Study Strategies: Common Problems, Simple Solutions

Developed by Emily Tan (’19), Learning Strategies Student Manager

Problem 1: Trying to write too much
  • Easy to want to write down everything the professor says– but that’s impossible
  • Notes don’t make much sense afterwards, and while trying to take down everything they’re saying you miss the main ideas
Solution: Stop taking dictation, start writing only the most important information
  • Concentrate on the lecture, listen for the professor’s main ideas
    • Try to identify an intro, its points/examples, a concept, its points/examples, etc
    • Use short phrases rather than sentences
  • Write an outline of the lecture by memory
  • Write a summary of the lecture in your own words
Problem 2: Writing too little
  • Some students have the opposite problem, and only write an occasional note
  • This may help with interesting facts/things you think you should memorize, but this usually doesn’t help with retaining the main ideas
Solution: Aim to have a minimum number of pages per hour of lecture
  • For example, aim to take 2-4 pages of notes in a 1 hour lecture
Problem 3: Not recognizing the main points and other important information
  • While this manifests itself in notetaking, this problem is not caused by notetaking
Solution: Compare with peers
  • This could be a situation in which comparing notes with other students in your class could be helpful
  • See what they considered important, ask what they considered important, and compare notes.
Problem 1: Procrastination
  • One of the most common problems, even if you don’t know you’re doing it!
Solution: Take a ten minute break
  • When you sit down for the next attempt, your head will be clear and you’ll be more ready to tackle your work
Problem 2: Disorganization
  • Hard to focus on studying if your notes/agenda/mind is disorganized
Solution: Dedicate time to reorganize
  • Put aside an hour or so to restructure whatever you feel would be most important
  • Commit yourself to reorganizing, rather than stressing out about wasting time you could be spending studying
  • Seek help for reorganization — ARC, friends, online resources (Be app)
Problem 3: Not knowing where to start
  • Feel overwhelmed and don’t know how to begin
Solution: Make a plan 
  • Go through syllabus, revisit work from throughout the semester
  • Construct a plan of how you are going to tackle your studying
    • Start early; don’t wait until the last minute
    • Be realistic. Break your work into chunks that are doable over the weeks
  • You have made it this far! Build from your foundation up.
Problem 4: Unproductive environment 
  •  Having trouble focusing
Solution: Find the best environment to work in for you
  • Everyone’s ideal study environment is different– don’t diminish your studying just because your friends have different ideal study environments than you
    • Note: this does not have to be the third floor of the library
    • Some people are distracted by silence, others by noise, some prefer desks, some prefer comfy chairs, etc


Works Consulted

Fishel, Judy. Straight A’s Are Not Enough: Breakthroughs in Learning for College Students. Stuart, FL: Flying Heron, 2015. Print.

Ender, Steven C., and Fred B. Newton. Students Helping Students: A Guide for Peer Educators on College Campuses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000. Print.

Blog, Independence. “7 Note-Taking Skills Every College Student Should Have – California College San Diego.” California College San Diego, Oct. 2016. Web.