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Academic success tip: study smarter

Courtesy Jillana Finnegan Associate Director for Academic Advising and Enhancement

Take Breaks

The average adult attention span is only 20 minutes.  If studying for an hour or more, you should take a five minute break every 20 minutes to keep up your concentration, focus, energy and information retention. 

Distribute Learning

Students who have short, frequent study sessions typically have higher GPAs than those who have    fewer, longer study sessions.  Study throughout the week for shorter time periods, rather than once or twice a week for several hours.

Rewrite Notes

Rewriting your notes allows you to review material, improve note organization, add personal     examples and summarize material to maximize retention and ease of review.

 Explain Key Ideas

Explaining concepts to others, or even out loud to yourself, can help you to review and identify any gaps in your knowledge.

Make Personal

Create personal examples or connections to the material you are learning whenever possible.  You will be more likely to remember those than the book’s examples.

Know Your
Learning Style

Do you speak out loud when reading a chapter? Or maybe you remember information when it’s presented in a diagram?  Discover your learning style and then apply study strategies that utilize your natural preferences.  Visit for an online assessment and tips.

Mental State

Our brains interpret, code and recall information differently when we’re in different mental states.     If you want to perform your best on a test, study in the same mental state you will be in during the exam.  If your daily routine is only one coffee a day, don’t drink six Red Bulls when you study or take a test.

The Memory Curve

Instead of studying in chronological order it’s better for you to study based on how well you know the information.   What is studied at the beginning is remembered best and what is studied in the middle is remembered least. So, study material you know the least at the beginning, and review material you are already comfortable with in the middle.