Center for Women and Returning Adults

Academic Survival Skills

Study Tips

  1. Reentry can be a gradual process.Listen carefully [more]
  2. Take notes in class [more]
  3. Take part in class discussion [more]
  4. Budget your time wisely [more]
  5. Become a better reader [more]
  6. Prepare for exams [more]

Listen Carefully

  • Move closer to the front
  • Focus your attention
  • Evaluate what you hear
  • Take thorough notes
  • Ask questions if you don’t understand something

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Tips for Taking Notes in Class

Know what to record

  • Record the speaker's main points in your own words. Don't try to write down everything that's said
  • Listen for key words that tell you what's important ("The major cause was...," "The 4 main steps...," etc.)
  • Copy all information written on the board

Review your notes as soon as you can after class

  • Highlight the points that seem most important
  • Go over your notes at least once a week. this helps keep information fresh in your mind

Attend every class!

You can't take notes if you're not present. It's not a good idea to rely on someone else's note taking.

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Lecture hallTake Part in Class Discussion

  • Be prepared
  • Participate -- don't dominate
  • Ask questions
  • Summarize in your own words what's been said
  • Respect other's opinions
  • Be polite

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Budget Your Time Wisely

Use a planning notebook or calendar

  • Write down all your regular activities (classes, a part-time job, meals, practice with a team or musical group, etc.)
  • Allow time for sleep, fun and fitness
  • Schedule review time for before or after each class, if you can
  • Try to study the same subject at the same time each day
  • Plan time for exams and major projects. Break up these big jobs into small steps (1. find sources; 2. take notes; etc.)

Where you study is important, too

  • Choose a quiet, well-lit place that's free of distractions (telephone, television, et cetera.). The library is an ideal place to study
  • Gather all the materials you need before you begin
  • Try to study in the same place each day. Use that place for studying only

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Become a Better Reader

Eliminate habits that can slow you down

  • Don't move your lips, "say" words in your mind, or point your finger
  • Train your eyes to take in larger groups of words with each glance
  • Avoid backtracking

Adjust your speed to your purpose

  • Skim material if you're looking for the answers to a specific question
  • Slow down when you are reading technical material

Expand your vocabulary

  • Use a dictionary to learn definitions, synonyms and antonyms
  • Learn prefixes, suffixes, and roots of words. (Ask a librarian for books to help you)
  • Use new words that you learn

Get help when you need it

  • Enroll in a reading improvement course, if your school has one
  • Check out speech-reading courses

Have a Reading Strategy

Before you read

Preview the material. For example, if you're assigned a chapter in a textbook, read:

  • The chapter title and introduction
  • Headings, subheadings, and topic sentences
  • Boldfaced and italicized words
  • The chapter summary and any review questions

As you read

  • Pay special attention to main ideas and supporting details
  • Examine graphs, charts and illustrations
  • Evaluate the material. (Do you understand what you're reading? Does the material answer your questions about the subject?)

After you read

  • Think about what you've learned. Sum up the material in your own words. This can make it easier to remember the material.
  • Note any points you don't understand or any questions you’d like to as your instructor

Take Notes As You Read

  • Underline or highlight key points
  • Make an outline
  • Write a summary in your own words
  • Make a map

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How to Prepare for Exams

  • Ask your instructor what you can expect
  • Look up copies of old exams, if possible

It's Exam Time

Objective tests

  • Read the instructions carefully
  • Scan the test quickly to find out how much time you can spend on each section or question
  • Answer the easy questions first, then the hard ones
  • Pay close attention to all qualifiers ("usually," "none," "always," etc.)
  • Write neatly
  • Read all the answers carefully before you choose one (for multiple choice questions)

Essay tests

  • Read through the test. Decide how much time you'll have for each question
  • Read each question carefully. Note key words, such as "discuss," "explain" and "compare"
  • Briefly outline the major points you intend to cover
  • Use facts and specific examples to support your answers
  • Proofread your essays

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