Study Systems

Concentrating When Studying

  • Get a dedicated space, chair, table, lighting and environment.
  • Avoid your cell phone or telephone.'
  • Put up a sign to avoid being disturbed or interrupted.
  • If you like music in the background, OK, but don't let it be a distraction. (Research on productivity with music versus without music is inconclusive).
  • Stick to a routine, efficient study schedule. Accommodate your day/nighttime energy levels.
  • Before you begin studying, take a few minutes to summarize a few objectives, gather what you will need, and think of a general strategy of accomplishment.
  • Create an incentive if necessary for successfully completing a task, such as calling a friend, a food treat, a walk, etc. For special projects such as term papers, design projects, long book reviews, set up a special incentive
  • Change topics. Changing the subject you study every one to two hours for variety.
  • Vary your study activities.
  • Alternate reading with more active learning exercises.
  • If you have a lot of reading, try the SQ3R method.
  • Ask yourself how you could increase your activity level while studying? Perhaps a group will be best? Creating study questions?
  • Ask your teacher for alternative strategies for learning. The more active your learning, the better.
  • Take regular, scheduled breaks that fit you. Do something different from what you've been doing (e.g., walk around if you've been sitting), and in a different area
  • Give yourself a reward when you've completed a task.
  • Research has proven that people who use a worry time find themselves worrying 35 percent less of the time within four weeks. Set aside a specific time each day to think about the things that keep entering your mind and interfering with your concentration. When you become aware of a distracting thought,
    remind yourself that you have a special time to think about them. Let the thought go for the moment and keep your appointment to worry or think about those distracting issues during the specific worry time.
  • Maximize your energy level. When is your energy level at its highest? When are your low energy times? Study your most difficult courses at your high energy times. Sharpest early in the evening? Study your most difficult course then. Later in the evening? Work on your easier courses or the ones you enjoy the most. Most students put off the tough studies until later in the evening when they become tired, and it is more difficult to concentrate. Reverse that. Study hard subjects at peak energy times; easier ones later. This alone can help to improve your concentration.
  • Visualize. As an exercise before you begin studying, think of those times when concentration is not a problem for you--no matter what situation. Now try to feel or image yourself in that situation. Recapture that experience immediately before your studies by placing yourself in that moment. Repeat before each study session.
University Counseling Services, Kansas State University
Using Memory Effectively

The following techniques use associations with letters, images, maps, etc to help you remember. As you proceed through this list of techniques, try to think of strategies that would be useful to you! Some people use letters, some images, some songs. Each depends on how comfortable you are with, or how useful they are to, your way of thinking!

Acronyms An acronym is an invented combination of letters. Each letter is a cue to, or suggests, an item you need to remember.

  • PEMDAS, sequence in solving or evaluating math equations
    Parenthesis | Exponents | Multiplication | Division | Addition | Subtraction
  • ROY G. BIV, the colors of the visible spectrum Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet
  • IPMAT, the stages of cell division
    Interphase, Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase, Telephase

An acrostic is an invented sentence or poem with a first letter cue: The first letter of each word is a cue to an idea you need to remember.

  • Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (PEMDAS, above) Sequence in solving or evaluating math equations Parenthesis | Exponents | Multiplication | Division | Addition | Subtraction
  • Every Good Boy Deserves Fun An acrostic for remembering a sequence of musical notes (G-clef notes on sheet music)--E, G, B, D, F
Rhyme-Keys: (for ordered or unordered lists). First, memorize key words that can be associated with numbers.
  • Example: bun = one; shoe = two, tree = three, door = four, hive = five, etc.
    Create an image of the items you need to remember with key words.
  • Four basic food groups-- diary products; meat, fish, and poultry; grains; and fruit and vegetables. Think of cheese on a bun (one), livestock with shoes on (two), a sack of grain suspended in a tree (three), a door to a room stocked with fruits and vegetables (four).

The Method of Loci: (for approximately twenty items). Select any location that you have spent a lot of time in and know well. Good for kinesthetic learners!

  • Imagine yourself walking through the location, selecting clearly defined places--the door, sofa, refrigerator, shelf, etc. Imagine yourself putting objects that you need to remember into each of these places by walking through this location in a direct path.
  • Again, you need a standard direct path and clearly defined locations for objects to facilitate the retrieval of these objects.
  • George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Richard Nixon, you could imagine walking up to the door of your location and seeing a dollar bill stuck in the door; when you open the door Jefferson is reclining on the sofa and Nixon is eating out of the refrigerator.
The Keyword Method: (for foreign language vocabulary). First, after considering the foreign word you need to remember, select a key word in English that sounds like the foreign word.
Next, imagine an image which involves the key word with the English meaning of the foreign word.
  • For example, consider the Spanish word "cabina" which means "phone booth." For the English keyword, you might think of "cab in a ... ." You could then invent an image of a cab trying to fit in a phone booth. When you see the word "cabina" on the test, you should be able to recall the image of the cab and you should be able to retrieve the definition "phone booth."
The Image-Name Technique: (for remembering names). Simply invent any relationship between the name and the physical characteristics of the person.
  • For example, if you had to remember Shirley Temple's name, you might ingrain the name in memory by noticing that she has "curly" (rhymes with Shirley) hair around her temples.
Chaining: (for ordered or unordered lists). Create a story where each word or idea you have to remember cues the next idea you need to recall.
  • If you had to remember the words Napoleon, ear, door, and Germany, you could invent a story of Napoleon with his ear to a door listening to people speak in German.
Index Study System

  • Review your notes and readings frequently, so the material is "fresh".
  • As you're reading your text or reviewing your notes, generate and write down questions about the material. Imagine you're teaching the course. What questions would you ask on the exam? Keep track of any terms you need to know. Write each question or term on the back of an index card. On the front of each index card, write an answer or an explanation for the question or term on the back. Use your notes and text for a reference, but put the answer or explanation in your own words whenever possible Shuffle the index cards (so you can't figure out any answers based on their location in the deck. Look at the card on the top of the deck: Try to answer the question or explain the term. If you know it, great! Put it on the bottom of the deck. If you don't know it, look at the answer, and put it a few cards down in the deck (so you'll come back to it soon). Proceed through the deck of cards until you know all of the information
  • Carry your cards with you everywhere. Take advantage of little pockets of time. Test yourself while you're waiting on line, riding the bus, etc. If you think you know an answer, but can't put it into words, you probably don't know it well enough. Being able to explain the information is the only way to be sure that you know it. It's also the best way to prevent test anxiety. Consider testing yourself someplace where nobody can see you
    (and think you're crazy), and reciting the answers out loud. That's the best way to be sure that you can explain them.
  • Study with a friend from your class. You can share ideas and help each other out with concepts. Also, you can use each other to make sure that you're explaining your answers adequately.
Word Association Study System

  • Write all the key terms down on a separate piece of paper.
  • Put them into a bowl, hat, etc.
  • Take out any two terms and describe what they have in common and how they are different or unique (as they relate to the unit of study).
  • Check your work using your text, class notes, with study peers or with your teacher.
  • Replace the words and repeat the process.
  • You can also use the words to generate concept maps.