Archive for the ‘study skills’ Category

I hate mathI’ve recently returned to college to work on a master’s degree. When I talked to my advisor, he said I should take a statistics class to prepare for a research methods class. I think my blood ran cold. Math is not my strong suite. I can make straight A’s in just about any other type of class, but my mind has a great difficulty processing math. I really did not want to do it, but I also recognized the value of good advice.

I signed up for the class, and tried to adjust my attitude to a positive one. I studied, I did my homework, and I spent a lot of time preparing for my first test. So, imagine my disappointment when I scored a low C on my first test. I got a little more organized, and I made some changes in how I was studying. I practiced the type of problems I thought I would see on the test, and I did a little better. But, I was still not happy with my grade. I teach students how to study for a living, so I needed to take a hard look at myself and my study habits, just like I would any other college student.

What was I missing? What was I not doing?

Pre-reading! I hadn’t been doing it, because my instructor was not telling us what she would cover in the next class. So, I decided to ask her. I sent her a message on Blackboard and asked what I should read before the next class. She was happy to tell me!

Guess what? It made a world of difference! I went to class knowing which concepts I understood, and what was causing me trouble. I went to class, prepared with questions I needed to ask, and I had the vocabulary I needed to understand more from the lecture. I also had notes from my reading, and I could just add to them in class, rather than frantically trying to write down every single word my instructor said. My experience in class was immensely different when I went to class prepared.

If you are a college student and haven’t been doing this, I would emphatically recommend it. Class is a totally different experience when you pre-read the text material, or material provided by your instructor. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your instructor questions. I have found that instructors are very accommodating and helpful. They like to know students are engaged and care about their class. Questions are welcomed and encouraged by most!

TRY IT! You will be glad you did.

The Five Step FormulaOne simple thing that students can do to improve their grades, is to read their textbooks and read them at the right times! I am going to give you a 5-step formula that is very simple, but will make a HUGE difference in your understanding of new material and in your grades. This formula should be used every time you are tackling new material for your class:

Step 1: Consult your syllabus the day before each class, and see what is going to be covered in your next lecture. Then, read the corresponding textbook material during the 24 hours before the next class. Take notes using the Cornell method, and leave spaces between each topic, so you can add to them during the lecture, if needed.

Step 2: Go to class, and during the lecture, add to your notes any time you see things you missed, or if you need to clarify things.

Step 3: Review your notes (including the material covered in class) within 20 minutes after the lecture. (If you go to another class right after that one, review while you are waiting for the next class to start.) Edit, or add to your notes, as needed.

Step 4: Conduct another review of this material within 24 hours, and write study questions for the material.

Step 5: Review again in a week and any time you have a chance, go over your study questions. (See this post on portable flash cards.)

Keep track of these reviews in your planner, or each time you finish a review, write the day you should conduct the next review at the top of the page. After you have completed these five steps, you have established pretty solid bank of memories you can draw from during your next exam. If you will be having a comprehensive final exam, continue to skim/review the material every 3-4 weeks to keep it active in your memory throughout the semester.

This process is tight. You will learn and retain information better than ever, and will be far less stressed that you would be if you were cramming for every exam.

Good luck!


The Myndology flash cards are my favorite flash cards. I used them exclusively for my college classes. Why do I like them so much? They are especially great if you are frequently on the move, if you have to memorize a lot of facts or vocabulary words, and if you like to have an easy way to study during short breaks throughout the day.

  • The ring on each set, keeps the cards all together, which makes them extremely portable, even when you are truly on the move! I kept all of my current cards in my purse, which allowed me to pull them out and study whenever I found myself with a few spare minutes. When I was taking Spanish classes, I used them to help me memorize vocabulary and verb conjugation charts, and I took them with me when I took my daily walks. I also used them at the gym when walking on the treadmill or using the stationary bike. Because of the rings, I didn’t have to worry that I would drop the cards and have them blow away, jam up the treadmill or get mixed up.
  • The cards also lend themselves well to organizing by color or sections. The Muse card sets have both white and accent colors. The Ergo style cards are white and include two colored cards that you can use as dividers. The Neon card set has five different colors of cards in each set. When I was memorizing Spanish vocabulary, I used the colors to group together different types of words. When memorizing Historical Geology terms I color coded them with these cards, as well.
  • The cards can be secured with the cover. This keeps them from sprawling out in my backpack or purse, which prevents them from getting bent up, and also keeps my bag neater. When I am finished with a set of cards, I can write a description of the contents on the spine, and thenstore them neatly in a small storage box I keep on my desk. If I need the cards again for review or for a comprehensive exam, I have them handy and well-organized due to the neatly closed packaging these card sets provide.

These little cards worked so well for me, I earned “A’s” in my classes. They come in different sizes, so if I’m learning something that doesn’t take much space, like vocabulary words, I can use the 1″ X 3″ cards. If I need to put something larger on the cards, like verb conjugation charts, I can use one of the larger sizes.

Myndology Flash Cards

The new semester just started at the college where I work as the Study Skills Development Specialist. Things are busy and even though we have only been back to class for a week, many students are already requesting one-on-one tutoring sessions.

These students have done something that I wish more students would do. They ask for help and they ask for it early. On the other hand, we often have students who wait until the last few weeks of school, asking for a tutor, and then wanting to learn everything they were supposed to learn throughout the entire semester in just a few days.

Sorry folks… but that would require an parting-of-the-red-sea type of miracle.

While I cannot hand you a miracle strategy, I can share a formula that equals success for students who apply it consistently. Here is it… the formula for success:

Time + Repetition = Success

There is no substitute for it! So, you have a choice to make. The easy way or the hard way. The easy way is to be actively engaged in the process of learning on a daily basis. The easy way consists of being prepared for class, being actively engaged in class, reviewing class notes and text material on a daily basis, and allowing at least five days to study for each exam.

Start this semester right and follow the formula for success. I will be back soon, but until then, please do one thing for me.

Before each and every class, PRE-READ the material your instructor will be covering in the lecture for that day. Even if you do not have time to read the entire thing, at least survey the chapter. Read the chapter headings, read the first paragraph of each section, skim the text, look at any charts or diagrams and read any end of chapter summary or questions. See if you can answer the questions in the summary. Now go to class with this minimal preparation, and see what a difference it makes in your comprehension of the lecture. By preparing your brain with a foundation, you give your instructor something to build on.

Try it and then please share your experiences with me! I also encourage questions!

About six weeks ago, I made a decision that may not seem very big to most people… but to me it was huge. I decided to run a 5K. It isn’t a long run by runners’ standards, but I’ve never been a distance runner, so it is pretty big to me! I’ve been using the Couch to 5K app to train and am now running almost 3 miles without stopping. There have been days I’ve struggled to keep going, but one thing I’ve learned is that I can’t allow myself to stop. At the beginning of my training, I gave up a couple of times, but I realized it made completing the run more difficult. Why? Because I had made stopping an option. So, I made a decision– no more stopping. I would keep going, even if it was a very slow jog. Surprisingly, when I did this, it was never as bad as I thought it was going to be– as a matter of fact, I learned that if I kept going, the quitters spirit went away and it got easier. Each time I finished a run, I increased my strength and determination for the next time. I developed a sense of pride and accomplishment, and because I didn’t allow myself to quit, it built my stamina, strengthened my muscles, and increased my confidence. All of this, just because I kept putting one foot in front of the other.dont stop

Are you doing something that doesn’t come easy to you? Are you entertaining the idea of giving up? Don’t let yourself believe any voice that says you can’t do something. Success is always the result of being very intentional and deliberate. I often see students who give up in a class, or even give up on pursuing their degree just because things got a little hard. The unfortunate thing is…. the point where a student begins to really struggle, is often the point where good things are about to happen. It is a moment when the student can quit, or make a decision that will build his or her stamina, strength and confidence.

When I first started my job at the community college, one of the first students I met with was taking a developmental math class for the fourth time. A few of the staff members thought he was a hopeless case…. he obviously wasn’t able to do it, or didn’t really want to do it, they said. But, I saw something different in him. When I talked with him, I learned that he had gone through some tough times and it negatively impacted his schooling. Yet, he had a tenacity most of the students I worked with did not possess. He told me that he was determined to pass the class and that he would do whatever it took to get through it. And he proved it to me by following through with the game plan I put in place for him, by attending math tutoring faithfully, and by not quitting! At the end of the semester, I got goosebumps when I heard the news…. He got an “A” in his math class! He understood that the only way that class would defeat him was if he quit trying.

So remember… don’t stop. Only volumes of hard work will close the gap between your outcome and your ambitions. It will take some time. And you may have to put up a big fight. That’s normal. You just have to keep going.

Don’t stop.

Are you struggling to do something that doesn’t come easy to you?

Last year, my husband died after a 15-month battle with brain cancer.  This year, when I heard that there was going to be a 5K fundraiser for brain tumor research, I knew immeidately that I wanted to do it. I could have signed up to participate as a walker, but I had a strong urge to sign up to RUN the 5K. To some of you, that may not seem like a big deal. However, the thing is…. I am not a runner. I am 47-years old and the last time I ran was in high school. Even at that, I was a sprinter and rarely ran more than a half mile. So, when I went on line and registered as a runner, it was probably kind of ridiculous. Still, I really wanted to do this in memory of my husband and honor his heroic battle with cancer. 

I am now in my 5th week of training and am getting closer and closer to being able to jog the three miles. I hope that by June 30, I can run the whole thing. Do you know what has got me this far?:

I want it. I want it bad.

I work with a lot of failing students whose main problem in college is a lack of motivation. They halfway do things, they give up before they’ve even really tried, and they have not made school a priority. I’ve started asking students, “How bad do you want it?” The answer is often very revealing, and one that can be indicative as to which students will do well and which students will continue to fail or drop out.

I think that question can be applied to a lot of things in life. What are you striving towards right now? How bad do you want it? Please…. Watch this video!!! It is inspiring!

Let’s face it, sometimes getting started is half the battle. If you deal with procrastination or tend to lose track of time, there is an inexpensive and simple tool you can use to help you out. Buy a TIMER. In my opinion, it is one of the best and most necessary time management tools. How does it help? Well, let’s say you need to study for a test, but you find yourself playing Farkle, sharpening pencils, cleaning out your backpack, etc. A lot of us tend to “get busy” when we are procratinating because it disguises our procrastination, because we feel like we are doing something. So the first step is to recognize what procrastination looks like in your life!

Once you have your timer, this is what you do. Make a deal with yourself that you will start whatever task it is, and will do that task for fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes is pretty easy to do, right? Sit down with your study materials and set the timer, and go at it! When the timer goes off, you have earned a break. (However, if you feel like you want to continue, set the timer for another fifteen minutes and GO!) If you take a break, be sure to time your break, too! Allow 15 minutes breaks, at least every hour of study.

This really is a great tool and will generally cost you less than $10. Personally, I like the ticking timer, because it helps me to remember to stay focused. But, if you work best in silence, a digital timer is better for you.