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definition - Study skills

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Study skills


Study skills or study strategies are approaches applied to learning. They are generally critical to success in school,[1] are considered essential for acquiring good grades, and are useful for learning throughout one's life.

There are an array of study skills, which may tackle the process of organising and taking in new information, retaining information, or dealing with assessments. They include mnemonics, which aid the retention of lists of information, effective reading and concentration techniques[2], as well as efficient notetaking.[3]

While often left up to the student and their support network, study skills are increasingly taught at High School and University level. A number of books and websites are available, from works on specific techniques such as Tony Buzan's books on mind-mapping, to general guides to successful study such as those by Stella Cottrell.

More broadly, any skill which boosts a person's ability to study and pass exams can be termed a study skill, and this could include time management and motivational techniques.

Study Skills are discrete techniques that can be learned, usually in a short time, and applied to all or most fields of study. They must therefore be distinguished from strategies that are specific to a particular field of study e.g. music or technology, and from abilities inherent in the student, such as aspects of intelligence or learning style.


  Historical context

The term study skills is used for general approaches to learning, skills for specific courses of study. There are many theoretical works on the subject, and a vast number of popular books and websites. Manuals for students have been published since the 1940s[citation needed].

In the 1950s and 1960s, college instructors in the fields of psychology and the study of education used research, theory, and experience with their own students in writing manuals.[4][5] Marvin Cohn based the advice for parents in his 1979 book Helping Your Teen-Age Student on his experience as a researcher and head of a university reading clinic that tutored teenagers and young adults.[6] In 1986, when Dr. Gary Gruber’s Essential Guide to Test Taking for Kids was first published, the author had written 22 books on taking standardized tests. A work in two volumes, one for upper elementary grades and the other for middle school, the Guide has methods for taking tests and schoolwork.[7][8]

  Types of study skills

  Methods based on memorization such as rehearsal and rote learning

One of the most basic approaches to learning any information is simply to repeat it by rote. Typically this will include reading over notes or a textbook, and re-writing notes.

  Methods based on communication skills e.g. reading and listening

The weakness with rote learning is that it implies a passive reading or listening style. Educators such as John Dewey have argued that students need to learn critical thinking - questioning and weighing up evidence as they learn. This can be done during lectures or when reading books.

  A student studies for his final exams using the PQRST method.

One method used to focus on key information when studying from books is the PQRST method.[9] This method prioritizes the information in a way that relates directly to how they will be asked to use that information in an exam. PQRST is an acronym for Preview, Question, Read, Summary, Test.[10]

  1. Preview: the student looks at the topic to be learned by glancing over the major headings or the points in the syllabus.
  2. Question: then questions to be answered once the topic has been thoroughly studied are formulated.
  3. Read: reference material related to the topic is read through, and the information that best relates to the questions is chosen.
  4. Summary: the student summarizes the topic, bringing his or her own ways of summarizing information into the process, including written notes, spider diagrams, flow diagrams, labeled diagrams, mnemonics, or even voice recordings.
  5. Test: then the student answers the questions created in the question step as fully as possible, avoiding adding questions that might distract or change the subject.

There are a variety of studies from different colleges nation-wide that show peer-communication can help increase better study habits tremendously. One study shows that an average of 73% score increase was recorded by those who were enrolled in the classes surveyed.[citation needed]

  Methods based on cues e.g. flashcard training

Flash Cards are visual cues on cards. These have numerous uses in teaching and learning, but can be used for revision. Students often make their own flash cards, or more detailed index cards - cards designed for filing, often A5 size, on which short summaries are written. Being discrete and separate, they have the advantage of allowing students to re-order them, pick a selection to read over, or choose randomly to for self-testing.

  Methods based on condensing information, summarising and the use of keywords

Summary methods vary depending on the topic, but most involve condensing the large amount of information from a course or book into shorter notes. Often these notes are then condensed further into key facts.

Organized summaries:

Spider diagrams: Using spider diagrams or mind maps can be an effective way of linking concepts together. They can be useful for planning essays and essay responses in exams. These tools can give a visual summary of a topic that preserves its logical structure, with lines used to show how different parts link together.

  Methods based on visual imagery

Some learners are thought to have a visual learning style, and will benefit greatly from taking information from their studies which is often heavily verbal, and using visual techniques to help encode and retain it in memory.

Some memory techniques make use of visual memory, for example the method of loci, a system of visualising key information in real physical locations e.g. around a room.

Diagrams are often underrated tools. They can be used to bring all the information together and provide practice reorganizing what has been learned in order to produce something practical and useful. They can also aid the recall of information learned very quickly, particularly if the student made the diagram while studying the information. Pictures can then be transferred to flash cards that are very effective last minute revision tools rather than rereading any written material.

  Methods based on acronyms and mnemonics

A mnemonic is a method of organizing and memorizing information. Some use a simple phrase or fact as a trigger for a longer list of information. For example, the points of the compass can be recalled in the correct order with the phrase "Never Eat Shredded Wheat". Starting with North, the first letter of each word relates to a compass point in clockwise order round a compass.

  Methods based on exam strategies

The Black-Red-Green method (developed through the Royal Literary Fund) helps the student to ensure that every aspect of the question posed has been considered, both in exams and essays .[11] The student underlines relevant parts of the question using three separate colors (or some equivalent). BLAck denotes 'BLAtant instructions', i.e. something that clearly must be done; a directive or obvious instruction. REd is a REference Point or REquired input of some kind, usually to do with definitions, terms, cited authors, theory, etc. (either explicitly referred to or strongly implied). GREen denotes GREmlins, which are subtle signals one might easily miss, or a ‘GREEN Light’ that gives a hint on how to proceed, or where to place the emphasis in answers [1].

  Methods based on time management, organization and lifestyle changes

Often, improvements to the effectiveness of study may be achieved through changes to things unrelated to the study material itself, such as time-management, boosting motivation and avoiding procrastination, and in improvements to sleep and diet.

Time management in study sessions aims to ensure that activities that achieve the greatest benefit are given the greatest focus. A traffic lights system is a simple way of identifying the importance of information, highlighting or underlining information in colours:

  • Green: topics to be studied first; important and also simple
  • Amber: topics to be studied next; important but time-consuming
  • Red: lowest priority; complex and not vital.

This reminds students to start with the things which will provide the quickest benefit, while 'red' topics are only dealt with if time allows. The concept is similar to the ABC analysis, commonly used by workers to help prioritise. Also, some websites (such as FlashNotes) can be used for additional study materials and may help improve time management and increase motivation.

  See also


  1. ^ "Contributions of Study Skills to Academic Competence." (in EN). ISSN-0279-6015. Educational Resources Information Center. N/A. http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ667615&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ667615. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 
  2. ^ Bremer, Rod. The Manual - A guide to the Ultimate Study Method (USM). (Amazon Digital Services)
  3. ^ http://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/site/colleges/seh/freshinfo/vs/StudySkills2008b.pdf
  4. ^ Preston, Ralph (1959). Teaching Study Habits and Skills, Rinehart. Original from the University of Maryland digitized August 7, 2006.
  5. ^ Kranyik, Robert and Shankman, Florence V. (1963). How to Teach Study Skills, Teacher’s Practical Press.
  6. ^ Cohn, Marvin (1979). Helping Your Teen-age Student: What Parents Can Do to Improve Reading and Study Skills, Dutton, ISBN 978-0-525-93065-5.
  7. ^ Gruber, Gary (1986). Dr. Gary Gruber’s Essential Guide to Test Taking for Kids, Grades 3, 4, 5, Quill, ISBN 978-0-688-06350-4.
  8. ^ Gruber, Gary (1986). Dr. Gary Gruber’s Essential Guide to Test Taking for Kids, Grades 6, 7, 8, 9, Quill, ISBN 978-0-688-06351-1.
  9. ^ Gopalakrishnan, Karthika (2009-01-08). "Students tackle stress as board exams draw". The Times Of India. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Chennai/Students_tackle_stress_as_board_exams_draw/articleshow/3949131.cms. 
  10. ^ stangl, werner; Robinson, Francis Pleasant (1970). Effective study. New York: Harper & Row.. "The PQRST Method of Studying" (in EN). stangl-taller.at. http://arbeitsblaetter.stangl-taller.at/LERNTECHNIK/PQRST.shtml. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 
  11. ^ Royal Literary Fund: Mission Possible: the Study Skills Pack http://www.rlf.org.uk/fellowshipscheme/writing/mission_possible.cfm

  External links



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