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Successful Study Habit Feature of the Week

Successful Study Habit Feature of the Week



Test Taking Guide


General Study Hints


§ Plan your study time well in advance. Last minute cramming is nonproductive.


§ Several review sessions are better than one long one.


§ Be rested; have a good study area—free of distractions, take breaks, stay

away from pep pills or caffeine-laced items.


§ Group study is most beneficial only after individual study. Beware that group

study does not drift into casual conversation.


Develop a 4-Day Study Plan


4 Days Ahead—Get ready to study, organize books, pencils, and notes.

Complete any reading or assignments not done.


3 Days Ahead—Begin to study, 4 hours divided into 2-hour blocks (with breaks

on the hour).


2 Days Ahead—Practice for essay exam, if applicable. Make a word outline

from a practice essay. Focus your review on material you haven’t completely



The Day Before the Exam—Review cards, outlines, etc. to answer practice



Day of the Exam—Don’t study one to one and one-half hours before the exam.

Practice relaxation right before the exam.


Suggested Review Techniques


§ Compare lecture notes to the textbook or readings. Topics stressed in both

are usually sure to be included on tests.


§ Try to recall main headings of chapters, or try to remember sub-headings and

main ideas of each.


§ Use 3x5 cards for review of terminology, formulas, and other brief facts.


§ Review reading and lecture notes by turning headings into questions and

seeing how complete an answer you can give.


§ Try to make an outline of each section of a chapter. Write a few summary



§ In sciences, be sure you include laboratory notes in study. Combine all notes

on each topic as you study.


§ Try to formulate questions that might be asked and prepare answers.


§ Prepare study aid sheets for the most important material, coordinating

reading and lecture notes.


§ You are well prepared if you can give a 15-minute summary without looking at

your notes.


General Test Hints


§ Have a positive attitude. A test is an opportunity to show what you know.


§ Be sure you have a pen or pencil with you, if possible wear a watch too.


§ Arrive at the exam 3 or 4 minutes ahead of time, so that you are settled

before the test is handed out. Do not talk about the material just before the



§ Read the directions carefully.


§ Look quickly through the whole test and plan time allowance. Allow time for

rechecking. There is no advantage to being the first one done—take all the

time allowed.


§ Pay attention to the number of points per question. More points = more time.


§ Answer the questions you know first. Then go back to others.


§ Watch for qualifying cue words in the questions, such as: one, best, most, or



§ Answer easiest questions first.


§ Be aware of the questions that might have information that answers other



§ Be very sure before changing any answers.





Different Types of Questions:


Questions that require you to tell all that you know use terms such as: comment

on, describe, discuss, review, or state.


Questions that are looking for specific characteristics, or limited facts, use terms

such as: compare—likenesses, contrast—differences, diagram—charts and

tables, illustrate—concrete examples, prove—show why by evidence, explain—

restate in your own words, define—tell meaning, qualities, characteristics.


Questions that are looking for important facts without elaborating ask you to:

enumerate, list, tabulate, trace, summarize, or outline.


Questions that are asking for your supported opinion ask you to: evaluate,

interpret, justify, select, choose, or criticize.


Essay Questions


§ Plan your answers. Jot down ideas, brief outline, organization, before you

start writing.


§ Plan your time, on the basis of points if possible. Set your watch where you

can easily see it.


§ Make your answers specific and direct. The first sentence is the direct

answer; the rest are support for that statement. Use technical terms

wherever possible.


§ Be sure you are giving the information that was asked for.


§ Write legibly. Leave space between answers for possible additions.


Short Answer Questions


§ Generally follow rules for essay questions.


§ These questions usually require two sentences. The first identifies the term

and the second states why it is important.


§ Read questions carefully


§ Recall specific fact.


§ Understand what is being asked.


§ Stick with the first answer.


§ Be brief and to the point.


§ Don’t leave a question blank—write in something, your intuition may be good.


Multiple Choice Questions


§ Try to supply the answer before reading the alternatives.


§ Cross out the choices you know are wrong.


§ Be careful with “all of the above” or “none of the above” type answers.


§ Read all the choices to be sure you have the best answer.


§ Refer choices directly back to the question for relationship.


§ Identify the key phrase in the question.


Matching Questions


§ Recall any related facts and look for associations.


§ Cross out the choices as you use them.


§ Pick the answer that is the most closely related.


True/False Questions


§ Read the whole statement; it must all be true.


§ The broader the statement, the greater chance that it is false.


§ Beware of the double negative and the change in thinking necessary.


§ Words that are usually a clue to a true statement: usually, probably,

sometimes, most, or some.


§ Words that are usually a clue to a false statement: always, never, all, or




Follow-up after the Test


§ Try to determine why you got wrong what you did.


-Is it an indication of poor preparation?


-Did you not answer the questions asked?


-Did you misread the directions?


§ Had you accurately predicted the type of questions that would be asked?


§ As soon after the test as possible, check on the material you were in doubt



Hopefully these tips will make preparing for exam day more orderly,

predictable, and a lot less stressful for you so that test taking can become

a part of the classroom learning experience that you face with confidence.


Now what was it I was supposed to remember?


Memory Part II

                                                               You can improve your memory!  

Samples of Memory Devices:

Acronyms – words

Use the first letter of a word to create a new word. 

Ex: NASA = National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
      ROY G. BIV = The order of the colors in a spectrum; Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet

 Acronyms – sentences

Ex. My very excited mother just sent us nine pickles = the order of the planets in our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto                                                                              


·         You can always use the alphabet to organize a list you need to memorize.

·         Learn in small sets of 3-5 items.

·         Remember how many begin with “T,” how many have no “Q,” etc.


·         Visualize an object, then visualize it’s label or name

·         Use post-it notes to label furniture in a room as parts of the body

·         Think of people you know – to remember that the sensorimotor stage is the infant stage, I recall a relative who is 9 months old and using her senses to learn.  (She puts everything in her mouth.)

Note cards

·         Making cards is kinesthetic.  It makes a stronger, more lasting impression on the brain.

·         You can review cards during waiting time between classes, while standing in line at the grocery store, while sitting at the doctor’s office.

·         Reciting aloud from the cards uses more of your senses.  You must speak the questions and hear yourself answer.   This also creates a stronger impression on the brain.

Memory devices can be goofy, gross, or highly personal – nobody has to know what they are, except you!  Find the type of memory device that works best for you and use it to your memory advantage.

Now what was it I was supposed to remember?


Memory Part I

                                                               You can improve your memory!  

Memory is a 3-step process of:

1)      Input (data)

2)      Storage (classifying, memorizing)

3)      Output (recall)

Input and storage must be improved before one can expect increased effectiveness.

Input rules for memory improvement:

A.      Eliminate distractions for optimum input.  (Turn off the cell phone, Ipod, TV)

B.      Space out memorization tasks to keep data clearly organized.

C.      Study memorization tasks just prior to sleep.

D.      Break up memory tasks into small, manageable groups of 5 items or less.

E.       Develop a memory system.

Keep in mind that there are several types of memory.

Kinesthetic memory stores memory of physical movement and how the body performs acts such as riding a bike or throwing a ball.

Emotional memory stores memory of emotional experiences such as guilt, grief, or love.

Visual memory stores memory of what something looks like such as a favorite dress, or a special photograph.

Auditory memory stores memory of certain sounds such as a familiar voice or a favorite song.

Use a variety of senses while studying.
   The more senses you involve, the better your memory will be of that information!

                                                       Using the Cornell Note taking System

Adapted from Chapter 6, How to Study in College by Walter Pauk, 3rd Edition, 1985

Why take quality notes? 
Your lecture notes can be used to supplement the reading notes you wrote as part of using the SQ4R process.  Lecture notes can serve as a wonderful review tool, if they are done correctly and are meaningful to you!

How do I take good notes using the Cornell System?
1. Start by using your own notebook paper!  Be sure to write the course, date, and topic of the lecture for the day on the page.  

2. Move the left margin of your paper approximately one inch to the right.  This will give you a wider left column; and establish for you the recall column and the record column.

The Record Column is where your lecture notes during class will be written; the Recall Column will be left blank until your review time (preferably, within 24 hours after learning new information.)  Be sure to leave a generous amount of white space between ideas – this helps the brain keep information separate, and gives you space to draw pictures, add detail or make other notes later.

What to write in the record column:

§  Shortened phrases/definitions

§  Abbreviations

§  Main ideas

§  Information generally given by your instructor

The Recall Column is not to be used during class, but will be used at a later time when you review.

What to write in the recall column:

§  Terms

§  Possible test questions

§  Ideas or facts

§  Relationships between ideas

Note:  As you review, cover the record column and use the recall column to spark your memory.  Recite the answers in your own words.  Uncover the record column to check your answers and help transfer the information to your long-term memory.  Try to find relationships within the material; tie old material to new material, categorize information, and consider which topics will appear on quizzes and tests.

Review new information within 24 hours of learning it; review weekly to maintain long-term retention.

SQ4R Reading Technique


Do you often fall asleep while reading your textbooks or do you skip the reading altogether, because it’s boring, difficult to understand, or too lengthy?   Students are academic athletes.  Like sports athletes, it’s important to follow a training routine in preparation for the big game – or big exam coming up.   Follow the steps below for implementing the SQ4R Reading Technique to guide you through how to effectively and efficiently read your textbooks. 

1. S – Survey – an overview of the main ideas

Warm up!  Scan the table of contents, read over the chapter title and subheadings.  Look over charts, pictures and graphs in the chapter.  Read the summary, key terms, and other help at the end of the chapter.

2. Q – Question – a purpose for reading

Brain research has proven that your mind wants to learn and appreciates question and answer format.  Recall from a previous language or English course, “who, what, when, where, why and how” - and apply those to the chapter headings and subheadings.     Next, read the learning objectives and read the questions at the back of the chapter.  (Note: some textbooks provide this question format for you in the headings and subheadings.)    Examples:  “Who discovered DNA?”  “What is photosynthesis?” “When is a dihybrid genetic cross used?”  “Where in the brain are visual memories stored?” “Why is it important to understand college study skills?”  “How do I apply the FOIL method to solving an algebraic equation?”

3. R – Read – for comprehension

Read to find the answers to your questions!  Identify the main ideas and locate the details of the section.

4. R – Recite – for understanding

Talk aloud to yourself.  Talk to a friend, your spouse, or a pet.  You know a topic well if you can give a 15 minute verbal summary of the information.  Read your questions and answer them out loud.  Give yourself a summary about the section.  (Reciting the information involves more of your senses – you will have to speak and hear yourself.)

5. R – Rephrase – in brief notes

Do you like to write in your book, or do you prefer a clean copy?  Either is fine, depending on your personal preference.  If you like writing in your book, highlight or underline main ideas.  Write annotations in the margins.   Mark for emphasis with asterisks, circles, boxes, etc.  If you prefer not to write in your texts, you can simply highlight and make annotations on your own pages.  Write a summary of what was read, or create an outline of the section.

6. R – Review – for retention

Review newly learned information within 24 hours!  Review using a variety of methods:  compare your reading notes to class lecture notes, answer the questions you have written, create memory cues, write study guides, create flash cards (preferable in question/answer format),  organize information into charts, and repeat, repeat, repeat.  Review weekly for maximum retention.                                            AC

“If only there were more hours in a day!”


You’ve probably said this to yourself more than once already this semester.  As the term progresses and papers are due, that test is coming up, and you juggle classes with work and family obligations, it’s important to take a few minutes to fine tune your time management skills.  Managing your time better can help you manage your assignments better.  

1.       Visit our Helpful Handouts page using the link below to print a copy of your own “Learning Lab Planning Schedule”  Learning Lab Planning Schedule

2.       Fill in your commitments each week – things that you won’t miss unless an emergency arises.  Be sure to include your classes, work schedule, family time, etc.

3.       Think of the number of credit hours you are taking and multiply that times 2.  (If you are taking an online class, multiply that credit hour number by 3.)  This number you created is the number of hours, outside of class; you should be studying in order to be successful.

4.       Use that new number you created and find that many “pockets” of time on your schedule to study.   Each study session should be 45-50 minutes long with 10-15 minute breaks in between sessions.

5.       Try to study your harder subject first, but be sure to study each subject, each day.

6.       Schedule in down time for family and fun – the goal is to fit all you need to do into your schedule, not burn yourself out.

Note: If you would like help completing this schedule and to find more Time Management tips, return to the Learning Lab homepage and click on “YouTube Videos”. 

Answer the questions below to assess your current study habits.
  After you total your score call 786-2396 to schedule an appointment
   with a Study Skills Specialist start improving your study habits today!




NAME: ______________________________________


1. Almost Never

2. Less than Half of the Time

3. About Half of the Time

4. More than Half of the Time

5. Almost Always

(Circle one)



1. Do you read over the Table of Contents of a book before you begin studying the book?

5          4         3         2         1

2. Before studying the book, do you take 10 minutes to thumb through the book as a whole to check for the presence of study aids such as glossaries, summaries, outlines, italicized or bold-faced words, and charts?

5          4         3         2         1

3. Before each reading assignment, do you take five minutes to preview the chapter (familiarizing self with charts, illustrations, key words, summaries, etc.)?

5          4          3         2         1

4. Do you write down questions based on the preview so that you approach your reading and class with an active inquiring mind?

5          4          3         2         1


5. Do you look up or find the meaning of important new words?

5          4         3         2         1

6. As you read an assignment, do you have in mind questions that you actually are trying to answer?

5          4         3         2         1


7. Do you pick out the main idea of each paragraph and repeat it to yourself?

5          4         3         2         1

8. Are you able to read without saying each word to yourself?

5          4          3          2          1

9. Do you seek out other reading materials in addition to assigned textbook sections?

5          4          3          2          1

Reading Review

10. Do you utilize review questions or summaries at the end of a chapter to test your recall of what you’ve read?

5          4          3          2          1

11. Do you review five minutes for every hour of reading?

5          4         3         2         1


12. Do you display an interest or enthusiasm for a course to people around you (fellow students, instructor, etc)?

 5         4         3         2         1

13. If you do not understand something you’re assigned to remember, do you ask the instructor?

5          4          3          2          1

14. When studying material to be remembered, do you try to summarize it or put it into your own words?

5          4         3         2          1

15. Do you distribute the study of a lengthy assignment over several study sessions (less than an hour each)?

5          4         3         2         1

16. Do you deliberately relate new or unfamiliar material to things that you already know?

5          4          3          2          1

17. When studying information to be memorized, do you practice or review over many short sessions?

5          4         3         2         1

In Class

18. Do you take class notes?

5          4          3          2          1

19. Do you ask questions or initiate comments in each class?

 5         4         3         2         1

20. During class, do you try to compare or relate ideas being presented in class to ideas from the textbook?

5          4         3         2         1

21. Do you approach each class with questions from your readings or preview?

5          4          3          2          1

22. Do you review your class notes for three to five minutes at the end of the period or immediately afterward (before going somewhere else)?

5          4          3          2          1

23. Do you review your class notes later the same day?

5          4         3         2         1

23. Do you write questions while reviewing your class notes?

5          4         3         2         1

24. Do you approach each class with questions from your readings or preview?

5          4         3         2         1

Report Writing

25. Before writing a report, do you collect information and ideas from other people or outside readings?

5          4         3         2         1

26. Before writing a report, do you make an outline OR list ideas and then organize them into selections?

5          4         3         2         1

27. In writing a report, do you clearly indicate the main Ideas of each paragraph?

5          4          3          2          1

28. In writing a report, do you write a first draft and rewrite the report at least once?


5          4          3          2          1

Preparing for Examinations

29. In studying for an examination, do you distribute your studying over at least two sessions, preferably three or four?

 5         4         3         2         1

30. Before an examination, do you review all class and textbook notes?

5          4          3          2          1

31. Do you relate class notes to textbook notes so as to reinforce the main ideas?

5          4          3          2          1
32. Do you make up examination questions that you think will be asked and then find the answers?

5          4         3         2         1

33. Do you get a normal amount of sleep the night before an exam?

5          4          3          2          1



Taking Examinations

34. In taking examinations, do you read all the directions and preview all the questions first?

5          4          3          2          1

35. Before beginning the test, do you make plans for distributing your time among the questions?

5          4         3         2         1

36. In taking an essay examination, do you quickly outline your answer before you start to write?

5          4         3         2         1

37. At the end of an examination, do you proofread or check your answers?

5          4         3         2         1

38. In taking multiple-choice, matching, and true-false tests, are you aware of guessing penalties and utilize that information to plan a guessing strategy?

5          4          3          2          1

39. Do you keep up to date in your assignments?

5          4          3          2          1

40. Do you have a study-schedule plan in which you set aside time each day for studying?

5          4          3          2          1

41. Do you schedule manageable study periods and frequent periods for review?

5          4          3          2          1

Physical Setting

42. Do you study in a quiet place – one that is free from noisy disturbances?

5          4          3          2          1

43. Do you study by yourself before studying with others?

5          4         3         2         1

44. Do you have a special chair and location to study – separate from relaxation or sleeping furniture?

5          4         3          2          1


Number of times “5” was checked __________ x 5 =


Number of times “4” was checked __________ x 4 =


Number of times “3” was checked __________ x 3 =


Number of times “2” was checked __________ x 2 =


Number of times “1” was checked __________ x 1 =


TOTAL __________

After adding your ratings from each question, if your total

score is:

120 or less Learning efficiency program is highly recommended

150 to 121 Learning efficiency program could be helpful

175 to151 Study habits are OK

Over 175 Study habits are superior

Adapted from checklist developed by:

Kenneth Doody, Basic Skills Tutor, Learning Lab, Oakton Community College









What does research say about how the brain learns?


1.      Short-term memory can hold 5-7 pieces of information at a time.

2.      If you overload the short-term memory, it dumps other information to make room for what is new.  (This is why you will understand something in class, then when you get home it doesn’t make sense anymore – the information was held in your short-term memory and had been replaced by what happened after you left class.)

3.      You have more than 100 billion brain cells (neurons).

4.      Neural connections create your memory.

5.      We can trick the brain into remembering more than it is capable of remembering.

6.      Being interested in a topic will help you to understand; understanding will help you remember.

7.      Stay positive!  Your attitude will help you remember – generally, if you want to remember something, you will.

8.      Pay attention – you will remember better if you are fully focused on what it is you are learning.

9.      Having some knowledge helps. This is called basic background and it gives something for the new information to stick to in your memory.  Basic background can be gained through reading, watching videos, life experiences – anything that makes you more familiar with the content being studied will build your basic background.

10.  Be selective – don’t try to remember everything - only the most important, relevant information.

11.  Organize your information – use grouping, mnemonics, numbering, etc. to organize what you are learning.

12.  Be creative and use your senses. The more you get your senses involved, the better your retention will be of the information being studied.

13.  Talk to yourself – or someone else.  This will give you feedback on what you know (or don’t know) and help you determine the accuracy of your learning.

14.  Use mental pictures – Can you draw a picture of what is being covered or find a picture that you can connect to the information?   Close your eyes and visualize that picture – do you remember the information?

15.  Associate – think of what you already know about a topic – is what you are studying similar to what you already know?  Link these together to help the brain’s neural connections.

16.  Learning takes time!  Review your notes before class – then review them after class.  Learning new information is a process that does not happen overnight. 

17.  Study for 45-50 minutes, and then take a 10-15 minute break.  The next day, repeat.   The brain learns better from shorter sessions spread over several days.    Try to review on a daily basis.

Adapted from Practicing College Learning Strategies, 4th Edition by Carolyn Hopper.



What's My Style?

Knowing your learning style can make your study time more effective and efficient. 
Take the brief VARK Questionnaire to find your learning style.

1.      Logon to

2.      Choose the answer which best suits you and select the box next to it.
You may select more than one answer if you feel that it applies to you.  For a question that does not apply to you, the answer may be left blank.

3.      Click “OK”

4.      Your learning style preference will be presented in a style that you can easily understand.  For example, a visual learner will be given his/her results using charts, pictures, graphs.   Click on the help sheets links provided for more information about your learning style preference.

For more information on how to use your learning style,
call the Learning Lab today at 786-2396.



Lincoln Land Community College