This resource provides information, resources and tips to help you while you are studying.
Effective study skills are the key to your success in any course.
Study Skills are about getting the most productive amount of work done in the least amount of time. There are a number of skills that you will need to acquire to study effectively.
Click on any of the topics below to learn how to improve your study skills.
Effective Study Skills
Effective study skills include the following:
- Planning and organising your time so that you develop your own workable study timetable
- Using your study time productively
- Knowing your preferred learning style and using this information to assist your studies
- Effectively reading printed materials
- Making succinct notes
- Summarising concisely and accurately
- Locating required information and materials
- Completing course assignments successfully
- Accurately addressing written questions in assessment type situations.
The topics presented here will assist you in gaining these skills.
When you begin your studies, you need to have a goal in mind.
So, where do you want to be in five years time?
If you are currently enrolled in a course, you probably want to complete it within the set time frame. This could be six, twelve, or maybe even eighteen months.
Within five years you would probably like to be working within the industry that you have been trained in.
In our busy lives things beyond our control can come up, preventing us from reaching these goals.
Think realistically about your current commitments, which may include family, work, leisure, friends and hobbies. Work out when is the best times for you to study. Keep in mind things such as whether you are a night person or a morning person. All of these things can affect your ability to use your time efficiently.
In order to develop good study skills, you need to organise your time. It is important to find a balance between work, study, leisure and family time. To do this effectively you need to sit down and have a look at the way you currently spend your time and how much you will need to and can commit to your studies. The following diagram illustrates the factors that have an effect on time management.
Time management problems
Manage your time
Study more effectively
- Lack of goal setting
- Poor organisation skills
- Low need for achievement
- Low self esteem
- Set goals
- Make decisions
- Prioritise tasks
- Eliminate distractions
- Use study time effectively
- Set the scene
- Concentrate, stay focussed
- Reward yourself
Bite the bullet! Get in there, do it and get it over with. Treat yourself when you have finished. It is one more step towards reaching your goal.
Time Management Activity
Spend some time looking at all the assessment tasks that you have due over this semester.
Use the Semester Organiser and Study Planner (download from the link below) to write in when each one (for all of the units you are studying) is due. Include all of your other commitments that might impact on your study time. Include things such as special events, birthdays, holidays and sporting events.
In order to make sure you allocate times to actually do some study, fill in the Weekly Timetable (download from the link below). Be realistic about the time when you are most productive when studying. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you a morning or night owl?
- What is the best time to study in your house that so that study fits in around family, friends and general household routines?
- Which nights of the week do you have meetings and/or work commitments?
- Which nights of the week do you have sporting commitments?
- Which nights of the week do you catch up with family and friends?
- How many nights a week are you going to have time off from study?
To get a clear picture of the time you can devote to your studies, make sure you include all other commitments that you have each day. Be sure to include one or two study free days and some time out for yourself.
You may find from this activity that you only have three nights out of the week and two or three hours on each of these days that are feasible study times. Highlight these times and make a commitment to yourself to stick to your study plan and reward yourself when you have studied for the time you had allocated.
Tip: You could also use the a Student Diary or digital calendars that may be available on your phone or computer.
The VAK – Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic Learning Styles model suggests that most people can be divided into one of three preferred styles of learning. The three styles are outlined below (and there is no right or wrong learning style):
Someone with a Visual learning style has a preference for seen or observed things, including pictures, diagrams, demonstrations, displays, handouts, films, flip-chart, etc.
These people will use phrases such as ‘show me’, ‘let’s have a look at that’ and will be best able to perform a new task after reading the instructions or watching someone else do it first.
These are the people who will work from lists and written directions and instructions.
Click here to read more about learning strategies for visual learners
Someone with an Auditory learning style has a preference for the transfer of information through listening: to the spoken word, of self or others, of sounds and noises.
These people will use phrases such as ‘tell me’, ‘let’s talk it over’ and will be best able to perform a new task after listening to instructions from an expert.
These are the people who are happy being given spoken instructions over the telephone, and can remember all the words to songs that they hear!
Click here to learn more about learning strategies for the auditory learner.
Someone with a Kinaesthetic learning style has a preference for physical experience - touching, feeling, holding, doing, and practical hands-on experiences.
These people will use phrases such as ‘let me try’, ‘how do you feel?’ and will be best able to perform a new task by going ahead and trying it out, learning as they go.
These are the people who like to experiment, hands-on, and never look at the instructions first!
Click here to read more about learning strategies for kinaesthetic learners
People commonly have a main preferred learning style, but this will be part of a blend of all three. Some people have a very strong preference and other people have more of an even mixture of two or less commonly, three learning styles. When you know your preferred learning style/s you understand the type of learning that best suits you. This enables you to choose the types of learning activities that work best for you. There is no right or wrong learning style. The point is that there are types of learning that are right for your own preferred learning style.
There are some free learning style tests available from the links below. The first one is an online learning styles test that provides you with an immediate result, as well as links to more information about each learning style. The other is a VAK learning styles self-assessment questionnaire that you can print out. When you have identified your learning style/s, consider how the learning styles explanations above might help you to identify the types of learning activities that best meets your preference/s.
If you would like to know more about learning styles, you can also find out your Multiple Intelligences by clicking the link at the bottom of this section.
An essential component of all learning is being able to access information and learning resources. In order to do this you need to be aware of what is available to assist you during the course of your studies
Sources of specific information can include:
- libraries and learning resource centres
- the Internet
If you study on campus, you may have a Learning Resource Centre or Library where you can access learning resources. If you don't study on campus, there may be a public Resource Centre or Library you can access nearby.
For further advice on learning resources you might need to complete your studies, contact your lecturer.
In the course of your studies you will be required to read a certain amount of printed material. It takes time to read and often longer to actually comprehend what you have read. It is therefore important to develop different techniques to suit the purpose of your reading.
Your purpose will be directly related to the task you have undertaken. It may be for a general overview, to find out some specific information, to find out the main ideas, to develop a critical understanding of the text, or just for entertainment.
Your reading speed will vary depending on your purpose for reading. Reading slowly does not guarantee that you will understand everything you have read. Read at your own pace and use your finger, your highlighter, or do whatever works for you.
Skimming is just like the word suggests. You concentrate on the important words and skip over unimportant ones looking for key information to try and get the gist of the text. Skim reading information can help you to decide whether the whole text is worth reading in depth.
You may not be aware of it, but you probably skim read all of the time. It is a technique that gives you a general overview of the material. The most common way of skimming is looking through the contents page. You browse through the headings and you can clearly see the main topics. If you don’t see what you are looking for, you select another text. If you do find something that catches your eye, you turn to the related pages and generally by reading through the first paragraph or introduction, you will establish whether the information is what you are looking for.
Scanning is another technique that good readers use to locate facts quickly. Generally you will be looking for something specific. Common examples are scanning the telephone book for a number or looking for a word in a dictionary or scanning a web page for a particular piece of information. You run your eyes over the text quickly and once you have found what you are looking for, you concentrate and slow your reading pace to take in the information.
Reading for Central Ideas
This occurs when you want to know about the theme, the approach, or conclusions of a particular author. You might want to use the information to compare or contrast other’s ideas, or even your own.
This is a more measured style of reading. You are still looking for key words, but you are making sure you do not miss anything important. You are thinking and looking as you go along.
Reading for In-depth Critical Understanding
This is an extension of reading for central ideas and involves a more intense look at a particular author’s work.
You are still interested in themes and ideas, but for this purpose you may want to:
- evaluate the author’s work
- follow a complex argument
- understand the material more thoroughly.
Effective notes give a brief and accurate written outline of the information presented by a speaker or writer. The whole point of taking notes is to help you remember information that you have read or heard, so you can use it again at a later time.
Notes are used to:
- Save time
- Help our memory
- Focus our attention on the main ideas
- Organise our thoughts
- Enable us to refer to the information later.
Making notes from a text involves the same process that is used for reading. You are looking for the important points, only this time you actually write them down. You can add your own ideas, comments or cross reference to other material. Restate the ideas in your own words. That way you will be sure not to plagiarise ideas and information from other sources when you use your notes to complete written assignments.
Note: Plagiarism is using the ideas and words of others, without acknowledging where those ideas or words originally came from. If you are writing an essay or an assignment and use a definition out of a book or copy a diagram from a journal, you need to record where you got the information from.
To avoid plagiarism, you must acknowledge:
- Another person’s idea, opinion or theory
- Any facts, statistics, graphs or drawings
- Quotations of another person’s actual spoken or written words
- Any rewording or reorganising of another person’s spoken or written words.
Speak to your lecturer/facilitator to find out the best way to acknowledge (or reference) the work of others.
The SQ3R technique
SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review) is a popular technique used for reviewing and comprehending material and taking clear, relevant notes.
Survey – Skim through the material to decide whether it will be useful. Look through the contents page, chapter summaries and any tables, graphs, illustrations and captions. You will get a general feel for the content and be able to decide if the text is useful for your purpose.
Question – Ask yourself some questions about the text. Why am I reading this text? What do I need to find out from the text? Does it look useful for my assignment, or other purposes?
Read – Read the information at a comfortable speed and highlight important points. If you can’t highlight, take some brief notes in your own words.
Recall – As soon as possible after your first reading, recall what you have read without looking at the text. This helps to clarify whether you have identified the main ideas and facts.
Review – Review your highlighting and notes shortly after you have written them to ensure that they make sense and again that you have identified the key information.
Remember that this is just one technique to help you focus when you are taking notes. SQ3R is not the only way to take notes . Whichever method you choose, your notes should be:
- Short and concise
- Detailed enough, so that you can remember the original ideas, article, discussion or meeting
- Written in your own words
- Well spaced so you can add extra ideas later
- Written with headings and sub-headings to emphasise key points
- Referenced so that you know where you got the information.
Tip: It is also useful to include symbols and diagrams in your notes. Many people also find it easier to visualise this type of information, which can help with trying to recall it later. Whichever note taking method you use, graphics will help you to capture key points effectively.
Click the link below to download a template for note taking that could help you with your studies.
Mind maps and concept maps are graphic forms of organisers that can be used to sort out and arrange your ideas and information.
They can be used for:
Note taking and recording information.
The following example illustrates how to create a mind map:
Steps to create a mind map:
Use a blank page (landscape orientation)
Add an image or the topic heading in the centre
Begin with the main ideas and move out to less important
Use thicker lines for main ideas
Use branches for sub-headings
Connect the main branches to the central topic
Use c o l o u r s to make connections
Use one, or very few words per line
Use CAPITALS for key points
Use images for visual impact.
Do you have a new topic that you are currently learning about? Do you have an assignment that you need to prepare for?
Why don't you have a go now at creating a mind map to help you?
Writing for different purposes
There are number of ways you can present information in writing. Have a look through these by linking to the resource below.
Have a look through the presentation below to get some tips about how to get the most out of your time when you are studying an online course.