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Essential Study Skills for
Science Students

1.Developing good study habits –

You wouldn’t set up a desk in Grand Central Station to study for an exam.Nor would you invite your friends to your room to hang out while you prepare for an important test.But many students might as well.They study in the noisiest, most distracting setting they can find, often in front of the TV or on the couch with the stereo blasting.

Some students argue that they get better results that way.However, when their tests are returned, the verdict is inescapable: noise and other forms of distraction decrease your ability to concentrate.If you can’t concentrate, it’s likely that you’re not learning much.


Tip 1 – Study in a well-lighted, distraction-free environment.

Tip 2 – Set aside a study time each day.

Tip 3 – Reward yourself when you stick to your schedule.

Tip 4 – Don’t skimp on study time.

Tip 5 - Train yourself to study more.

Tip 6 – Study when you are most alert.

Tip 7 – Avoid procrastination.

Tip 8 – Plan your time efficiently.

Tip 9 – Study alone.

Tip 10 – Record test dates, as they are announced, in your binder reminder.

2.Getting the most out of lectures and labs –

The goal of note taking during a lecture is simply this: to create a legible, easy-to-

follow summary of your teacher’s talk.Easy as that may sound, it takes a certain skill and a lot of practice to take good notes, especially in science classes, where teachers often use a variety of visual aids-such as overhead transparencies and slides-to supplement their lectures.

To understand the complexity of the task at hand, consider what goes on in a lecture.First, you must listen and understand what is being said.You must then analyze the information, though the pace of many lectures leaves far to little time to think about what is being said.Next, you must sort through the incoming material, selecting what you want to write in your notes.Finally, you must jot the information down quickly so as not to miss the next point.That’s a lot of brainwork and handwork in quick succession.With some helpful tips, though, you will find that the task is doable.

Laboratories present their own challenges.These structured learning environments require students to do most of the work.With a little guidance, though, you can excel in lab work and get good grades for your effort.


Tip 1 – Know the subject of each lecture before you walk in the door.Know where

you are at all times in the textbook.Call the homework hotline or check the

assignments on the web page.

Tip 2 – Spend some time before each lecture reading previous notes.Review, review,

and review.

Tip 3 – Write as legibly as you can.

Tip 4 – Develop a shorthand system to reduce writing during lecture.

Here is a list of symbols you can use in many courses:


?does not equal?decreases


w/owithoute.g.for example

>greater thani.e.that is

<less than

Tip 5 – Watch for signals that indicate important material.

Tip 6 – Ask questions.

Tip 7 – If your teacher talks too quickly, politely ask him or her to slow down.

Tip 8 – Remain an active participant during lecture.

Tip 9 – Use science notebook for note taking.

Tip 10 – When taking notes, highlight important information.

Tip 11 – Prepare for labs by reading the lab exercises and background material in

your text and notes.

Tip 12 – Record your results accurately and neatly in pencil.

3.Getting the most out of reading assignments –


Tip 1 – Before you begin reading your textbook, read the preface.

The preface typically lists the main features of the book, such as end-of-chapter questions, summaries, and other learning tools.Look over the list of these items so you know what tools you have at your disposal when you start to study the material.

Tip 2 – Preview the chapter or assigned reading.

Most students approach a reading assignment from their science textbook as they might approach a walk home from school; they take the shortest course, usually a straight line between point A and point B.Although this may work for a novel, it’s a rather inefficient way of reading a textbook.Before you plunge into a reading assignment, preview the material.Read the title of the chapter.Study the main headings.The purpose of previewing is to see how the material in the reading assignment is organized.

Tip 3 – Preview tables and figures.

Tip 4 – Work through all the problems in the chapter.

4.Improving your test-taking abilities –

Tests are a prominent feature in most classes.For most students, they’re one of the least enjoyable aspects of school.You may be surprised to learn that many teachers aren’t very fond of tests either.

No matter how unpopular they are among all participants, tests are a necessary part of our educational system.They give students an opportunity to crystallize the information they’re studying and fix it in their memory.They enable teachers to assess how much students are learning and, ultimately, how well they’re doing as educators.

My years of teaching suggest that most students have a bad attitude toward tests.This, in turn, often makes studying for tests and taking them all the more difficult.Thus, a negative attitude toward tests can become a stumbling block that decreases your performance level.Looking at tests in another light, however, may eliminate some of the bad feelings that have built up over the years.How do you go about erasing your unfavorable view of tests?

Think about the studying that you must do to perform well on tests as a chance to solidify your knowledge-that is, to make sense of the information you’ve been studying.Much of this information could be useful in your life.

Tests give you an opportunity to become more knowledgeable and potentially more successful in life.This is especially true if you work hard to find ways to make the subject relevant to your life.The more connections you find, the more useful your education will become.

Doing well on tests requires more than an attitude change.It requires numerous changes in how you study and how you take notes.In fact, virtually every step you have learned so far-from tips to becoming a more effective reader to tips on note taking-will help make studying for tests and test taking more efficient, more enjoyable, and more profitable (your grade).


Tip 1 – Review your lecture notes before and after each class.

Tip 2 – Keep up with the assigned reading.

Tip 3 – Determine how much of the test will come from notes and how much from

the textbook.

Tip 4 – Use software tutorials to improve your understanding of the material.

Tip 5 – Avoid cramming.

Tip 6 – Space your study sessions.

Tip 7 – Use flash cards to review terms and concepts.

Tip 8 – Write your own tests.Useful as review session with another student.

Tip 9 – Use tests in textbooks, study guides, and tutorials to assess your progress.

Tip 10 – Consider forming a study group.Only useful after you have reviewed the


Tip 11 – Use a tutor when necessary.

Taking the test tips:

Tip 1 – Eat well and get plenty of sleep before the test.

Tip 2 – Remain calm during the test.

Tip 3 – Look over the test before you begin.

Tip 4 – Skip questions you can’t answer right away.

Tip 5 – If you don’t understand a question, ask your teacher.

Tip 6 – Understand the question before you answer it.

Tip 7 – For essays organize your ideas before you start writing.