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Centre for Learning Alternatives
Study Skills

Doing Is Not Learning, It is the Beginning of Learning

How do you study and learn?  Do you read and re-read over and over again?  Do you do the work, hoping you will remember what you did?  Do you struggle to remember information?  Did you know it yesterday and forgot it today?

Many students lack study skills. Study skills come naturally to some students.  Others must be taught.  Let's look at what is needed for learning:

  1. Day by day regular study is better than start and stop.
  2. Know your learning style so you know how to study in ways that work for you.
  3. Reading for Understanding and Learning as you go through lessons.
  4. Good note taking skills.
  5. Memorization of import information. What everyone is suppose to know.
  6. Applying the knowledge you have learned in familiar situations. (Doing all the practice work)
  7. Applying the knowledge you have learned in new situations. (Doing all the practice work)

Individual Learning Styles

People are smart in different ways. Some people can create a catchy song at the drop of a hat. Others can memorize everything in a book, paint a masterpiece, or be the center of attention. When you realize what you’re good at, you can figure out the best way to study that works for you. (The following are based on Howard Gardner’s theory of intelligence):

Word Smart – Word smart people are good with words, letters, and phrases. They enjoy activities such as reading, playing scrabble or other word games, and having discussions. If you’re word smart, these study strategies can help:

    • make flashcards
    • take extensive notes
    • keep a journal of what you learn

Number Smart - Number smart people are good with numbers, equations, and logic. They enjoy coming up with solutions to logical problems and figuring things out. If you’re number smart, give these strategies a try:

    • make your notes into numeric charts and graphs
    • use the roman numeral style of outlining
    • put information you receive into categories and classifications that you create

Picture Smart – Picture smart people are good with art and design. They enjoy being creative, watching movies, and visiting art museums. Picture smart people can benefit from these study tips:

    • sketch pictures that go along with your notes or in the margins of your textbooks
    • draw a picture on a flashcard for each concept or vocabulary word you study
    • use charts and graphic organizers to keep track of what you learn

Body Smart – Body smart people work well with their hands. They enjoy physical activity such as exercise, sports, and outdoor work. These study strategies can help body smart people be successful:

    • act out or imagine the concepts you need to remember
    • look for real-life examples that demonstrate what you’re learning about

Music Smart – Music smart people are good with rhythms and beats. They enjoy listening to cds, attending concerts, and creating songs. If you’re music smart, these activities can help you study:

    • create a song or rhyme that will help you remember a concept
    • listen to classical music while you study
    • remember vocabulary words by linking them to similar-sounding words in your mind

People Smart – Those who are people smart are good with relating to people. They enjoy going to parties, visiting with friends, and sharing what they learn. People smart students should give these strategies a try:

    • discuss what you learn with a friend or family member
    • have someone quiz you before an exam

Self Smart – Self smart people are comfortable with themselves. They enjoy being alone to think and reflect. If you’re self smart, try these tips:

    • keep a personal journal about what you’re learning
    • find a place to study where you won’t be interrupted


Reading for Understanding and Learning

Different reading strategies are needed for different subjects. Science and Math subjects tend to require slower and closer reading of smaller amounts of text. Generally, you will need to work through what is written in close detail, making sure you understand the different steps.

Start with:

1. Browse the lesson - look over the text to see what it contains that might be of use, getting a general feel of the contents. You often take in more information when browsing than you may think at the time.

Now start:

2. Focusing In - Starting from the beginning, allowing yourself to read more slowly and closely.

​​​The main purpose of reading is to understand - not to get through the lesson/assignment at speed for the sake of it. Comprehension is increased if:

  1. You read something that gives you a general overview first. Be sure to read the introduction to a lesson.
  2. You keep active. Set yourself targets and jot down questions to answer. If the book is yours, underline key points, use highlighter pens selectively, write summaries in the margin. This prevents you from ‘drifting off’ or simply reading the same text over and over without taking it in. Remember learning starts with taking in the knowledge needed
  3. Read in short bursts of up to twenty minutes, then take a few minutes break before starting again.
  4. Make notes of key points as you go along. This can create natural breaks every few minutes in your reading that can help maintain attention.
  5. Change reading speed. Often, reading faster can help memory of what you are reading, so it makes more sense. Browse quickly to get the overview and then begin fresh with focusing in more slowly.

Methods of Taking Notes

Everybody makes notes in their own ways. They are for your purposes so the most important aspect is that they suit your purposes. Your notes may be neat or messy, ordered lists or sprawling webs. This does not matter as long as you can make use of them.

  • Headings and bullet points

T​his is a very common way of making notes. It is especially useful if you are making notes on a computer as you can reorganize information under new headings. The heading is the key point or a question. The bullets or list of points under it all refer to that one heading.

  • Double notes

These are ​notes where you use either two colour or two columns or two sheets of paper in order to make two connected sets of notes. The first set is a summary of what you are reading or hearing. The second set is your commentary upon the first set. This is useful for separating out other people's ideas and words from your own.

  • Pattern notes

These are notes that ​are organized around a central concept and work their way out from that idea. Each line from the centre leads you into more depth on a particular theme. Use colour and shape to make the notes distinctive. Look for a particular image formed by the final shape of the notes - or aim to develop a particular image. This will make the notes more memorable.

  • Annotations

If you own the text, you can highlight key points and write additional information and comments in the margins or underneath. This can save time making longer notes, but is less effective for processing the information and ensuring that you understand it than other forms of notes.

  • Summaries

It is useful to summarize your notes on any one topic or questions down to a few key points, quotes and examples. This familiarizes you with the material. It also makes it easier to carry the information around to refer to on work placement or to revise for exams.

  • Lists

These are useful, for ​example​ for:

      • Identifying all the tasks that have to be undertaken on a particular day.
      • Noting the key themes in a book or lecture.
      • Numbering key points.
      • Being able to see what you need to do or remember very easily.
      • Identifying resources to follow up.
      • Keep a record of resources such as useful web-pages.​