You Asked: A complete guide to studying (part 1)

two female student are sitting together working on homework together.

Several students have reached out looking for tips on studying. The thing about this topic is that it can mean a lot of different things to different people. Are you trying to absorb information from a long piece of text for a written exam, or are you trying to go through various types of materials in preparation for a multiple choice test?

What we’re really talking about is learning more effectively, so that no matter what kind of exam or academic challenge you’re up against, you know how to face it. We’re also talking about leveraging your time and attention in ways that, when done well, can actually free up your time for the other important aspects of college — like socializing, experiencing new things, making connections, getting hands-on experience in your field, etc.

Sounds great, right?

This is part one in a two–part series about exactly that. The popular YouTube channel Crash Course did an amazing job breaking down the different aspects that contribute to our learning and academic success in their miniseries all about studying. We recommend watching the whole series, but you can definitely start with the areas you feel weakest in and build from there.

Learning how to learn might just be the best thing you’ll learn all year. Yup, we’re sticking with that statement.

Here’s your guide to the Crash Course series on study skills:


Taking great notes

Are you typing your notes up at a million miles per minute, but taking test after lackluster test leaves you wondering if the juice is worth the squeeze? If your review of your lecture notes is more “HUH? Who the heck wrote these?” and less “I’ve got this!”— you’ll want to watch this one. This episode addresses the debate over whether paper or typed notes are better, explains how to take notes for better retention and shows three different note–taking methods that can set you up for test success.


Getting the most out of reading assignments

Do you ever wonder if your instructors plan when to assign readings so they all come at the same time? If you often feel overwhelmed with the amount of reading you have to do, or if you find yourself reading the same passage over and over, not able to pull the meaning out of it — this one is for you. Since reading assignments do tend to stack up quickly, this video will help by covering how to boost your reading speed (hint: speed reading is not the answer), start highlighting like a pro and remember more of what you read.


How memory works and how to make it work better

Your brain is constantly taking in a ton of information, but it’s set up to forget things that aren’t important for immediate or long-term use (#survival). The question then becomes, how do you get your brain to recognize that the things you’re learning are important and worth committing to memory? Well, it starts with understanding how information gets transferred into memory — once you do that, you can hack the system! In this video, you’ll learn how to hack your memory, and study techniques that actually save you time.


Planning and organization bootcamp

Have you experienced that burst of energy where you feel like you can tackle your entire workload only to realize you can’t remember everything that needs to be done, and then you get worn out just creating the list of everything that needs to be done? Or maybe you’ve tried getting organized tons of times, but it never really lasts? For some, organization comes easily, but for others it takes extra effort to devise a system that lets you keep everything in order. Once you learn how do this, you can use those bursts of energy to accomplish more and free up time for the things you’d do if you had “more time.” Check out this video to learn the four pieces you need for your own personal organizational system, and how to use each of these pieces to stay on track.


Concentration and focus

Life is distracting. How often are you compelled to check on your notifications in the middle of a lecture, study session or even a conversation? The lesser–known element to this is that distractions actually take away from learning and productivity by using up precious energy switching attention from one thing to another. On top of that, we learn how regularly giving into distractions like this can become a habit that makes it harder to focus in the future. If this sounds like something that might be weighing down your ability to study, you’ll want to watch this video. You’ll learn about removing distractions in your environment, developing your ability to focus and planning your work/rest cycles so that you aren’t burning out along the way.

Part two in this guide will cover: procrastination, studying for exams, test anxiety, papers and essays, and exercise. But you don’t need to stop there — ASU has plenty of resources to help support your academic success as well. Don’t forget about tutoring (offered in-person and online) and ASU's writing centers. Happy studying!


Hey Sunny

A library of helpful advice, tips and answers to questions from students to Sunny.

ASU’s chatbot, Sunny, has been helping students get adjusted to college life for a few years now. The questions from students year after year, rarely change. Sometimes it helps to see what other students are asking to stay informed and realize you aren’t the only one trying to figure it all out.

Welcome to the Hey Sunny blog – a library of advice for students from Sunny and the team supporting the bot.

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