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MSJC > Student Services > Counseling > Study Strategies

Study Strategies

You can be successful! If you have been out of school for several years, it may be difficult to handle work, family, and school and remain successful at all three. The key to being a successful student is establishing and maintaining study habits and techniques that are appropriate for your schedule and life.

The following "Fourteen Easy Steps to Success" are guidelines. Modify them to conform to your personal needs and habits. They can help you become a successful student and manage the everyday chaos of life.

  • Use a regular study area.

    Set yourself up in a quiet, well-lit, and uncluttered area where you can study regularly. Believe it or not, your body knows where you are. If you always choose the same study area, your body will sense it is time to study.

    Do not pick a spot where you sleep, eat, or watch television. It is too easy to fall prey to these traps. Ideally, your study area should be isolated from distractions such as the television and family members. Emphasize to your family that you need uninterrupted study time.

  • Use a library whenever possible.

    Libraries are made for students. Because libraries offer few distractions, most people find they are able to accomplish more in less time.

  • Find the best time of day for you.

    Choose a study time when you feel refreshed and awake. This may be early in the morning or late at night. Experiment and see what works best with your schedule. If you are not a morning person, try evenings. Remember not to get too comfortable. If you choose a time when you are tired and ready for bed, you will fall asleep! Also use this rule when taking classes.

  • Plan a minimum of two hours of study time per week for every one unit of credit that you are taking.

    This sounds like a lot, and it is. However, you will see the difference at exam time.

  • Study before you go to sleep.

    During sleep, the mind reviews new thoughts and ideas. It is to your advantage if the topic of your sleep review is your current course and not the plot of a television drama. Even if you study best in the morning, take a few minutes before going to sleep to focus your thoughts on your studies.

  • Study difficult subjects first.

    Most of the time, we study our favorite or easiest subjects first, putting off more difficult tasks. But if you study your worst subjects first, the rest of the day will be a breeze. You will have a better understanding of the material and be less likely to fall asleep while studying.

  • Take frequent breaks.

    Avoid marathon study sessions. Like a runner, you will collapse at the end or may not even make it through the race. Try studying at intervals of one hour, taking 10-15 minute breaks each hour.

  • Study constantly.

    If you utilize the time you spend waiting for the bus, in grocery lines, or at the post office or doctor's office, it adds up. Concentrating on your studies during any extra time you have will pay off.

  • Be prepared.

    Make sure that when you begin to study you have everything you need. Too often students forget a second pen, a highlighter, or other materials and must get up for them. Along the way they find the television, refrigerator, or the bed, and soon studying is no more than a second thought. Be prepared to discipline yourself.

  • Take thorough notes.

    As you read the course materials, outline or highlight important concepts (no more than 10%). Look for hints from the author about significant topics or points. Be sure to jot down formulas or drawings that seem critical to you.

  • Review and revise your notes at the end of each module.

    Go over your notes to make them more concise by using a highlighter or creating an outline. Doing so is not only a great review, but revising your notes may reveal certain ideas or concepts that you did not understand. If you have taken good notes, you will not have to rely on the reading materials to study for the exams. If your notes are concise and accurate, they will save you valuable time.

  • Remember what you study.

    Studying is not like simple reading. Studying demands comprehension and retention. When you study, study with intent, pay attention to detail, repeat and review the materials on an ongoing basis, and develop associations or mental pictures for key concepts.

  • Define your goals and objectives.

    Determine what you want to accomplish this week and stick to it! Procrastination is the most difficult habit to break. Ask yourself why you procrastinate and how you can change.

  • Develop a Reward System.

    Believe it or not, it works. Bargain with yourself. If you achieve your goals for the week, treat yourself to something nice (even a "free day" without studying). Choose something that really feels like a reward.

    Avoid choosing sweets or food. You want to earn rewards, not gain pounds. Treat yourself to a movie, a favorite television show, a walk, sports, or extra time with a friend or family member. Vary your rewards.

    You will study harder, with less procrastination, if you reward yourself for your accomplishments.

For further assistance with developing effective study skills, contact Counseling.