Study Skills Tips

Most kids (and, honestly, most adults) don’t know how to study. They either assume that simply going to class and taking basic notes are enough, or that rereading the material or said notes over and over again will embed the information into the deepest recesses of their brains.

Neither is particularly effective.

There’s lots of science behind why, but I’ll just give you the highlights:

  • If a student’s goal is to commit knowledge to long-term memory that can be readily accessed when needed—say, on a test—then he or she needs to consistently review the material. Five one-hour study sessions is better than one five-hour study session in most situations, yet most students opt to ‘cram’ the night before. Considering that memory consolidation happens primarily between study sessions when sleeping, this isn’t the most effective strategy.


  • ‘Recalling’ a memory is, for the most part, equivalent to reconstructing it. Most brains don’t archive events like video footage; instead, they piece together memories through associations. This means that to successfully ‘learn’ something, there needs to be a fair amount of contextual information provided connecting that something to other knowledge or concepts. You can’t just reread the same thing over and over again and expect it to just ‘sink in’.

So if your child can’t seem to retain information past the week it is learned—i.e. just long enough to pass the test—then he or she isn’t studying very effectively.


So what can students do to improve?


Get into a routine

Since studying consistently is more effective than not doing so, students should have a regular study time that they stick to.

Commit to one task at a time

Multitasking isn’t real. Seriously. Chances are that if someone tells you he or she is really good at multitasking, then he or she does not have particularly good study habits. Turn off the TV. Turn off the phone. You can probably leave on the music, but try to stick to something without vocals—the language part of your brain gets really confused with too many words floating around while trying to read.

Set goals

To supply the necessary context for consolidating knowledge into long-term memory, students should have a pretty specific goal in mind when studying a particular topic. They should be trying to answer a specific question or set of questions and aiming to connect them to the larger context of the lesson, unit, and course. For instance, connecting the concept of a linear function in one unit to its graph in another.

Revisit weak spots

Take note of where your gaps in knowledge are and work to fill them. Knowledge is cumulative, so if you’re missing some of the foundational pieces, then everything rests on shaky ground.


Hopefully these tips are enough to get your child started. If not, feel free to schedule a free consultation to review your child’s study habits and get a custom program made to help refine them.

Mike Constanza is the Director of Learning and Technology for Silver Oak Learning K-12. His expertise is primarily in reading, writing, SAT and ACT prep.