Academic and Study Skills

The most successful students are those who attend and participate in class, spend enough time studying, and study well. But how much time is enough? And how do you know if your study sessions are effective? To improve your academic skills, try the following.

The Student Center for Academic Achievement (SCAA)

SCAA is the University's tutoring center, specializing in math, statistics, and writing. SCAA offers workshops and resources on a variety of topics, including proofreading, punctuation, preparation for the Writing Skills Test, research skills, using sources and avoiding plagiarism, and academic integrity. Tutoring and workshops are free for all students.

On SCAA's website under their study skills link you'll find  a list of videos, handouts, and websites covering note-taking, test taking, time management, coping with stress, reading textbooks, listening, writing essays, and completing math and science courses. Call SCAA at 510-885-3674 to learn more.  Their office is located in the University Library on the 2nd floor.

TRIO Programs (EXCEL or Project Impact)

Many Accessibility Services students are qualified to join either EXCEL or Project Impact, two programs funded by a federal TRIO grant with a focus on academic success. These TRIO programs provide tutoring, academic advising, counseling, and technology assistance. To be eligible, students must be registered as an undergraduate, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the United States, and part of a disadvantaged or underrepresented student group (such as a student with a disability). Students also must demonstrate a need for multiple support services. Cross-registration is not allowed: students may be accepted into the EXCEL program or the Project Impact program, but not both.    

Your Professor

Don't overlook your instructors as sources of academic support. If you're having trouble in a class, why not stop by during a professor's office hour or send an email?  Summarize what you've done so far (attended class, kept up with the readings, turned in the homework) and what you seem to be stuck on (can't understand a concept, unsure of your paper, failed the last quiz). Your professor may be able to give you additional explanation or guidance to help get you back on track.

General Tips to Improve Academic Performance

  • Get enough sleep (this one is vital).
  • Take care of your health and stress levels.
  • In the classroom: attend, participate, and complete all in-class tasks.
  • Obtain and read all textbooks, course readers, articles, or other materials assigned.
  • Finish and turn all homework in by the due date.
  • Work on your time management and organization skills.
  • Speak with your professor if you become ill, miss class, or otherwise fall behind.
  • Review your notes regularly and begin studying for tests well in advance.

Increasing Study Time to Improve Academic Performance

  • A full time course load is equivalent to a full time job. Students should spend about 40 hours a week in classes and studying.
  • Your target study hours per week should be 20-35+, depending on the workload of your courses.
  • If you currently spend less than 5 hours a week studying, you need to rethink your priorities and your reasons for attending the University.
  • For part time students, 2-3 hours of studying should be completed for every 1 hour in class.
  • Studying includes time spent reading assigned chapters, reviewing notes or listening to audio recordings, taking notes, creating outlines, writing papers, completing assignments, researching, preparing speeches, studying for tests, etc.

Study Tips to Improve Academic Performance

  • Find a good place and time each day for studying. Plan ahead so your study area is quiet, available, distraction-free, and contains all the materials you need. Ensure that the lighting is good and the room contains a chair and a desk or table with enough room to hold your study materials. Your study space should be free from distractions such as a nearby television, roommates talking, or children playing. Turn off your cell phone. Use your study space only for studying - this way when you're in the space, you'll be primed to concentrate and tackle academic work.
  • Set reasonable goals for each study session. Before sitting down, come up with a clear and easily attainable goal for the study session. For example, "I will read chapter five of my biology text." This reachable goal will help you stay on target and concentrate. Once the goal has been met, you may decide to take a break, reward yourself for your work, or add another goal.
  • Stay organized. Know where your notes, textbooks, handouts, and papers are located for each of your classes and keep these materials handy. Track deadlines and test dates in a daily planner. Make a habit of checking your schedule frequently.
  • Make your studies interesting. We pay more attention and better remember information that we find interesting and meaningful. Chose classes that interest you or find ways to make the material relevant.
  • Try using visualization or word techniques to assist your memory. To use visualization: Organize the information you need to remember into a clear mental picture. If you like visual aids, draw a picture, make a quick sketch, or draw up a graph or diagram of the information. Close your eyes and picture the explanation or answer; try to see it on the page or see key words underlined. To use word techniques: Try recitation, repetition, reading aloud, word games, poetry, songs, and rewriting in order to help you remember important material ("Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety two").
  • Teach or explain what you've learned to others. Summarize what you have just learned or read to someone else. Do this without looking at your notes or books as much as possible. Explain in your own words. Let the other person ask questions if they don't understand or if they need additional information. Alternately, ask a friend to quiz you on key terms or concepts.
  • Keep a positive attitude. When the work gets difficult or frustrating, remind yourself that you can do this.
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