Achieving academic success takes a lot of hard work. It involves paying attention in class, reading textbooks, taking notes, writing papers, studying for tests, and other responsibilities. How does one organize and fulfill all of these necessary tasks? I offer you some strategies to improve your study skills and help you achieve academic success.
1. Memorize using mnemonics.
Memorization is a study skill that is indispensable in the quest for academic success. One of my favorite methods of memorization is mnemonics. A mnemonic device is simply a technique to help you remember material. For instance, if I was trying to memorize the five emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty I may make up a funny sentence using the first letter of each emperor’;s name. The five Julio-Claudian emperors were Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. The sentence I use could be: A Tired Colorful Cat Naps. I could then use another sentence for the next set of emperors. The term Scuba is a good example of an acronym used as a mnemonic device. Scuba reflect to Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. A rhyme can also be used as a mnemonic device, such as Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.
2. Use chunking for challenges.
Chunking involves breaking up large blocks of information into smaller chunks. Phone numbers are a good example of this process. For example, the number 5552752 is remembered more easily as 555-2752 because the long sequence of numbers has been broken into two chunks. Another example would be memorizing each dynasty of Roman emperors as a chunk instead of the daunting task of trying to memorize the entire list of Roman emperors.
3. Break up your reading assignments.
I used to find reading textbooks a daunting task. If I had to read forty pages, I was in agony. But, I learned a simple technique that helped me. I would break the forty pages into four groups of ten pages and take a five to ten minute break between each group of pages. Four groups of ten pages seemed a lot easier psychologically than the overwhelming task of reading forty pages. It is a simple technique, but it helped me a lot.
4. Start Writing Papers Early.
Many of us have procrastinated and suddenly found that we had a paper due the next day that was assigned weeks ago. Procrastination can really be a liability. Waiting for inspiration is not very fruitful either. If you have a paper due in four weeks then you need to decide what you are going to do for each of those four weeks to ensure that your paper is done well and turned in on time. Per week week number one will simply involve doing some research and taking notes. By week three, you may want to have a rough draft finished. Do not write a paper the night before it’;s due when you have ample opportunity to work on it. In addition, if you wait for inspiration, the inspiration is illegally to come. Get started immediately on a paper, even if it’;s only doing some preliminary research.
5. Ask yourself, "What am I supposed to be learning?"
I had a course called Human Expression. I did not do that well because I felt kind of lost during the course, never having a clear idea of exactly what the course’;s objective was. I should have realized from the course title that I would be learning about how humans expressed themselves through history in the areas of literature, art, architecture, and music. This small realization may have helped me to have a better sense of what I needed to learn and why it was important. I know it sounds like a real no brainer and something that should be on your class syllabus. However, I still think it’;s a small but important step. If you’;re studying American literature then you are obviously not going to be reading Jane Austen or Mary Shelley and discussing The Romantic Period in English literature. You will be reading Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Henry James, Willa Cather, and other American writers. And, you should strive to learn the importance of American literature, the major authors, and how American literature over time. If your class syllabus does not tell you what you are supposed to learn from a course then ask yourself what you should be learning.
6. Remember that something is better than nothing.
During high school and college, the number of things I needed to work on overwhelmed me at times. I would become indecisive as to where to begin. I would become so overwhelmed at times that I would not do anything. Prioritizing is important, of course. If a paper is not due for two weeks but your math assignment is due tomorrow then do your math. Sometimes, I would just pick something with the attitude that getting even one assignment was accomplished better than nothing. Sometimes, I would pick the hardest assignment first and get it over with so I had the easier assignment to look forward to. Other times, I would do the easy assignment first to get myself warmed up and ready for the difficult assignment. You’;ll have to figure out what works best for you. Do something even if it’;s small and your motivation may build.
7. Make a calendar your friend.
Write down when all of your assignments are due. Write down each scheduled test. Then make sure you plan accordingly.
8. Reward yourself.
In college, I would reward myself after a long night of studying by taking time to read a few chapters from a favorite novel. Perhaps, you’;d like to study and then look forward to playing video games or watching a favorite television show as a reward.
Numerous study skills can be used in your quest for academic success. These are simply some that have worked for me and I hope can be of benefit to you as well.