Essential Study Skills – What Are They?

School curriculums tend to be jam-packed with content. There are English, Mathematics, Science and Humanities subjects and a whole range of other disciplines and sub-disciplines all with their own course content that needs to be taught. Unfortunately, there is only a limited time to do so. Perhaps it also unfortunate that schools remain such busy, content-oriented places.

Very few schools offer courses in study skills. There is no ‘Study Skills Handbook’ on the book list. There is no room for such a course because in most jurisdictions the mandated curriculum tends to be focused on teaching the content necessary if a student is to pass an exam so they can proceed to the next stage of learning where they will also be required to learn content so they can pass an exam!

Yet to pass those exams, surely students need to know how to study! School study skills are imperative. Experience shows that those students who do succeed at school have a range of skills that we can collectively call ‘study skills’. But what are these essential study skills?

In no particular order of importance, we can identify them as:

1.ย Self-Belief and Motivation:

Students need to have a positive attitude to classroom reading books for 4th graders learning and home study if they are to achieve. Students with self-belief and motivation have a desire to learn and to do their best at school.

2.ย Planning and Organisation:

Students who are organised perform better. Effective study skills include the ability to organise equipment (files, notes, books), environments (study space, lockers, school bags) and time (using diaries and timetables). These students are also expert at planning: they do not forget assignments or equipment and they are able to break assignments down into smaller tasks.

3.ย Taking Notes:

A classroom can be a busy and active place. A textbook can be a jungle to negotiate! Good students are able to take meaningful notes that can be used to assist later study and revision for exams. These students often use shorthand techniques and Mind Maps to help their recall of important information.

4.ย Reading Skills:

Being able to successfully decode and comprehend a text is an essential study skill. Despite the fact that schools are using alternative media more effectively, the written word remains the key mode of instruction. Success depends on being able to take what is read and make meaning from it.

5.ย Memorisation:

We know that short-term memory can only accommodate a limited amount of information. On average, approximately 80% of the information that is presented to us will not be able to be recalled within 24 hours. If learning is to occur, information must be transferred from short-term memory to long-term memory. If it is not, then success in exams will be limited.

6.ย Assignment Writing Skills:

Good students are able to present the assignments, essays and papers that teachers love to read. They understand the ‘rules’ for presenting their work and they are excellent editors of their own writing.

7.ย Goal Setting:

Good students do not only set goals. They break those goals down into short-term objectives to be achieved. Then, they also go about getting goals! They realise that something needs to be done if their dreams are to be realised.

8.ย Stress Management:

As students progress through school, their workloads increase. As workloads increase, stress increases. Good students understand know how to manage their stress levels and keep their lives in balance.

Students who are able to put these eight essential study skills together tend to succeed in academic environments. Before a person can effectively learn, they need to be taught how to learn. Learning these skills should be the precursors to learning in schools, rather than an afterthought to be addressed only when exam periods are imminent.


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