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Tips for being a Successful Student

  • Characteristics of a Successful Student

    The following is a list of what a hard-working student does and what a teacher likes to see.

    Successful students ...

    • attend classes regularly and they are on time. If they miss a class, they feel obligated to let the professor know before the next class. They get all of the missed notes and assignments from other students or from the professor.
    • turn in assignments complete and on time. They take the time to produce a final product that looks good and reflects care and pride in their work.
    • are attentive in class. They don’t talk, read, play with their phones, listen to their i-pod or stare out windows. They ask questions and participate in class discussions.
    • take advantage of extra credit opportunities. They often do the optional (and often more challenging) assignments that other students may avoid.
    • take the initiative to find the instructor and teaching assistant and engage in meaningful conversation outside of class. They are active participants in the learning process.
    • study outside of regular class hours to learn and reinforce material covered in lectures and recitations.
  • Study Tips

    Studying effectively is a process, not an event. The process leads to success!

    When studying it is important to make meaningful connections to what you already know.

    Just remember there is no point in re-reading something if you have no idea what you are reading!

    Four Ways to Forget

    • Disuse. Information not periodically used withers and disappears. Do you remember all of your previous telephone numbers?
    • Interference. It is easy to confuse materials that are similar and related. When confused, we are more likely to forget which is which. For example, learning two similar foreign languages at the same time may present some problems.
    • Repression. We have very strong systems of belief. Sometimes what we learn doesn't fit with what we believe. When in conflict, odds are our beliefs will win. Believing that we are no good at remembering names will make it all that much more difficult to learn new names.
    • Not learning it in the first place. This is probably the number one culprit in forgetting. Even if we've been exposed to something, unless we solidify the learning we are not likely to remember it.

    Know the percentages! We retain:

    • 10% of what we read
    • 20% of what we hear
    • 30% of what we see
    • 50% of what we see and hear
    • 70% of what we talk about with others
    • 80% of what we experience personally
    • 95% of what we teach to others
  • Test-Taking Strategies

    General Test Taking Tips:

    • Get a good night’s sleep the night before
    • Eat a good breakfast or meal before your test
    • Know the time and location of your exam prior to your exam
    • Relax use quick de-stressors such as breathing techniques
    • Look over the entire test first
    • Read, read, read the directions
    • When you get stuck, identify the problem and move on
    • Concentrate despite distractions- don’t worry about who gets done first
    • If you are confused, ask for clarification

    Multiple Choice

    • Read the test items carefully and completely
    • Strike out wrong answers
    • Mark answers clearly
    • Change your answers cautiously
    • Guess if you do not know the answer, do not leave a multiple choice question blank


    • Go with your first hunch
    • Don’t look for answer patterns
    • Analyze qualifying terms like always, usually and never- they are often (but not always!) false

    Short Answer

    • Skip questions you do not know, the answer may reveal itself later
    • When studying, practice writing down the answer


    • When studying, anticipate possible questions and work out answers
    • Read questions carefully
    • Highlight the requested action
    • Re-state the question in the opening sentence
    • Outline key idea; develop the main body of essay
    • Use humor sparingly; if at all
    • Summarize only if you have time
    • Write legibly
    • Proofread your work!
  • Time Management

    Time management is the appropriate use of and structuring of your time in order for you to maximize your time. If you learn how to maximize your time, you will have ample time to successfully accomplish everything you need to and want to accomplish.

    • Use a planner or calendar to keep track of dates, appointments and fixed commitments. This will help you to see where your free time is!
      1. Write down classes and important commitments first
      2. Schedule your chores: when you will clean, do laundry, food shopping, etc.
      3. Next schedule your study sessions
      4. Last schedule you leisure time!
    • Review your syllabi for important due dates and make sure to include this in your planner.
    • Prioritize your tasks
    • Plan study time in advance to prevent cramming
    • Learn to say no to distractions

    Say No to Cramming!
    Say you entered a contest at the local gym and you won the grand prize which included six hours of training sessions from a personal trainer. You have a choice of taking six separate training sessions over six weeks or having all six training sessions in one day? Which would you benefit from the most? Of course you would take the six training sessions over six weeks because each week you would get stronger and improve. The same goes for studying! Try to study a little bit each day. It is more effective than cramming the night before the test.

  • Goal Setting

    Goals must be well defined and attainable. Goals can:

    • Help you allocate time for important activities
    • Improve your test preparation and study skills
    • Help reduce stress related to academics
    • Improve your problem identification and problem solving skills

    Characteristics of Good Goals:

    • Basing them on your priorities
    • Balance
    • Being positive
    • Being realistic, specific, and clear
    • Being able to visualize your results

    Short Term and Long Term Goals

    Short-term goals– are goals that you will achieve in the near future (i.e., in a day, within a week, or possibly within a few months).

    Long-term goals– are goals that you will achieve over a longer period of time (i.e., one semester, one year, five years, or twenty years).

    Planning ahead will help you get things done and focus you on achieving the outcome desired. Think about what you would like to accomplish and then answer the following questions:

    By the end of the week I plan to:

    By the end of the semester I plan to:

    By the end of the year I plan to:

    By the time I graduate I plan to:


  • How to Avoid Procrastination

    Procrastination usually has two main causes:

    1. The task is overwhelming
    2. The task is unpleasant

    Here are ways to beat procrastination resulting from an OVERWHELMING task:

    • Get started on the task right away by taking a small slice at a time.
    • Use a time slice as small as five minutes and start on the easiest part of the task. (Often, once you are involved, the momentum builds and procrastination retreats!)
    • Get more information about the overwhelming task. Speak to others, gather more details. The more you know, the more the overwhelming task can shrink and get more into perspective.
    • Start repeating to yourself all the benefits that will come from completing the task.
    • Describe in graphic terms the worst possible consequences from NOT completing the task.
    • Setting a deadline can kill procrastination as the mind gets locked on to the 'mission' to complete the task in a pre-determined time span.
    • In planning, write out the steps in advance. As you come towards the end of one step, you automatically have the next step in mind, making it more difficult to put the task off through procrastination.

    Here are ways to beat procrastination resulting from an UNPLEASANT task:

    • Deal with the task immediately; just meet it head on.
    • Repeat to yourself the greater unpleasantness that will result from not carrying out the task.
    • Build enthusiasm for the results from the task which will overshadow the unpleasantness of actually completing the task.
    • Seriously ask yourself: "What is the price of procrastination in this case and am I willing to pay it?"
    • Reason, "If I am going to do this job eventually anyway I might as well do it now and get it out of the way!"
    • Think of ways to reward yourself at various stages through the task.


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