A key to effective studying is reading comprehension. In their 2001 “Preparing Students for High- Stakes Test Taking in Reading” article, the University of Maryland notes that “good test preparation includes direct instruction in the strategies necessary for effective reading comprehension.” The more you read, the easier it generally is for you to understand or comprehend the information that you just took in. If you don’t consider yourself to have a natural passion for reading print or electronic books for entertainment or enjoyment, you can still improve your reading comprehension and study skills.
To start, consider either using a highlighter or a spiral notebook to draw attention to key facts, research points, graphs and other data points listed in your course textbooks. Keep in mind, that you can get highlighters and notebooks from department or office stores for less than five bucks a pack, enough to last you one quarter or semester of college or university coursework.
Read through the first chapter in your syllabus quickly, simply to get an overall understanding of the material. Then return and read through the chapter a second time, taking your time to highlight information that “jumps out at you” as you read. For example, if you’re taking a psychology course and you’re reading a chapter on dream theorists, consider highlighting information that lists the names, birthdates and theory creation dates for prominent psychologists. Also consider highlighting the titles (e.g. activation synthesis, continual activation) and three to four key features (e.g. importance of REM sleep, impact of food on dreams) of these doctors’ dream theories.
Additional steps you can take to study effectively are:
Additionally, if you relax and do stretching exercises, take a 15 to 20 minute walk or meditate for 10 minutes before and after you study, you’ll relax and learn. These steps can also make studying more fun and enjoyable. Of course, if you continue to struggle in one or more courses after you start studying effectively, contact your professors and schedule time to meet with them. Share with them specific challenges that you are having and ask them for additional steps you can take to understand course material and improve your test grades.