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Going to school, college or University isn’t just about learning facts in a particular subject. It’s about developing a set of general study skills. These will help you throughout life, whatever the situation.
But what are study skills and how do you learn them? Rather than referring to one particular technique, the name is a really a catch-all for a set of study strategies. These are strategies that will help you in either the classroom or work environment.
For example, study skills or study strategies typically include efficient note-taking, concentration techniques, planning, effective reading and the use of mnemonics (memory techniques) to retain information.
However, it could also be used to refer to any skill that can boost your ability to study. So it could also include time management skills and motivational techniques.
Once mastered, study skills will benefit you throughout your life. For example, organisational skills, time management, learning how to analyse information and problem-solving are all skills employers are crying out for.
Importantly, study skills are techniques that can be learned, usually in a short time, and applied to all or most fields of study. They are therefore separate from strategies that are specific to a particular field of studies such as History or Biology.
Many organisations offer study skills advice, especially for students making the transition from school to University. This includes UCAS which has guides on everything from How to Present an Argument to Time Management and Proofing and Editing Your Work.
Another useful website is Skills You Need. Here you can get information about different types of life skills including leadership skills, personal skills and learning (study) skills.
Furthermore, universities themselves also produce useful guides on Study Skills. See Bristol University’s Study Skills: Hints and Tips and Oxford University’s Study Skills and Training section. The Oxford University guide even includes a YouTube video tutorial on how to manage your time more effectively. See here.
Developing good habits
Study skills are individual-specific. What works for someone else might not work for you and vice versa. Importantly you need to practise and develop your own study skills over time. Only then can you increase awareness about how you study and become more confident.
According to The Washington Post, both researchers and experienced educators have found that all too often students don’t have good study habits and skills. Even worse they rely on strategies that don’t work, often at the urging of teachers and parents.
Says Henry Roediger III, a professor of psychology and brain science at Washington University in St. Louis and co-author of the book Make It Stick:
“It is somewhat shocking how many students just don’t know how to do it, which frustrates them and can turn them off to enjoying learning,”.
However, there are some general tips that will help you learn, whatever the situation. Below we provide 10 Top Tips to help you improve your own Study Skills.
10 tips to help your Study Skills
- Find time to study – If you manage your time badly, inevitably you will be less productive than if you manage it well. This can lead to increased stress and anxiety levels, especially around exam time.
- Keep to a routine – Work in the same place at the same time each day. Also, make sure you have everything you need before you start.
- Work to your strengths – Schedule challenging tasks for when you are most alert, and routine ones for when you may be feeling more tired.
- Don’t waste time – Rather than reading irrelevant material, skim and scan to help you decide if you need to read something critically and in-depth.
- Avoid distractions – Related to above. Switch emails and social media off to prevent your mind wandering while trying to learn new information!
- Regularly review your notes – Edit out what you don’t need. Ask yourself the question: “Is this information is relevant to my assignment, and how does it relate to what I already know.”
- Vary how you to take notes – For example, use Mind Maps and diagrams to generate ideas and linear notes to focus your ideas for essay or report plans.
- Be critical – Make sure that you always add your own comment to every concept or quotation that you write down. Maintain a critical and analytical approach at all times!
- Plan your work – If writing an assignment produce a detailed plan before you start to write it. This will make the drafting process much less stressful
- Understand different styles – By understanding different writing styles – such as academic, journal and journalistic styles – you can put what you read into perspective. In particular, you can become more aware of any particular bias.
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