Study Skills for College
and University Tests and Exams
by UWO Student Development Centre’s Learning Skills Services
Prepare for Class:
Read the recommended text pages.
Some students like to do a fairly quick reading before class, and then after class they make their study notes from the text. Other students will read and make notes before they go to class. Try both options to see which works best for you.
Also, take a look through your course outline before class to see what you can expect in class.
Read over your notes from the last class; this will set you up for the continuation of the topic.
Attend ALL Classes:
Nothing works better for you than having been in class, listening intently, and taking your own notes! This is the efficient way for you to learn course content, by sharing the task with the professor.
Make Good Use of the Course Resources Provided by your Instructor:
Check out the course web site; more and more professors are using the web as a way of providing key information to students. In addition to information about the course, the professor may have included sample test questions, reviews of tests you have written, and links to a publisher’s aids to the text.
Make good use of any help centres that are set up for your courses.
Finally, make sure to talk to your professor or teaching assistant about any questions or problems you have.
Use a System for Summarising Text Materials:
Selecting and highlighting “main ideas” is a key step in developing good comprehension and memory of the information. Common ways to highlight “main” ideas include:
making a separate set of study notes (on the computer?)
adding your own marginal notes to the text
underlining or highlighting on the text itself.
You need to experiment to see which method works best for you. Remember, your end goal is for you to KNOW the information–not just to produce a nice set of notes.
Work Regularly on Course Material:
Working regularly on a course is much more effective than trying to get through everything just before a test.
Read your text each week.
Also, after every class, read over your class notes before you put them away. This is an important memory step in learning the material.
Organise your Notes and Other Learning Materials:
Set up a binder or several binders for each course that you are taking.
Every day, file away class notes, text summary notes, and any other materials that your course generates.
Use different colours of paper for lecture notes (white?) and text notes (yellow?); then you will be able to see at a glance where each set of materials is.
Don’t Cram for the Test; Give Yourself Enough Review Time:
Ideally, aim to finish your review by the day before your test.
University courses usually cover a lot of information for one test, so plan your schedule to get everything done.
Then you can use time on that last day to look through things one last time in a more relaxed and confident frame of mind.
Manage Your Energy and Concentration Levels:
Ensure that you get enough sleep, good nutrition, exercise, and personal “down” time to relax, as well as time with good friends.
If you take a motivated, clear, bright mind into class and into your homework sessions, as well as into your exams, you can optimise your performance.
Carry a Reasonable Course Load:
Take the quantity and type of courses that are right for you and will allow you to get the kind of marks that you are aiming for.
Be aware of the mandatory requirements for your programme and, within those constraints, determine your course load.
If your life is busy with essential non-school activities, such as a paying job or family responsibilities, it might be in your best interest to take a reduced academic load.
This article was produced originally by Student Development Centre’s Learning Skills Services, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada. Reprinted with permission.