Academic Success: Concentration

“I can’t concentrate” is a common student complaint. Although learning to focus your attention may not be a simple task, you will probably agree with most students that it is a skill well worth developing. Quality study time leads to better grades and extra hours in the day.

Check over the causes of poor concentration listed below, then experiment with the active learning strategies suggested for each problem area.

If you lack interest in the subject, try to…
Read actively. Converse mentally with your textbook authors: question their viewpoints, anticipate their conclusions, and attempt to disprove their ideas!
Learn to use an effective method of reading. Survey the material before your begin. Raise questions and then read for answers. Recite what you have learned.
Relate the course to your life, your goals and your future.

If you lack background knowledge, try to...
Use inexpensive review books to supplement the assigned text.
Check out a less complex book on the same subject from the library.
Ask a friend or a tutor who has the background to help you fill in the gaps.

If you lack goals for each study session, try to...
Plan ahead specific and realistic goals for your study session.
Keep working until you accomplish your goals.
Plan an enjoyable activity as a reward for a job well done.

If you have trouble getting started, try to...
Organize a primary study area with all the necessary supplies. Identify other areas where you can study productively.
Set a definite starting time. The sooner you begin, the sooner you will be free to do other things!
Warm up to studying with a brief review.

If you often feel too tired to study, try to...
Make proper rest, good diet and exercise part of your regular schedule to help you feel energized to study efficiently.
Determine the time of day that is best for you and use this time for your most difficult assignments.

If you get sleepy while studying, try to...
Study in a well-ventilated room.
Take regular breaks; stretch and move around.
Alternate subjects and also change your approach to studying a subject.

If you daydream (to escape from work), try to...
Study more actively (read aloud, take notes, use online resources).
Jot down irrelevant and distracting thoughts on a scratch pad to come back to them later.
Keep material from only one course at a time in front of you.

If you worry about personal problems, try to...
Talk to a trusted friend or family member.
Seek counseling support, available on campus.
Try writing in a daily journal.

If you worry about poor grades, try to...
Meet with your professor to talk over low grades or unclear assignments.
Talk to an academic advisor to evaluate your program and discuss challenges you are experiencing.
Use resources available through the Student Success Center.

If you worry about deadlines, try to...
Keep a calendar/planner of assignment due dates. Refer to it regularly.
Create a weekly study schedule and make every effort to stick to it. When you aren’t able to, record what event, emotion or challenge interfered.
If you are distracted by noise, try to...

Find a study room, empty classroom or quiet library corner tucked away from campus traffic. See if headphones help your focus. Two or three hours of efficient study in quiet surroundings will do more good than 10 hours in a noisy place.