General Study Tips

These are study tips for any subject. See the navigation bar and below for study tips specific to certain topics:

Studying Foreign Languages || Studying for the Sciences || Studying for Math

Active Study

Learning takes time. It requires meaningful repetition. This is why active study techniques are so important. The "recording disk" of the brain accepts new material much faster if it "hears," "sees," "feels," "tastes," and detects motion during input or recording time. The more times around the learning circuit, the longer lasting the impression.


Material that is difficult to master can be organized by finding the key words in each point, noting the first letter, and arranging the letters into a sense or nonsense word (the sillier, the better).


1. What are the qualities of a scientist? (mnemonic answer: PIPOC)

  • P erserverance
  • I ntelligence
  • P atience
  • O riginality
  • C uriosity

2. Why did the U.S. enter World War I? (mnemonic answer: SPRENCZ)

  • S ubmarines, Germans lifted restrictions on use of
  • P ropaganda, British control of
  • R ussians overthrew the tsar
  • E conomic ties of U.S. with Britain and France
  • N eutrality, German violations of U.S.
  • C ultural ties with Britain
  • Z immerman telegram

Note: In example 2, the student has devised a mnemonic based on key words. If you have a basic understanding of each point, you ought to be able to write a complete essay from the mnemonic SPRENCZ. Example 1, however, represents the type of mnemonic a student could use to learn a short list of items for an objective test. If you need to memorize a long list of items alphabetize and learn in small "chunks." In the example of learning the states in the union, it is easier to remember that there are four states whose names begin with "A," no "Bs," one "D," etc., then to try to memorize the list.

Study Cards

In printing study cards, the student is making the impression stronger on the brain, and they will be able to use the cards for overlearning. Another reason for having students make study cards is that they are convenient to carry and flip through for mastery. Reading the cards silently, however, is too passive. Go over the cards orally. The student must be actively engaged in producing the sounds, using muscles and burning energy to make the sound.


  1. General points to consider
    1. The student must be "sold" on the course. Why is this subject worth knowing?
    2. Help the students classify and associate. Many authorities feel that you will master information faster if you learn in groups of seven or fewer at a time.
  2. Association is a key to memory:
    1. You remember approximately 10% of what you read.
    2. You remember approximately 20% of what you hear.
    3. You remember approximately 30%of what you see.
    4. You remember approximately 50% of what you hear and see together.
    5.  You remember approximately 70% of what you say (if you think as you are saying it).
    6. You remember approximately 90% of what you do.

Adapted from: Ann Algier, Everything You Need To Know About Learning

Concentration & Studying

In many colleges over 8% of the students report problems concentrating on their studies. Most of these students blame outside distractions for their problems. Many research studies manipulating noise levels and distractions have found that such disturbances may increase, decrease, or not even affect concentration. These researchers have therefore concluded that distracters don't cause concentration problems directly. It is the way the distracters are interpreted by the students that disrupts their study.

Creating a Study Environment

  1. Find a place to study and keep it for study only.
  2. Tool-up the environment with all study needs.
  3. Control noise level and the visual environment to acceptable levels.
  4. Avoid relaxing while working; create a work atmosphere.

When to Study

  • Best during the day and early evening; you'll remember better.
  • Best when there are the fewest competing activities in progress.
  • Stop studying when fatigue or lack of attention occurs.

How to Study & Concentrate

  1. Keep a pad of paper handy to jot down extraneous thoughts that cross your mind while studying, get them out of your mind and on to paper.
  2. Set study goals before you begin each period of study (number of pages, number of problems, etc.)
  3. Design adequate rewards after specified goals are attained.
  4. Break-up the content of study by mixing up subjects and building in variety and interest and removing boredom.
  5. Make the most of rest periods-do something quite different.
  6. Don't try to mix work and play.
  7. Start with short study periods and build to longer periods only as fast as you maintain concentration.
  8. If necessary, make a calendar of events to clear your mind of distractions.
  9. Realize that you won't lose friends, respect, or a "good time" just because you're studying.
  10. Plan the length of your study period by the amount of material you have decided to cover, not by the clock. (Often the clock is one of the most serious distracters.)

It is probably necessary that you identify which subjects are related to the most serious concentration problems. You may notice that you really don't give yourself a chance with these subjects because of the time, order, or place you use to study. It may also be valuable to assess what your motives are for studying in the first place? What is your reward for your efforts?