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Top Ten Tips for Academic Success

Adapted by Prof. M.A. Dubé from the Student Development Centre’s Learning Skills Services at the Univ. of Western Ontario. 

 So, you want to succeed at school and have a social life?  The good news is that it IS possible!  That means planning ahead and making choices not only about what you study but also when, where, and how you study.  To become a strategic learner, include the following tips in your approach to school.

  1. Location, location, location… If you’re serious about getting work done, find a place relatively free of distractions.  Establish guidelines with roommates for quiet times or use the libraries, study rooms, or empty classrooms.

  2. Make It a Habit: Work Every Day Avoid all-night cram sessions in which you (unsuccessfully) try to understand and retain large amounts of information.  Spend time on your studies each day, and you can stay on top of your courses and still have time for fun.  Use small blocks of time – you’ll be amazed what you can get done between classes.

  3. Help Exists! Seek it Out and Improve Your Grades Whether you’re an “A” student or a “D” student, you can strengthen your learning skills.  Check out the wide range of workshops and learning services available at Career and Counselling Services at 100 Marie Curie (4th floor, above the Campus Pharmacy).  Get to know your professors and tutorial assistants.  It’s your academic career – make the most of it.

  4. Write It Down Remember important dates.  It’s up to you to remember due dates for assignments and test dates. A day planner is great for organizing your life.  A wall calendar of important dates is also a good idea.

  5. Get Energized – Eat, Exercise, Sleep Not understanding?  Trouble remembering?  Comprehension and memory are affected by stress and fatigue.  When you’re hungry, tense, or tired, your brain can’t function at its full potential.  It’s especially crucial to eat well, exercise, and get adequate sleep during exam periods.

  6. Go to Class Prepared & Take Good Notes Don’t fall into the habit of missing class.  Someone else’s notes aren’t going to be as good as having gone to the lecture yourself (think of the lecture as productive time when you are at least thinking about the learning material).  In class, listen for emphasis and examples.  Take a thorough set of notes; you’ll be thankful at test time.  Do you have questions after the lecture?  Go to your professor’s or tutorial assistant’s office hours.  Isn’t it better to learn as you go than find yourself unprepared the night before an exam?\

  7. Lectures and Textbooks: What’s the BIG Picture? Many unsuccessful students see a course as a lot of stuff to memorize.  University learning requires understanding how pieces of information fit together to form a “big picture”.  Use course outlines, tables of content, and headings and subheadings to organize the information in each of your courses.  Routinely ask yourself, “What’s the purpose of this detail?” and “Does it make sense?”

  8. Do Something (Anything!) to Remember Key Information Capture your understanding of course material in an active way.  Generate examples, create mnemonics, make summary notes, identify key words, highlight textbooks or add margin notes.  Be creative and interested and you’ll probably be awesome at test time.

  9. Think You’ll Remember Key Points?  Prove It. No matter how well you understand something, without practice some forgetting will occur.  Before a test, make sure that you can recall important information from memory.  Give yourself a self-test by recalling information without looking at notes or textbooks and by doing practice exams if available.

  10. Be Test Smart Don’t lose marks because of test-writing errors such as misreading a question or running out of time.  Think through specific strategies to tackle different types of tests (e.g., multiple-choice).  Also, carefully read instructions, budget time to marks, and do less difficult questions first to build confidence.

 Interested in developing your skills further?

As mentioned above, the uOttawa Student Academic Success Service (SASS) offers a wide variety of workshops. In addition, they have excellent personal counsellors who are ready to give you personal attention with your specific learning needs if you are not comfortable in a group/workshop setting.

More information on study skills help on the web:

A recent article (May 2012) by Eve Evans has lots of great resource links:—Learning-Strategies-for-Success-A527.html

 Searchable Websites: You can search specific topics from among many at these locations!


 http://www3.dist214.k I

 General tips and resources:

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