Back-to-School Tips: How to Improve Study Skills


Students are used to attending English, history, math and other classes in school. But, a key area of academic development isn’t taught in a specific class; without it, however, a student will struggle to excel in school. That skill is studying.

A good teacher, parent or coach will help students improve their study skills by focusing on four key areas – organization and time management, effective note-taking, reading and study strategies, and test-taking techniques.

By improving these skills, a student can learn faster, retain knowledge for longer periods of time and recall that knowledge with greater accuracy.  That means better performance on tests and exams, less time on homework and greater confidence in the classroom.

After twenty years of experience in the field, I recommend the following tips for elementary and secondary-level students.

Keep a schedule — Students should keep a schedule of classes, assignments and other key dates. As part of that schedule, they should set aside specific time for studying and project work. That way, they’re less likely to find themselves scrambling to complete a project at the last minute or cramming the night before a big test. The schedule should also set aside time for non-school activities like sports.

The more comprehensive the schedule, the more efficient most students will be in completing their schoolwork.

Take effective notes in class — Most students take notes in classes, but often when they review them, they can’t make sense of the content. Note-taking skills include identifying key information and capturing it in a style that makes for effective studying later.  Each child is unique and different students need different types of notes. It’s important for students to find the note-taking approach that best works for them.

Reading assignments — As students move into higher grades, they’re assigned larger and more complex reading assignments. A lack of reading skills or an inability to read for important information will make these assignments a burden and undermine overall academic success. Students need to deliberately learn to read for key information. If reading skills are weak, it’s important for the student to seek help improving them; otherwise performance in many subjects would be impacted.

Test-taking strategies — A poor test result doesn’t always mean that the student doesn’t have a good grasp of the academic material or skill gaps. It’s possible that the student understands the material, but doesn’t take tests well. An effective test-taking strategy includes learning how to prioritize material when studying for a test, preparing over a number of days (and not just the night before), coping with stress during the test and time management so that all questions are answered.

By deliberately focusing on improving study skills, students can see improvements in all aspects of their schoolwork.

Dino Papadopoulos, M.Ed. is Executive Director of Sylvan Learning on Eisenhower Drive.  You can contact him at 912-355-2267.

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