Strategies for Success

Strategies for Success in College

How to Study

The general rule of thumb is that a student should study 3 hours for every one hour in class. So, if a class is 3 credit hours with 3 hours a week in class, the student needs to study 9 hours during the week for that one class. If a student is taking 12 credit hours of class, the student needs to prepare to study 36 hours a week in order to be successful.

The course syllabus provides a roadmap of expectations, due dates of assignments and tests, and provides information on objectives and goals for the class. The syllabus usually contains the instructor’s phone number and contact information. A good student relies upon the syllabus in order to have academic success.

Study groups and peer communities provide support and enforcement to learning tasks and facilitates the learning process. It is a good idea to contact one person in your class you feel that you can connect with and study with, if needed. Study groups provide accountability in sharpening your skills and knowledge base.

Ask questions! You are in college. It costs money. Make sure you get your money’s worth. The quality of education is determined by how much you put into it. You are in charge of obtaining information. Ask questions, go to your instructor’s office during office hours, seek to understand, and get involved.

The Student Bill of Rights As a student you have the right to:

  1. Make your own choices
  2. Communicate with your instructors
  3. Have a safe, secure environment for physical and mental well being
  4. Accept responsibility for yourself and your behavior
  5. Locate and use college services
  6. Not to blame others for your academic problems
  7. Become part of campus life
  8. Get to know your professors​
  9. Being a student is a full time job
  10. Study one hour outside for every hour inside of class
  11. Know the academic rules, and regulations in the catalog and handbook
  12. Read the book, syllabus, or catalog for polices
  13. Never to say “No one ever told me!”

Successful Test Taking

(adapted from On Course by Skip Downing)

  1. Find out what will be covered on the test. It’s especially important to attend the class session before a test, as instructors often review material they will have on exams. If you are fortunate enough to get a study guide, be sure you can thoroughly answer every question on it. Be sure to find out if the test will be multiple choice, essay, fill-in-the-blank, or some other format.
  2. Set up a study schedule. It’s much more beneficial to study a little bit every day for a week than to study for hours right before the exam. The brain really does have a limit to how much information you can absorb in one cramming session.
  3. Be sure to be well rested and comfortable before taking an exam.
  4. When you get your exam, skim the entire test. Note which questions have higher point values, so you can prioritize portions of the exam if you start to run out of time.
  5. Read the directions very carefully. Be sure you understand exactly what you are supposed to do.
  6. Look for key words in the question. It may help to underline them as you are reading.
  7. Work the easiest problems first because these will build up your confidence for the more difficult portions. Skip any problems you don’t know and come back to them later. You may find clues to help you answer them later in the test.
  8. For multiple choice questions: Read the question carefully and try to answer it without reading the answers. Then search for that answer among your choices. If the answer isn’t there, or if you don’t know the answer, try to narrow down your choices by eliminating the answers you know aren’t correct. Be wary of answers with words like always, sometimes, never, every, must, and all. Also watch for choices where the sentences are worded very similarly except for one or two words.
  9. For essay questions: Identify important words and concepts in the question. Be sure you understand the directions. Look for clues like compare, contrast, explain, describe, and analyze to help guide you as you prepare to write. It may help to underline important words. Use scratch paper to write a brief outline of ideas or notes you will use in your answer. Organize your ideas or notes on your scratch paper before you begin writing your essay. Use examples or details to give your answer support. Be sure to write a conclusion that summarizes your main points. Proofread for spelling and grammatical errors, and write as neatly as possible.
  10. For fill in the blank questions: Your answer should make sense and should sound grammatically correct. If you don’t know the answer, look for key words in other questions on the exam.
  11. For true/false questions: Read the statement carefully and identify qualifying words like always, never, every and all. The entire statement is false if any portion of it is false.

Overcoming Test Anxiety

You probably know the feeling: you’re getting ready to take an important exam and you feel nervous, sick, and scared. Your heart beats faster and your palms get sweaty. You’re certain you’re going to fail.

Most people experience some form of test anxiety at least once in their academic careers. But for some students, test anxiety can become so severe that it prevents them from doing well in their courses. There are two types of test anxiety: rational and irrational. You have rational test anxiety if you are nervous about an exam because you didn’t study for it and don’t know the material. Your test anxiety is irrational if you do know the material and you did study for the test, but you are still anxious and fear you will fail. Rational test anxiety has an easy cure—study and be prepared! Irrational test anxiety, however, is harder to beat. Below are some tips for your anxiety.

  • Make sure you’re getting plenty of rest. A tired brain doesn’t perform well.
  • Set up a study plan at least a week in advance. Try studying in shorter amounts of time, because cramming will only increase your anxiety.
  • Be aware of what increases your anxiety and avoid these things. For instance, if it bothers you to see a clock, position yourself so you can’t see one.
  • If hearing and seeing others leave the classroom distracts you, sit with your back to the rest of the class.
  • Chew gum or bring snacks to help relieve nervous energy.
  • Use positive thinking. If you tell yourself you will fail, you probably will.
  • Skip problems you don’t know and come back to them later. Do the easiest problems first to build up your confidence.
  • Take a deep breath and try to visualize a calm scene if you start to feel your anxiety overtake you.
  • Put things in perspective. What’s really the worst that will happen if you fail this test? One test rarely ruins an academic career or a life.

Learning and Study Strategies Links

Time Management

  • Time Management (University of Waterloo)
  • Top ten time management tips (
  • Stress Management

  • Short descriptive readings on stress management ( 
  • Symptoms of stress (University at Buffalo, State University of Ne​w York)

    The Fight Against Procrastination

  • Overcoming Procrastination (University at Buffalo, New York)
  • Procrastination - Problem or Plus? (Kansas State University)
  • The Fight Against Procrastination (Oregon State University)
  • Memory Improvement

  • An assortment of memory techniques (
  • Short, descriptive memory principles (Middle Tennessee State University)
  • Testing

  • Survival Strategies for Taking Tests (Middle Tennessee State University)
  • Test Anxiety (Louisiana State University)
  • Tips on Test Taking (North Carolina State University)
  • Math & Science

  • GCalc
  • Helpful Links

  • Ask Dr. Math (
  • How To Study (
  • Reading Strategies (Idaho State University)
  • Study Skills Self Help Information (Virginia Tech)
  • Test Taking Strategies (University of Minnesota, Deluth)
  • Test Taking Strategies (Southwestern University)
  • Tips for Studying Chemistry (Towson University) 
  • University of Waterloo, Study Skills Package
  • Nursing

  • Medi-Smart’s 
  • NurseReview.Org Study Skills and Test Strategies for the New Nursing Student
  • Writing and Grammar

  • writing resources (Cleveland State University)
  • OWL (Purdue University)
  • Grammar Slammer, (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) offers handouts with helpful tips on writing topics including pages dedicated to 
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