Devoting time to revision is only half the battle, students need the right study skills to the get most from their efforts. As reading textbooks and notes are the main way students will study on their own, we wanted to provide some pointers to help refine their study skills.
Why are study skills important?
Developing a set of study skills during your school years will continue to provide benefits long after you take your final exams. Study skills are more about discipline and dedication to the task than your ability to retain information. If you master these skills, you will improve your confidence when you sit down to study because you will reduce the amount of time you need to study while at the same time improving your ability to learn and retain knowledge.
Study skills for secondary school students
As we mentioned above, developing the right revision skills is about mastering discipline and dedication. One of the biggest things you can do to help yourself is by controlling the controllable. What we mean by that is paying attention to you and your environment before you open a book. By doing this you are reducing the likelihood of distraction once you begin to study.
For example, before you sit down…
- Are you hungry or thirsty?
Get your water and snacks organised before sitting down. It is much harder to concentrate when you are hungry and/or thirsty
- Is your study area quiet?
The quieter the better, ideally there should be no noise at all.
- Will you be comfortable in this place for the period you have devoted to studying?
- How likely are other people to come into your area during your study period?
- Do you have everything you need within arm’s reach (pens, paper, maths equipment, reference books, etc.)?
By paying attention to these details and limiting the distractions you give yourself the best chance of going deep into study mode.
When you sit down to study
Once you sit down to study you need to think about how you are going to use this time.
- Make sure you think about what you want to achieve during this study period.
Setting goals will have you stay focused.
- Aim to study in chunks of 15–20 minutes.
Nobody can study hard for 2 hours so do not even try. Short bursts with a little break will help you stay alert.
- Skim the contents or index pages of your books.
Identify which sections require careful reading and which you will be able to read through quickly.
- Keep a dictionary to hand and look up any terms you do not understand.
- Make sure you understand what you read.
It is easier to remember information if you understand it.
- Be interested in what you are reading.
Can you apply what you are learning to a familiar situation? This will help bring the information to life.
Reading techniques that can save you time
Scanning – a useful first step before reading more deeply.
Run your eyes down the page to:
- spot new ideas or vocabulary so you can check the meaning before you start reading
- find information on a specific topic
- look for keywords to give an indication of the scope of the passage
- read the first and last paragraphs to get the main points
- look at the first sentence of each paragraph to get a feel for the content
- note the key points in the summaries.
Skimming – handy when you are looking for things within a passage or trying to find out whether a text will be useful.
For example, if you are looking to locate specific information to give an overview of a text, by finding out.
- What it is called? – Hamlet
- Who wrote it? – Shakespeare
- When it was produced? – 1605
- Who it was produced for – Elizabethan theatre-goers
- Why you think it was produced. For entertainment
- Underline or highlight keywords and phrases of text as you read.
- Make notes in the margin.
- Read critically by asking questions of the text.
- Test yourself by reading for half an hour, putting the text away and jotting down the key points from memory.
5 steps to better reading – SQ3R
Scan, question, read, recite, and review, better known as the SQ3R method, is a comprehension method design to help you retain as much information possible after reading.
Step 1 – Scan
- Look at the chapter quickly. Notice headings, images, and keywords
- Flick backwards and forwards through the pages.
- Glance at the first sentence of each paragraph.
Step 2 – Question
- Ask questions of the text: Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?
- Read any exam questions you can find related to the topic of the subject.
Step 3 – Read
- Read the text in a relaxed, focused, and speedy way.
- Do not make notes just yet.
Step 4 – Remember
- Test your memory – but do not worry if you cannot remember much.
- Jot down some points without looking at the text.
Step 5 – Review
- Read the text again, taking brief notes.
- Use your own words – look away from the text and imagine you are trying to explain it to a friend.
Bonus Study Skills Tip: Mind Maps
Mind maps, also known as spider diagrams, help you to get ideas down on paper when you cannot think where to start. They help you see connections and provide an overview of key points.
Draw your own mind-map for Hamlet including the themes of:
It should look something like this but fill in as much detail/points as you can.