often sought after by lazy students who are willing to pay a premium for a set of high grades to study at. You will not only get good grades, but you will get paid for doing so as well. If that’s not win-win I don’t know what is!
#9 – Find old exams and assignments
If possible, try to find exams and assignments from previous years to give yourself a good idea of what subjects instructors are most likely to test you on. They do not need to have the answers to be useful and in fact for many students they are even more useful without because this way the student can try the exam / assignment as a check of their knowledge, identify any weak areas that they should away come back and re-study. Past exams and assignments are often available through class websites, student union websites, or through college clubs or associations. A common tactic many students use for science classes with a lab section is to get a lab notebook of notes from a previous year. Labs are notoriously difficult in terms of time constraints and for what is expected of a student lab report. Having a format to follow along with is an incredible help with knowing where not making mistakes is also valuable.
#8 – Start studying for exams EARLY
Between academics and your social life, time is not something you will have much of throughout your university career. But one thing you should always make time for is studying for the exam. There is nothing worse than leaving all your studies for the night before an important test or exam. The stress causes your brain to panic and when you panic, you won’t learn as well as you normally would. Studying a little every night during the week leading up to the exam will not only make you better prepared, but it will take away most of the stress you would have if you left your studying to the last minute. Studying for exams early allows a student to identify weak points in their understanding and prioritize their studies accordingly. Just imagine studying until the early hours of the morning on exam day only to find you have completely ignored a section that you have little or no understanding of. Don’t let that happen to studying EARLY!
#7 – Use a laptop during class if possible
If allowed, use a laptop to take notes during your lectures. Most students can type faster than they can write so they will be able to record much more information than they normally would. If the classroom has WiFi, you’ll have more ability to research topics you’re not sure about during lulls or breaks in the lecture. If a teacher uses a word you’ve never heard before, just alt-tab to dictionary.com and look it up! Or, if the lecture completely flies over your head, email the professor from your seat and set up an appointment to discuss the day’s lecture. There are so many uses for a laptop during class, I’ll let you imagine the other, less academic uses. Many students have grown up with a computer as a staple in their lives, so it is only natural to use it as a learning tool as well. It’s an easy transition for your brain to go from Facebook to Powerpoint! If you are buying a laptop in the future, refer to our article for tips on choosing a budget laptop for students.
#6 – Use your time wisely
Between classes as well as before and after school, there are many opportunities to sneak in some study or homework that many students either don’t realize or just don’t use. I knew people who would study on the bus during the commute to and from school. I also knew people who would combine their time in the gym with their study time! Just bring your notes and instead of watching TV and listening to your iPod, put on earplugs and read your notes. You get a workout for your body and your brain! Always keep your notes handy and try to use any spare time you have even for simple revision to make sure you are on top of the material. All those little moments you spend studying will really add up to a solid understanding and you’ll find that you need to study less come exam time. That’s great.
#5 – Get your questions resolved ASAP!
University classes tend to operate with the “snowball effect” as the primary method of subject progression. That is, the information is cumulative and the last thing you learned will be instrumental in understanding the next thing! So, whenever you don’t understand something or you don’t have a question about the topic, get your question answered as soon as you can. Whether you ask during or after class, through an email or phone call to the teacher, or even by asking another student, you need to stay on top of the topic so you’re ready for what’s next. Don’t let the holes in your understanding become the knowledge holes for the future!
#4 – Get to know some of your classmates
This one can be very difficult and stressful for many people these days. Meeting people is becoming increasingly difficult in a world of social stigma and fear of disapproval. I will not tell you how to meet people, just that when you do, the benefits will be immediately apparent. Have a friend to sit with during class, have someone to lean on for notes from a lecture you missed, someone you could bounce questions and ideas off of, and most importantly have someone to check your homework answers with. before you hand it over, it’s all spectacular reasons to swallow your nerves and start saying “Hi! My name is ….” to the people in your class.
#3 – Explore Additional Classroom Resources
Many class plans will have “optional” readings listed along with required books. This is often a GREAT opportunity for easy branding and guaranteed success in the particular class. Teachers are people just like you and me. Their task is to relay the necessary material and then test you on it. If they are using the required textbooks as a reference for the learning part, where do you think they will find the material for the test part? If you said “the book is required”, you are wrong and you need to stop thinking like a high school student! Teachers will often take test questions from their favorite textbooks, resulting in quality ratings from a trusted source. These favorite books are often listed as optional reading material either on the class website or on the course outline. Also don’t forget the mighty internet. YouTube is a crazy resource for how-tos, recorded lectures from other schools, and general knowledge videos on every subject imaginable. Also use Wikipedia and Google to find additional (often better!) resources on whatever you’re struggling with.
#2 – Pre-Read Reading Material
I discovered this one by accident, even if it is, or should be common sense. One night I was bored. Really bored. I grabbed a textbook for a lecture class I was giving the next morning and started reading from where we left off in the previous lecture. It was difficult to understand and it took a lot of focus to push through it but the next day in class while listening to the teacher, it crystallized in my mind and it was easy from then on. It had the added advantage that being committed to my long-term memory gave me a greater and better understanding of the material. It makes sense if you think about it, I essentially learned the material twice. Once alone and once with the help of an expert. These combined into a solid understanding that I still possess to this day. Now I would like to suggest that you do this for every class, every night. But we all know this is unreasonable, so what I suggest is that you use this technique for anything that you consider to be very difficult or abstract. In this way you will have a good head start in understanding and mastering the difficult things, leaving plenty of time to fill the gaps with the easy things!
#1 – Go to class!
While going to class sounds too simple to be our #1 most effective study habit, it really is and I’ll tell you why. Going to class not only keeps you disciplined and focused on what you are doing at the University, but it also allows you to absorb the subject simply by sitting in the lectures. If you are an auditory learner this is great because just listening to the lectures will create an understanding that should be enough to pass the class itself! If you are a visual learner, looking at the notes written on the board or reading from the slides during the presentation will give you the understanding needed to pass the class. Attending class also ensures that you have the latest news on assignments, tests, quizzes, and exams directly from your teacher. You don’t want to be that student who shows up for class once a week only to find there is a test scheduled that day! Simply go to your classes like you should be more powerful than most students realize. If you look at the nine tips before this you will see that most of them actually require this step as a pre-condition so that should also be an indicator of how important it is to go to your class without failing.
As a student who has both failed classes and received honors in class I can definitely say that the above tips and techniques will work for you. Whether you use some or all, it’s up to you, but just remember that University is an individual sport and you will only get out of it what you want to put in! I hope you found these tips helpful and informative, good luck and stay stylish!
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