Academic Success: Study Skills

The following information is offered to assist you in optimizing your ability to study. Topics covered include:

Motivating Yourself to Study
Finding a Good Place to Study
Managing Your Time to Study
Strategies for Reading Textbooks

Do you find that you lack motivation to study? Well, you are not alone! Just about every student experiences this problem at one time or another.
Motivation is important for good studying. When you are motivated, you will find it easy to stay focused over a period of time. When you are not motivated, you will not only find it difficult to stay focused, but you will find it difficult to get started in the first place.

Here are some ways to increase your motivation to study.
  1. Reward yourself for studying. For example, after a successful study session, have a treat like a nice big ice cream cone or watch a great movie!
  2. Study with your friends. Don’t make it party time, but you can have fun as you do this. Sharing knowledge, ideas and creativity can help you stay on track.
  3. Remind yourself of your long-term goals. Achievement of your goals likely requires educational success. Educational success requires studying.
  4. Eliminate distractions. If you are surrounded by things you would rather do than study, you will probably do those things instead of studying.
  5. Develop interest in what you have to study. Think of how the material relates to your own life to make studying more relevant and enjoyable.
  6. Take breaks. When you feel that you need to take a break, try to stop at a point where you are at something that is easy for you. This will make it easier for you to resume studying after your break.
  7. Establish a comfortable environment. You will be more inclined to study if you feel comfortable.
  8. Establish reasonable goals for a study session. You probably won’t get very far if you look at your study session as "mission impossible."
  9. Use a motivational poster. Place the poster where you can see it as you study. The poster should include positive words and a picture depicting success. You can buy one or even make your own. You can also read inspirational stories about real people who have achieved success through personal effort.
  10. Just do it. Once you do, you will feel a lot better than if you are worried about getting it done, and build momentum to continue!

Preparing to study: a good study place

You need a good study place in order to prepare yourself to study. You should be able to answer YES to all of the following questions:
  1. Is my study place available to me whenever I need it?
  2. Your study place does you little good if you cannot use it when you need it. If you are using a study place that you must share with others for any reason, work out a schedule so that you know when you can use it.
  3. Is my study place free from interruptions?
  4. It is important to have uninterrupted study time. You may have to hang a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door or turn your phone off.
  5. Is my study place free from distractions?
  6. Research shows that most students study best in a quiet environment. If you find that playing a stereo or TV improves your mood, keep the volume low.
  7. Does my study place contain all the study materials I need?
  8. Be sure your study place includes reference sources and supplies such as pens and pencils, paper, ruler, calculator, and whatever else you might need. If you use a computer for your schoolwork, it should be in your study place.
  9. Does my Study Space contain a large enough desk or table?
  10. While working on an assignment or studying for a test, use a desk or table that is large enough to hold everything you need. Allow enough room for writing and try to avoid clutter.
  11. Does my study place have enough storage space?
  12. You need enough room to store your study materials. Be sure you have enough storage space to allow you to keep your desktop or other work surface clear of unnecessary materials that can get in the way.
  13. Does my study place have a comfortable chair?
  14. A chair that is not comfortable can cause discomfort or pain that will interfere with your studying. A chair that is too comfortable might make you sleepy. Select a chair in which you can sit for long periods while maintaining your attention.
  15. Does my study place have enough light?
  16. The amount of light you need depends on what you are doing. The important thing is that you can clearly see what you need to see without any strain or discomfort.
  17. Does my study place have a comfortable temperature?
  18. If your study place is too warm, you might become sleepy. If it is too cold, your thinking may slow down and become unclear. Select a temperature at which your mind and body function best.

Managing your study time

There are only so many hours in a day, a week, or a semester. You cannot change the number of hours, but you can decide how to best use them. To be successful in school, you must carefully manage your study time. Here is a strategy for doing this.

Prepare a calendar for the entire semester

At the beginning of a term, prepare a term calendar. Update it as the term goes on. Here is what to do to prepare a term calendar.
  • Record your school assignments with their due dates and your scheduled tests.
  • Record your planned school activities.
  • Record your known out-of-school activities.
  • Prepare a weekly schedule

Each Sunday before a school week, prepare a weekly schedule. Update it as the week goes on. Here is what to do to prepare a weekly schedule.

  • Record your daily classes.
  • Enter things to be done for the coming week from your term calendar.
  • Review your class notes from the previous week to see if you need to add any school activities.
  • Add any out-of-school activities in which you will be involved during the week.
  • Be sure to include times for completing assignments, working on projects, and studying for tests. These times may be during the school day, right after school, evenings, and weekends.
  • Prepare a daily organizer

Each evening before a school day, prepare a daily organizer for the next day. Place a check next to each thing to do as you accomplish it. Here is what to do to prepare a daily organizer.
  • Enter the things to do for the coming day from your weekly schedule.
  • Enter the things that still need to be accomplished from your daily organizer from the previous day.
  • Review your class notes for the day just completed to see if you need to add any school activities.
  • Add any out-of-school activities in which you will be involved the next day.
  • Your weekly schedule should have more detail than your term calendar. Your daily organizer should have more detail than your weekly schedule. Using a term calendar, a weekly schedule, and a daily organizer will help you make the best use of your time.

A Strategy for Reading Textbooks

Do you feel overwhelmed when you have 3 or 4 chapters of detailed reading to finish each week? S-Q-R-W is a four-step strategy for reading and taking notes from chapters in a textbook. Each letter stands for one step in the strategy. Using SQRW will help you to understand what you read and to prepare a written record of what you learned. The written record will be valuable when you have to participate in a class discussion and again when you study for a test. Read to learn what to do for each step in SQRW.


Surveying brings to mind what you already know about the topic of a chapter and prepares you for learning more. To survey a chapter, read the title, introduction, headings, and the summary or conclusion. Also, examine all visuals such as pictures, tables, maps, and/or graphs and read the caption that goes with each. By surveying a chapter, you will quickly learn what the chapter is about.


You need to have questions in your mind as you read. Questions give you a purpose for reading and help you stay focused on the reading assignment. Form questions by changing each chapter heading into a question. Use the words who, what, when, where, why, or how to form questions. For example, for the heading "Uses of Electricity" in a chapter about how science improves lives, you might form the question "What are some uses of electricity?" If a heading is stated as a question, use that question. When a heading contains more than one idea, form a question for each idea. Do not form questions for the Introduction, Summary, or Conclusion.


Read the information that follows each heading to find the answer to each question you formed. As you do this, you may decide you need to change a question or turn it into several questions to be answered. Stay focused and flexible so you can gather as much information as you need to answer each question.


Write each question and its answer in your notebook. Reread each of your written answers to be sure each answer is legible and contains all the important information needed to answer the question.

As you practice using SQRW, you will find you learn more and have good study notes to use to prepare for class participation and tests.

HINT: Once you complete the Survey step for the entire chapter, complete the Question, Read, and Write steps for the first heading. Then complete the Question, Read, and Write steps for the second heading, and so on for the remaining headings in the chapter.