Think of study strategies as tools you use to get a job done as efficiently as possible. If you were mopping the floor, you wouldn’t just drag the mop behind you—mopping is more effective when you use the proper back-and-forth mopping technique (and have the right tools – like a bucket and water!). Performing a task using the right strategies just makes it easier. The good news is that study strategies become easier with practice: the more you use them, the more a habit, or second nature, study strategies become. Below are a few to consider:


Keeping up with your readings can be related to issues of managing your time over the course of the term.  It may also be related to HOW you approach your reading – what strategies you use.  Reading a textbook requires a different reading strategy than reading a novel, and the approach you use will depend on the content and your purpose for reading it.  Here are four common approaches:


Skimming: To have an overview of a text or an article


  1. Read 1st paragraph (intro) and last paragraph (summary)
  2. Read 1st and last sentence of every other paragraph in between
  3. Look for words as ‘cues’ for main points
  4. Highlight where you want to go back a re-read in detail


Search and Discover: Skimming for specific detail in texts or articles


  1. Skim read as before
  2. Locate and mark specifics
  3. Return to read the specifics in detail


In-Depth Reading: Foundational skill to foster deeper comprehension of ideas and concepts


  1. Read first and last paragraphs first to get a handle on the author’s intent and conclusion.
  2. Re-read from beginning.
  3. Mark key words, concepts, data deemed important.
  4. Make notes about the author’s main argument/intent/conclusions.


Critical Reading: Not accepting what you are reading at  ‘face-value’

Applying productive judgment and your thought processes of:

– interpretation
– analysis
– synthesis
– evaluation



Think of questions about what you are reading.  Some people actually write the questions in the margins along with other ‘thought notes.’

Think like an investigator:

Interpretation: reading to discover meanings – what conclusions can be drawn from what was read?



– underlying assumptions of the author

– structure of the argument, development of ideas

– how the evidence relates to the argument or topic

– how the evidence refutes or supports the author’s conclusion



– how you bring together points of the analysis to support what you interpret the results to mean



– reading for merit or worth of the text or article (a higher order of thinking in which we use all the above processes and our knowledge of the field to judge the value of the information)

4 key steps to the Feynman Technique:

1.               Choose a concept you want to learn about

2.               Explain it to a 12 year old

3.               Reflect, Refine, and Simplify

4.               Organize and Review


Step 1: Choose a concept you want to learn about.

What topic are you curious about?

Once you identify a topic, take out a blank sheet of paper. Write out everything you know about the subject you want to understand as if you were teaching it to a child.

As you learn more about the topic, add it to your sheet. Often people find it helpful to use a different color pen so you can see your learning grow.

Once you think you understand the topic, move on to step 2.


Step 2: Explain it to a 12-year-old

Now that you think you understand a topic reasonably well, explain it to a 12-year-old.

Use your sheet as a reference and try to remove any jargon or complexity. Only use simple words. Only use words a child would understand.

Anyone can make a subject complicated but only someone who understands can make it simple.

Jargon hides our lack of understanding. When forced to write out an idea from start to finish in simple language, you discover where you struggle … where it doesn’t quite make sense … where you get frustrated … where you don’t really understand as well as you thought. Only by identifying gaps in your knowledge can you fill them.


Step 3: Reflect, Refine, and Simplify

Only when you can explain the subject in simple terms do you understand it.

Simple is beautiful.

Review your notes to make sure you didn’t mistakenly borrow any jargon or gloss over anything complicated.

Read it out loud as if to a child. If the explanation isn’t simple enough or sounds confusing, that’s a good indication that you need to reflect and refine.

Go back to the source material, reviewing the parts you don’t quite understand yet.

Repeat until you have a simple explanation.


Step 4: Organize and Review

To test your understanding in the real world, run it by someone else. How effective was your explanation? What questions did they ask? What parts did they get confused about?

The most successful people in the world can take complicated subjects and explain them simply (and memorably) to an audience.

Understanding this technique can help you avoid getting fooled by others. The next time you’re listening to someone explain something using jargon or complicated terms, ask them to explain it in simple terms. If they get frustrated, it’s a sign they don’t fully understand what they’re talking about. If they did, they’d be able to explain it better.

Source: Farnam Street blog

Chunking (for Memory) 


Chunking is taking large bits of information and putting them together to create one smaller piece of information that is easier to remember. By grouping related bits of information together you can effectively reduce the number of things you need to remember. A common example is how we write phone numbers – we group the digits – 902 – 457 – 6788 rather than one long number 9024576788, this ideally makes it easier for recall.


Another example is creating acronyms from the first letter of each piece of information. HOMES for example for the great lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. Five names become one word, which is easier to remember (and transfer from short-term to long-term memory).


Grouping or organizing information into specific categories also helps. For example, a long grocery list can be divided into meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner – or a specific dish – tacos – which helps us to recall each item (e.g., breakfast = milk, cereal, bread, jam, eggs, butter, etc.).


Chunking information is about helping our brain create shortcuts or build connections to existing information so we can store and retrieve it more easily (saving time AND energy!).


Making the Most of Study Sessions

Work on your most difficult subjects during your peak energy times when your mind is fresh.

In a long study session, try to vary tasks.  For example, if you have been doing something conceptual for a while, switch to reviewing notes or proofreading an assignment.

If you have no choice about reading for a long period of time, begin by doing the hardest part, while you’re still awake and focused.  Save easier parts or review for later in your study session.

If the professor asks you to complete assigned readings before class, try to schedule the reading close to that specific class, such as the night before.

Schedule time for reviewing notes as soon as possible after a lecture, preferably within 24 hours.

In a long study session, build in time for short breaks.  Get a feel for how long you can work before you need a break.  You may need to work for shorter periods when you are doing something that requires a high level of concentration.  When you take a break, do something that has a definite end.  It is easy to lose track of time on activities such as watching tv or surfing the internet.  If you choose an activity like this for your break, decide on a time that you will get back to work.  Going for a short walk, doing some stretches, and/or doing something that rests your brain during your break can help you to refocus during your next block of study time.

If you have difficulty staying committed to your study schedule, you might try:The “five-minute technique” – get your reading materials out, sit yourself down, and commit to reading for five minutes.  You can decide after 5 minutes to take a break; however, once you get yourself going, you may not feel the need for a break for awhile longer.

Promise yourself a reward for reading a certain number of pages.  Common distracters, such as tv, talking to friends/family, playing online games, etc. can be used as rewards.  For example, you can tell yourself, “If I read these 20 pages, then I can watch 30 minutes of tv.”  Be sure to make the reward reasonable to ensure that you get in enough study time.

Motivate yourself to read by telling other people about your study plans and/or by putting yourself in places where other people are studying (e.g., the library).

Write down the specific readings that you plan to do each day so that you know at the beginning of each day what you’re going to get accomplished.  Monitor your progress and adjust your approach if you find that you are not getting through and/or understanding your readings.

Think about how readings that are less interesting to you apply to your life/program and schedule those readings in between tasks/readings that you find to be more interesting.


SQ3R is a reading comprehension method named for its five steps: survey, question, read, recite, and review. Follow the steps below:



Gather the information necessary to focus and formulate goals

Read the title – Help your mind prepare to receive the subject at hand.

Read the introduction and/or summary – Orient yourself to how each chapter fits the author’s purposes, and focus on the author’s statement of most important points.

Notice each heading and subheading – Organize your mind before you begin to read and build a structure for the thoughts and details to come.

Notice any graphics – Charts, maps, diagrams, etc. are there to make a point. Don’t overlook them.

Notice reading aids – Italics, bold face print, chapter objective, and end-of -chapter questions are all included to help you sort, comprehend, and remember.



Help your mind engage and concentrate

Turn the heading for each section into as many questions as you think will be answered in that section. The better the questions, the better your comprehension is likely to be. You may always add further questions as you proceed. When your mind is actively searching for answers to questions it becomes engaged in learning.



Fill in the information around the mental structures you’ve been building

Read one section at a time with your questions in mind and look for the answers. Recognize when you need to make up some new questions.



Retrain your mind to concentrate and learn as it reads

After each section, stop and recall your questions and see if you can answer them from memory. If not, look back at the text again (as often as necessary), but don’t move to the next section until you can recite the answers from the previous one.



Refine your mental organization and begin building memory

Once you’ve finished the entire chapter using the preceding steps, go back over the questions you create for every heading. See if you can still answer them. If not, look back and refresh your memory and then continue.