Study Skills

Jan. 31, 2012

I’m going to be speaking this week about study skills with Neil Haley of the Total Education Hour radio program. I’m glad this subject came up because strong study skills are the key to academic success—whether in middle school, high school, or college. And, unfortunately, many students lack those skills.

 Parents often ask their teenagers: “Have you studied yet?” “Have you done your homework?” But how often do they ask: “Do you know how to study?” The answer to that question is more difficult to ascertain and will definitely affect their ability to succeed in college.

 Unfortunately, what usually happens in the classroom is that a teacher tells students that they need to take notes. Out comes the paper and pens; then the teacher tells them what to put in their notes. Some get it, some don’t. The students are given a reading assignment to go along with their notes, and sometime later there is a test. The teacher usually does some type of review before the test, but basically the student is on his own to study. Maybe he never read the assignment; maybe he only half listened during the note taking. Then he followed through by only half listening during the review. When he sits down to study, he doesn’t have what he needs, probably gets bored, and calls it a night. That does not bode well for how he will do on the test.

 It doesn’t matter what the subject is, if the student does not understand, or even care, about the correlation between good study skills and good grades, he or she will probably end up a mediocre student at best. And if they want to go to college, keep in mind that a student without good study skills can sink very quickly. Parents should know that college professors must assume the student comes to class fully aware of the importance of good note taking, effective reading, and paying attention. Those that have those skills succeed in college; those that don’t struggle.

 The problem, of course, is getting your teenager motivated enough to learn good study techniques and then use them. That is not easy and parents will need to be creative in their efforts to get their teenagers to see the value. If that teenager plans to go to college, be ready to explain to her that reading, note taking, and studying are everyday chores in college—the better prepared she is now, the more likely she will do well in college.

 One effective study technique that I mention in Toward College Success is known as SQ3R: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. It uses a five-step approach to studying. Using this method, or some variation of it, would give any student an excellent set of study notes, plus confidence in his or her knowledge—and put that student on the path to academic success.

 Read more about SQ3R at: