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Counseling Services

Study Strategies

Study Skills on a chalk board


Start on the first day of class.

  • Do all the right stuff all along. You know... go to all the classes ... do all the homework...STUDY...from the beginning.
  • Get enough sleep (that means about 8 hours every night) all along.
  • Eat right. Yup, your Mom was right... You are what you eat.
  • Each class meeting, ask yourself what might be on a test. Get the answer.
  • Keep excellent class notes.

NOW, here's more on how you can LEARN AS YOU GO....

  • Some things have to be memorized make lists of them.
  • Use mnemonic devices to remember the lists.
  • Give yourself enough time to memorize the information.
  • Have several study review sessions. Don't try to do it all at once.
  • Study beyond simple recognition of the information.
  • Know the teacher's style.
  • Go to all the review sessions.
  • Picture yourself doing well.

And while you're taking the test...

  • Arrive early. Bring everything you need. Bring extra stuff too.
  • Walk into the test knowing you genuinely have prepared your best.
  • Be certain you understand all directions.
  • Get settled and remain relaxed.
  • Review the entire test and organize your thoughts before beginning.
  • Know if you should guess what you don't know, or if there will be a penalty for guesses.
  • Work steadily, skipping what you don't know and coming back to it.
  • Look for clues in the questions. *read questions carefully
    • know exactly what is being asked: does the question have multiple parts?
    • multiple negatives?
      • qualifiers?
      • absolutes?
      • any key words or phrases?
      • agreement clues (i.e., single or plural) ?
      • space clues (i.e., long or short answer)?
    • look for answer clues in other questions
  • When you answer, provide too much information rather than too little.
  • Be concrete and factual unless instructed otherwise.
  • Remember tips your teacher gave - you studied and you have prepared!!!
  • Keep your work neat.
  • Review your answers before you hand them in.
  • Don't worry about what anyone else is doing in the test.
  • Think positive. Do your best. Breathe.

Then AFTER an exam or quiz:

  • Follow up. What did you miss?
  • Why did you miss it?
  • What is the answer?

compiled by Joyce Woodford, Counseling Services, K-State



Much of studying involves the remembering of different kinds of information. In courses where there are large amounts of FACTUAL information, the use of flashcards may be helpful. Kinds of material that might be considered appropriate for flashcards are vocabulary words, formulas, equations, definitions, dates, names, etc.

The primary advantage of flashcards over other review techniques is that since the cards are more conveniently carried, they will probably be reviewed more often than material in a notebook or a textbook. FREQUENT REVIEW of cards is what makes them effective. Short reviews FREQUENTLY REPEATED will generally be more effective than long sessions of cramming.

Objections about flashcards usually state that "they take too long to make." One should keep in mind, however, that the writing down of the material on the cards is an aid to memory in itself. One learns while preparing the cards!

SUGGESTIONS FOR MAKING AND USING FLASHCARDS - Use the 3 x 5 card plan to learn new terms/words:

  • When a word is encountered that cannot be precisely defined, copy on a 3 x 5 card the entire sentence in which the word occurs. Underline the word so that it stands out.
  • When a small number of these cards have accumulated, look up the words in an unabridged dictionary.
  • On the same side of the card that bears the excerpted sentence, the word with its syllables and diacritical markings should be printed so that accurate pronunciation is possible. You will find it much easier to use the word in conversation if you PRACTICE SAYING IT OUT LOUD. Nothing else should be placed on the front of the card, unless you wish to footnote the source of your sentence, phrase, or word.
  • Now use the reverse side of the card. If the word has been made up of a prefix and a root, record this information on the card. Knowing the derivation of the word and some of its' ancestry will help you learn the word with greater precision.
  • Write the several definitions or variations of the definitions on the reverse side. Place an asterisk beside the definition that best fits the word as it was used in your original sentence.

The example shows a typical card:


 Side 1: 
 exorbitant just the word


Side 2 

 eg-zor' be-tent


(1)extravagant (2) excessive

The prices on this menu are exorbitant.

pronunciation symbols

part of speech


your sentence using it


You can use the same method with any information you wish to learn. Place the concept or formula to be learned on one side and the definition or explanation on the other. This will allow you to TEST YOURSELF each time the cards are reviewed.

  • Review cards OFTEN. Carrying them with you will facilitate frequent review.
  • Prepare the cards WELL IN ADVANCE of the date that the material is due to be tested or learned.
  • Study most those cards that you DON'T KNOW or are not sure of.
  • Reviewing cards you know is a temptation but is an inefficient use of time.
  • When learning cards for the first time BREAK THEM UP INTO SMALL GROUPS. Learn one group of cards, then move to another group reviewing all cards from time to time. Carry about a dozen of these filled-out cards in your shirt pocket or hand bag, so that they will be handy to review whenever there is a spare moment. You could look at them when standing in a cafeteria line, waiting for a bus, sitting in someone's outer office, and so on.
  • SHUFFLE the cards frequently and flip through them rapidly. This avoids learning the cards in a certain order. Remember it is NOT the cards that improve memory; it is rather HOW OFTEN THEY ARE REVIEWED!



Memory Builders

Several factors aid memory; consider how you might apply them for yourself.

  • Motivated Interest

Careful attention insures better memory. Do you think jumpers find it hard to learn how to use a parachute? Find something in a subject to keep you interested.

  • Meaningful Organizations

A map, chart, or outline structures memory in the present and future tense.

  • Selectivity

"He hears what he wants to hear," indicates the effect of selective listening. The person or idea which is recalled usually has something special which made him/it stand out.

  • Intention to Remember

Consider parts of a conversation you listen to carefully or completely space out. Which will be most likely remembered?

  • Basic Background

Association of new facts and old is one sure way to build memory. If there's no old, the new will "catch" much more slowly. Also, this emphasizes the import of review.

  • Recitation/Questioning

Why do we remember songs on the radio so well? Of course, we hear them over and over. When we ask questions about a strange word in a song (or lecture) we are even more likely to remember.

  • Consolidation

Pulling together new learning makes it more memorable. If we recognize that the person in the red hat and the person who lives on the corner are the same person, the association aids later recall.

  • Distributed Practice

How often have you learned how to fix machinery, cook a meal, or play a game, only to forget the process later on. Drill is boring but rewarding.


Mnemonics are memory-helpers.

Several ways of coding words or numbers can help organize and retain them. Three methods, the Loci system, Peg words, and Visual Mapping are illustrated below. Try one method, check yourself on a scratch sheet, and see how well you do.

1. Loci:

Loci means places. Imagine a set of locations familiar to you (houses on your block, spots around your room). These fixed points (set places and sequence) identify your terms. For instance:

Tennis Terms:

love, fault
deuce, net
add, smash
lob, match

2. Peg Words:
Ten or more "standard words" to associate terms by establishing images can act as "pegs". Try and connect the term below with its peg in some mental image.

Pegs Terms to be remembered
 is bun

is shoe

is tree

is door

is sleeve

is pickle

is dice

is gate

is cat

is hen

 motivated interest


intention to remember

basic background

meaningful organization



distributed practice

3. Visual Mapping:
Since information is condensed to a few ideas in mnemonics, care must be taken to learn their meanings prior to memorizing their place.

Example: Pol. Sci.: Checks and balances in the political structure

ExecutiveLegislative Judicial 
 Veto Law Making Interpret or
 Enforce Law writing Review Laws



The ex-basketball star Jerry Lucus was also a Phi Beta Kappa at Ohio State. He attributes his scholastic prowess to a memory system he developed. Lucus and Harry Lorayne (a memory expert) wrote The Memory Book (Scarborough House, Brair Manor, N.Y., 1974). The following is a partial summary of their book.

  1. Attempt to associate the material that you are trying to memorize with something that has a special meaning to you, or something you personally think is funny.  Example:  How to memorize the "lines on the music staff, the treble clef (E,G,B,D,F). Make a word out of each letter, using the staff letter as the first letter of the word. Every Good Boy Does Fine."
  2. "Assume you wanted to learn ten items in sequence: airplane, tree, envelope, earring, sing, baseball, salami, star, nose . . . All you need to do is form a ridiculous picture in your mind's eye -- an association between two things . . . A giant tree is flying instead of an airplane, or an airplane is growing instead of a tree." Continue with this process until you get through the entire List.
  3. Try to associate things you know to things you don't know. People have remembered that Mount Fujiyama is 12,365 feet high by associating it to a calendar (12 months, 365 days in a year)."
  4. Try to "Link" bits of sequential information together. If one bit of information leads you to the next in your memorization, then you are "linking" properly. Attempt to see the things you are trying to memorize as being out of proportion (too big), in exaggerated numbers (too many), or with too much action (a dancing rock).
  5. Try substituting familiar sounding words for those you are not familiar with. Example: "can't elope -- cantaloupe."
  6. Numbers can be memorized by assigning a specific consonant sound to each of the ten units. They are:1--t, or d; 2--n; 3--m; 4--r; 5--1; 6--sh, ch, j, and g; 7--k; 8--ph, and f; 9--p; 0--z, s, and soft c.

Try to construct individual words using all of the consonants assigned the various digits of the number, or attempt to make phrases where the first letter of each word represents a consonant assigned to a digit.