As I said in previous posts, studying encompasses many factors, each of which could be presenting challenges to your successful study of a subject.

If you struggle while trying to study for a class, midterm, final, or standardized test, this series will present some questions you can ask yourself to try to pinpoint where the problem(s) may be.

Besides overcoming obstacles with your subject material, study mindset, and study environment, you need to be aware of your actual study methods. Read below to understand why.

In addition to having the proper mindset and level of focus while studying, you need to ensure that you are doing the right things to study for your various classes. Here are some basic questions you can ask yourself to figure out whether your study methods could use some work.

1. Note-Taking

Are you:

  • Unable to decipher your own notes?
  • Writing the wrong things?
  • Not reviewing your notes?

Smart note-taking is important to academic success. First, be sure to write neatly and organize the notes in a methodical way on your page. Diagrams, flow charts, and outlines are all viable options, in addition to shorthand sentences. Look for clues from your teacher or your textbook that a detail is an important one; topics listed on the syllabus and the headings in your class text are major clues, but so are a teacher’s repetition of a detail or special emphasis he or she puts on a topic during a lecture. Finally, be sure to review your notes periodically so that you can stay on top of the material. Rewriting your notes soon after a lecture can also be a very effective way of studying and keeping your notes organized.

2. Reading

Are you:

  • Not reading actively?
  • Reading too fast or too slowly?
  • Lost in the details?
  • Not taking notes while reading?

Strong reading skills will help you get the most out of any assigned reading you have for your classes. Reading actively means asking yourself questions while you read, predicting changes in topic or tone, taking notes on important points, and making a mental or paper outline of the text as you go. Reading actively will not only help you stay focused while reading, but it will also help you retain more from your reading. Another thing you should do is vary your reading speed depending on what you are reading: dense, unfamiliar texts should be read slowly, while familiar material can be skimmed quickly. Reading more slowly will help you absorb the details of the text, but you also have to make sure you understand them in context. The outline you make and notes you take while reading actively will help you keep the big picture of the text in mind while you are reading.

3. Organization and Planning

Are you:

  • Losing important notes and papers?
  • Forgetting assignments?
  • Unaware of test dates or due dates?

Organization and planning are two things that can help you combat any other poor study habits you may have. Keep a designated folder and notebook for each of your classes, in which you keep all assignments, tests, and notes. You’ll also want to keep some kind of planner, whether electronic (online or on your phone) or a notebook, so that you’ll never be clueless about when something is due or when the next test is. Sometimes we’re not aware of how disorganized we are and how much it impacts our ability to study or work; Signet Education has a robust staff of academic coaches who can help with these issues and more.

Keep in mind that not every subject necessarily needs to be studied the same way; some will require reading, others memorization, and still others drawings or hands-on experimentation.

Click here to go to the final post in this four-part series: How to Diagnose Your Own Study Habits, Part 4: Study Environment.