Published: Jan. 17, 2023

Students studying at Norlin LibraryAs the semester begins, this is a great time to set up a study routine, get organized and find what works for you before life gets busy. Here are some study tips to help you start your semester strong.

Get organized

There are actions you can take now to set yourself up for success later when it comes to midterms and finals. Here are some things to try:

  • Use a calendar or planner and add important dates from your syllabuses. This includes exam dates, project or paper deadlines, presentations, etc. Regularly review your next few weeks to see what is coming up and which things should take priority.
  • Take note of big papers, projects or tests for the semester. Then, break them into smaller tasks to work on over time. Add these tasks to your planner or calendar. This will help you make progress on assignments that aren’t due for a while and avoid last-minute stress.
  • Turn your lecture notes into an outline, chart or diagram. Not only does this help you with organization, but it also helps you gain clarity about what you know and what you may need to review for exams later in the semester. 

Avoid procrastination

It may feel like you have plenty of time before your first exam, but studying regularly can help you stay familiar with the material and avoid last-minute cramming. 

Schedule consistent blocks of time every day to study or review class material. Dedicate two to three hours of study time for each hour you are in class. For a lecture that meets three hours a week, plan to study six to nine hours a week for that class.

Find what works for you

Do you prefer to study alone or with friends? Do you need complete silence or some background noise to help you concentrate? Try a few things to see what study environment works best. Here are some other tips for effective study sessions. 

  • Cut out distractions. It may be tempting to reply to that text message or check Instagram, but distractions can make it difficult to focus. Try turning off notifications when you are in class or studying, putting your phone on airplane mode and blocking websites that aren’t helpful so you can focus.
  • Color code your notes. Go through your notes after class and highlight any themes or topics your professor voiced as being important. Use different colored pens for definitions, vocabulary and other important themes.
  • Try flashcards for active recall. Flashcards help you engage in learning by stimulating memories and creating lasting connections to the material. Create images and write keywords, themes and definitions for subjects you need to remember. For vocabulary, write the word on one side of the flashcard and its definition or translation on the other. Do the same for dates. Study both parts of the flashcard to learn the information and create meaningful connections. You can use these flashcards later to study for exams.
  • Try the Pomodoro technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes. During those 25 minutes, concentrate on a task. When the timer is up, set a five-minute timer for a short break. You can go for a walk, get a snack or stretch. After your break, repeat. Choose any combination of focus time and break time that works for you.

Ask for help

One of the best ways to ensure you’ll do well in your courses is by using the resources and support available. You don’t have to wait until your first exam or project is due to ask for help. 

If you feel stuck on a problem or a concept discussed in class, visit your professor’s office hours or a help lab to get clarity. The sooner you ask for help, the less likely you are to fall behind. You could also consider joining or creating a study group with your classmates. 

The Academic Success and Achievement Program (ASAP) offers free peer-tutoring support to all first-year students and students living on campus. ASAP provides tutoring on a weekly basis throughout the semester. You can use other academic resources or connect with the Writing Center to get feedback on your writing. Turnitin through Canvas is also helpful in checking for plagiarism and appropriate referencing for papers.