Study Skills

Many students think that being a good student means just showing up for classes, taking a few notes, reading the textbooks, and studying right before the tests. However, learning, like many other activities, involves a complex set of skills that require practice. For example, if you wanted to become a good basketball player, you would have to learn how to dribble, pass, shoot, rebound, be a team player, etc., and you would have to practice these individual skills over and over in order to improve them. Similarly, studying involves learning a complex set of skills, such as note taking, test taking, etc., that must be practiced in order for you to become a good student.

Reading Comprehension

Do you read page after page of your textbooks and then realize that you have no idea what you've read? To help you avoid having to re-read your course materials and to make more effective use of your reading time, Penn State Learning has developed the following website where you can learn about a step-by-step study-reading method, speed reading, highlighting text, taking notes while reading, reading difficult texts, and more.

Reading Comprehension


Note Taking

Because so much material is covered in college courses, you won't be able to remember everything unless you know how to take good notes in class. Good note taking also involves adequate preparation and review outside of class. The following site provides valuable strategies for taking notes during lectures, tips for effective listening, and the “Five Rs of Note Taking.”

Note Taking


Test Taking

Successful test taking involves four critical steps: (1) preparing well in advance of the day of the test, (2) taking the test in an organized way, (3) managing stress, and (4) learning from the test after it is over. The following site focuses on ways to become a successful test taker.

Test Preparation, Test Taking Tips, and Test Anxiety



The ability to communicate your thoughts and ideas in writing is critical for success in college and in your future career. Effective writing is a combination of many skills that must be developed through practice. The following websites will help you in developing these skills.

Some General Advice on Academic Essay-Writing (University of Toronto)


Understanding Instead of Memorizing

Memorizing without understanding is not the best way to study, nor is it sufficient for success in college. When students understand the material that they are studying rather than just memorizing facts, they are more likely to remember the material. Students who study for understanding read and think critically, recognize the complexity of the content, and can demonstrate and explain how concepts are related to each other. The following sites provide information on how to study for understanding.

Critical Reading (Cleveland State University)

Critical Reading vs. Critical Thinking (Dan Kurland)

Concept Mapping (University of Victoria)

Reading Ideas as Well as Words (Dan Kurland)


Studying Math/Science

Learning mathematics and science often presents unique study skill challenges. The disciplines of mathematics and science communicate content using new language and many symbols, are theory oriented, and often require the mastery of prerequisite concepts as a base for acquiring new knowledge. The following sites discuss how to study effectively for your mathematics and science courses.

Academic Success (Eberly College of Science)

Math Study Skills (Texas A&M University)


Working on Study/Learning Teams

Many instructors assign projects that require students to work together in “learning teams.” In addition, many students voluntarily set up their own study groups. Being able to work as a team member is a skill that can be learned only by being part of a team. Unless these teams function effectively, they can be frustrating and a waste of time. However, there can be many benefits, including learning from others, participating in active learning, supplementing your personal studying, and seeing material from other perspectives. The following sites provide ways that study teams can be effective in helping you to learn.

Using Study Groups to Increase Learning (University of Victoria)

Start a Study Group (Brigham Young University)


Additional Relevant Study Skills Sites

Additional information about note taking, test taking, reading, writing, and other topics related to study skills improvement can be found on the websites listed below.

Helpful Study Skills Links (University of St. Thomas)

Study Skills Self-help Information (Virginia Tech)

Study Strategies (University of California–Berkeley)