10 Academic Tips for Students

Sometimes general academic tips don’t work for everyone, as each person is their own individual. Sometimes we each have our own little special study habits that work for us as individuals, so why not share them in case it helps someone else?

Here are some tips complied by our tutors that they do personally to stay ahead.

  1.      Feeling overwhelmed? Do a little at a time! Don’t let your assignments build up until you are struggling to finish them the day before they are due. From the beginning of the semester do a couple hours of homework every day even if something is not due right away, so you can stay on top of assignments.
  2.      Find a quiet place on campus where you can study! The reference room of the library is perfect for silent studying.`
  3.      Make a study playlist! Find songs that you can listen to without getting distracted, so you can drown out any background noise.
  4.      Get distracted by social media? Have a friend change your passwords for the duration of time it takes you to complete an especially intense, or time consuming project.
  5.      Hunger on your mind? Bring some healthy snacks to your study sessions so you can concentrate uninterrupted by hunger pangs.
  6.      Studying on the go? Download your notes to your Google Docs, then download the app and read your notes from your smartphone as you walk to your class.
  7.      Need memorization help? Apps like Quizlet allow you to make flashcards easily that can be accessed on any device. Quizlet can convert the flash cards into a test format, matching, and even games, making mastery of those vocab words a breeze.
  8.      Forgetting assignments? Missing deadlines? Google Calendar is a great app to keep track of due dates and deadlines. You can even schedule reminders for days in advance.
  9.      Take a break. Sometimes walking away from something for a few minutes helps us organize our thoughts and then look at it with fresh eyes.
  10.      Did you know that sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory? This is essential for learning new information. Instead of pulling an all-nighter before an exam, study during the day and get a full night’s rest, then briefly review the next morning before the exam.

Tips For Exam Prep

Preparing for exams begins the first day of class, and success is usually a reflection of daily application. However, as exam week approaches, preparing for exams demands a strategy. The key lies in your ability to use time wisely and to develop practical study techniques. The Center for Academic Success suggests the following steps to help you approach exams efficiently and calmly.

1. Overview of the work to be done
Survey all materials for each course: syllabus, notes, texts, supplementary reading. This survey should be very rapid since its purpose is simply to refresh your mind as to what’s been covered and to begin to develop a sense of what the significant points are within that material. This quick and efficient overview should put you in a good position to avoid gobbling knowledge in a haphazard, panic-stricken manner. Based upon your overview and your identification of the major themes being stressed, anticipate what
might reasonably be asked. Evaluate the importance of study topics, list priorities among tasks, and estimate the time needed to accomplish each study task.

2. Next, schedule study time accordingly
Plot a calendar of the weeks, days, and hours that remain available for study before each exam. Realistically apportion your work into these hours, taking into consideration these tips for scheduling:
 Break large tasks into specific sub-goals and allocate a specific time for each;
 do the most important, difficult tasks first and then reward yourself with the easier ones;
 match the kind of study you do with the kind of energy and time you have: Use large blocks of time and your peak energy periods to master concepts or problems; use “empty spots” (walking to class, waiting in line) for rehearsing material that must be memorized; use times of lowest energy to preview material in preparation for later intense study;
 vary what you study, alternating history with math, etc.;
 schedule breaks, recognizing that distributed study is more efficient than massed study;
 establish a special place to study, using it only for this purpose and making it a stimulus for studying. Simply make a realistic appraisal of what is to be done, when you will do it, and then START WORKING.

3. Deal succinctly with unread material
 First preview the material to become aware of the major ideas. Previewing involves reading titles, headings, and subheadings to determine the organization of the material, reading introductions and summaries, and noting any graphs, charts, or maps.
 Next formulate essay-type questions suggested by the material. Then read actively to answer these questions, noting and/or underlining key ideas.
 Finally, recite the material to yourself, answering the questions you raised to enhance recall.

4. Review actively–not passively
 Once you have anticipated major ideas which may be covered in an exam, approach the study of these areas in an active, problem-solving manner.
 Integrate notes, text, and supplementary material into summary sheets by outlining, charting, diagramming, or simply writing paragraph summaries of the information.
 Try to create a summary sheet of each main idea or concept.
 Don’t waste time passively rereading. While “looking over” course material is easy and gives the appearance of study, this sight recognition is rarely sufficient for good test performance. Instead, actively review your summaries, the table of contents, the chapter subheadings.
 Try to recall the important points. Recite them, write them, say them, hear them, think them.
 Reinforce learning by using as many senses as possible. Spend more time reciting the material to yourself and less time just rereading.
 Reciting is one of the most powerful ways to learn and remember. Constantly practice restating, repeating, putting into your own words what you’ve just learned. Predict the questions most likely to be asked and practice answering them.

5. Take care of your physical and emotional health
In addition to taking an organized approach to studying, you need to make common sense and moderate a general life style during exams and other times of stress.
 Do eat well-balanced smaller meals more frequently. Heavy meals will make you drowsy and unable to concentrate.
 Do eat meals that have emphasis on complex carbohydrates such as grains, crackers, fruits, and vegetables.
 Do take appropriate exercise breaks for 15-30 minutes daily to release pent up energy and increase your ability to concentrate.
 Do get adequate sleep each night to allow your body to recharge.
× Don’t depend on junk foods for sustenance while you are studying. They are full of sugar and caffeine and, if abused, will not enhance your studying ability.
× Don’t hit the alcohol and pills if you are too anxious to sleep. They will only make you dull and unable to remember what you’ve studied.
× Don’t overdose on caffeine products. Too much will make you spacy, jittery, and unable to concentrate.
× Don’t take amphetamine preparations to increase mental processes. They can cause bad side effects and reduce retention.

Expect a certain amount of tension during exam periods. It is normal, and a little anxiety helps to heighten your awareness. However, you may need to deal with overanxiety. Take time to relax through rest, exercise, and deep muscle relaxation. Keep away from highly anxious people before exams because their nervousness may increase your own.

Plan rewards for yourself during exams. Schedule a meal, a racquetball game, and a visit with a friend periodically throughout finals. Most importantly, adopt a positive attitude toward test taking. Reassert your goals to gain motivation for studying. Don’t confuse
your test scores with either your value as a person or your whole future opportunity.

Source: California Polytechnic State University

Methods Of Note Taking

One of the best ways to stay on top of the semester is to get organzized. Sometimes in class our frantic note taking is often messy, making it harder to study and consolidate the information when class is over. Stay organized in your note taking with these methods.

The Cornell method provides a systematic format for condensing
and organizing notes without laborious recopying. After writing
the notes in the main space, use the left-hand space to label each
idea and detail with a key word or “cue.”


Method – Rule your paper with a 2 ½ inch margin on the left leaving a six-inch area on the right in which to make notes. During class, take down information in the six-inch area. When the instructor moves to a new point, skip a few lines. After class,
complete phrases and sentences as much as possible. For every significant bit of information, write a cue in the left margin. To review, cover your notes with a card, leaving the cues exposed. Say the cue out loud, and then say as much as you can of the material underneath the card. When you have said as much as you can, move the card and see if what you said matches what is written. If you can say it, you know it.

Advantages – Organized and systematic for recording and reviewing notes. Easy format for pulling out major concept and ideas. Simple and efficient. Saves time and effort. “Do it-right-in-the-first-place system.”
Disadvantages – None
When to Use – In any lecture situation.


Dash or indented outlining is usually best except for some science classes such as physics or math.
1. The information which is most general begins at the left with each more specific group of facts indented with spaces to the right.
2. The relationships between the different parts are carried out through indenting.
3. No numbers, letters, or Roman numerals are needs.outlining

Method – Listen and then write in points in an organized pattern based on space indention. Place major points farthest to the left. Indent each more specific point to the right. Levels of importance will be indicated by distance away from the major point. Indention can be as simple as or as complex as labeling the indentations with Roman numerals or decimals. Markings are not necessary as space relationships will indicate the major/minor points.

Advantages– Well-organized system if done right. Outlining records content as well as relationships. It also reduces editing and is easy to review by turning main points into questions.

Disadvantages – Requires more thought in class for accurate organization. This system may not show relationships by sequence when needed. It doesn’t lend to diversity of a review attach for maximum learning and question application. This system cannot be used if the lecture is too fast.

When to Use – The outline format can be used if the lecture is presented in outline organization. This may be either deductive (regular outline) or inductive (reverse outline where minor points start building to a major point). Use this format when there is enough time in the lecture to think about and make organization decisions when they are needed. This format can be most effective when your note taking skills are super and sharp and you can handle the outlining regardless of the note taking situation.

Mapping is a method that uses comprehension/concentration skills and evolves in a note taking form which relates each fact or idea to every other fact or idea. Mapping is a graphic representation of the content of a lecture. It is a method that maximizes active participation, affords immediate knowledge as to its understanding, and emphasizes critical thinking.


Advantages – This format helps you to visually track your lecture regardless of conditions. Little thinking is needed and relationships can easily be seen. It is also easy to edit your notes by adding numbers, marks, and color coding. Review will call for you to restructure thought processes which will force you to check understanding. Review by covering lines for memory drill and relationships. Main points can be written on flash or note cards and pieced together into a table or larger structure at a later date.

Disadvantages – You may not hear changes in content from major points to facts.

When to Use – Use when the lecture content is heavy and well-organized. May also be used effectively when you have a guest lecturer and have no idea how the lecture is going to be presented.


Method – Determine the categories to be covered in lecture. Set up your paper in advance by columns headed by these categories. As you listen to the lecture, record information (words, phrases, main ideas, etc.) into the appropriate category.charting

Advantages – Helps you track conversation and dialogues where you would normally be confused and lose out on relevant content. Reduces amount of writing necessary.
Provides easy review mechanism for both memorization of facts and study of comparisons and relationships.

Disadvantages – Few disadvantages except learning how to use the system and locating the appropriate categories. You must be able to understand what’s happening in the lecture.

When to Use – Test will focus on both facts and relationships. Content is heavy and presented fast. You want to reduce the amount of time you spend editing and reviewing at test time. You want to get an overview of the whole course on one big paper sequence.

Method – Write every new thought, fact or topic on a separate line, numbering as you progress.

Advantages – Slightly more organized than the paragraph. Gets more or all of the information. Thinking to tract content is still limited.

Disadvantages – Can’t determine major/minor points from the numbered sequence.
Difficult to edit without having to rewrite by clustering points which are related.
Difficult to review unless editing cleans up relationship.

When to Use – Use when the lecture is somewhat organized, but heavy with content which comes fast. You can hear the different points, but you don’t know how they fit together. The instructor tends to present in point fashion, but not in grouping such as “three related points.”

Example 1 –
A revolution is any occurrence that affects other aspects of life, such as economic life, social life, and so forth. Therefore revolutions cause change. (See page 29-30 in your text about this.)
• Sample Notes – Revolution – occurrence that affects other aspects of life: e.g., econ., socl. Etc. C.f. text, pp. 29-30

Example 2 –
Melville did not try to represent life as it really was. The language of Ahab,
Starbuck, and Ishmael, for instance, was not that of real life.
• Sample Notes – Mel didn’t repr. Life as was; e.g. lang. Of Ahab, etc. no of real life.

Example 3 –
At first, Freud tried conventional, physical methods of treatment such as giving baths, massages, rest cures, and similar aids. But when these failed he tried techniques of hypnosis that he had seen used by Jean-Martin Charcot. Finally, he borrowed an idea from Jean Breuer and used direct verbal communication to get an un-hypnotized patient to reveal unconscious thoughts.
• Sample Notes – Freud 1st – used phys. trtment; e.g., baths, etc. This fld. 2nd – used hypnosis (fr. Charcot) Finally – used vrb. commun. (fr. Breuer) – got unhpynop, patnt to reveal uncons. thoughts.


Source: California Polytechnic State University