How to Create Study Guides That Actually Work

Study Guides That Work

Effective study guides can make a huge impact on how you learn and retain material. Find out the best tips for success in this guest post by San Diego tutor Natalie S

Studying for an exam can be a stressful, daunting process. When you’ve got a textbook, a binder full of lecture notes, and a bunch of homework, it’s hard to know where to start! Study guides are great tools that make this process much more manageable and efficient.

Check out the tips and suggested resources below to help you create study guides that will make you more effective and less stressed.

1. Start with the basics.

In order to ace your exams, you need to do the work from the beginning. This may seem like a pretty silly statement, but it bears repeating anyway. It’s pretty difficult to create a study guide if you didn’t do any of the homework or projects leading up to exam time. So, start off the right way: be present in class, do the required readings, complete the assigned homework, and engage in class discussions. If you consistently do this, the process for creating a study guide and acing your exams will be much easier.

2. Take notes. Take notes. Take notes.

When you’re in class or reading on your own, make sure to always have a pencil, highlighter, and Post-it notes in hand. When you write something down, you internalize the information better, so even though it might be easier to just listen in class, it’s more beneficial to you in the long-run if you consistently take notes. Class lectures are designed to introduce you to the material, subsequent readings from your textbook are designed to have you review the same information again, and finally, this information is reinforced once more when you do your homework. When teachers give you a test, they want you to take all of those instances of hearing, reading, and writing about the information, and apply all of that to prove you’ve actually internalized the information. The best way to do all of this successfully is to write the material down over and over.

3. Take the right types of notes.

This is a very important piece of the study guide puzzle. This may take some time and practice, but you have to find a balance between extracting the most important details and rewriting your entire textbook. A good study guide should be a combination of both the lecture notes and notes from the readings. Go through chapter notes and look for similarities in your lecture notes. If certain topics, names, or concepts appear more than once, underline or highlight them, and make sure they are prominent in your study guide. Something that appears multiple times is clearly important and will show up on an exam. Combine your two sets of notes into one, coherent study guide.

4. Ask your teacher for guidance.

Before making a study guide, ask your teacher if he or she is going to provide a list of terms, ideas, and even possible essay topics that will be on the exam. Sometimes teachers will offer this information to make it easier for you to create your own study guide.

5. Third time’s the charm.

A great option for getting the most out of your study guide is to write it in three steps. The first step is writing the long version. This is a lengthy outline that includes a lot of detail on the major topics. In this first version, rewrite your class notes in a more organized outline, compile notes from the text, and include any additional ideas that you learned from class. In the second step, you cut this outline down by half. Write out the major headlines and include 5-10 of the most important details under each headline. In the third step, a couple of days before the exam, cut your outline in half again, and write down only the major bullet points. Once you’ve written those down, repeat out loud the details that pop up in your head for each bullet point. The goal in creating this type of outline study guide is to force yourself to rewrite the info in your own words more than once. Each time, you’ll begin to learn the material more thoroughly, and by the third time, you’ll be able to practically teach the material yourself!

There are all kinds of ways to organize your study guides based on the subject you are reviewing and the learning style that suits you best. For more help creating and learning about different types of study guides, check out the following helpful resources:

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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5 Ways to Trick Your Brain Into Beating Procrastination

How To Overcome Procrastination

Having trouble focusing on your homework? Check out these helpful tips from San Diego tutor Natalie S

Procrastination. We’re all guilty of it, and we’ve all experienced moments where we’d rather be doing anything but the actual task in front of us. Sometimes an assignment seems so daunting that it’s much easier to pretend it doesn’t even exist. But the fact is we all have commitments and due dates to deliver on, and procrastinating just makes it more difficult to reach our goals. Check out the five tips below on beating procrastination and getting more work accomplished in a shorter amount of time.

1) Work with a tutor.

Academic tutors are great options for one-on-one additional assistance in any subject, from math to science to languages. Your tutor can also teach you various methods and study skills to help you finish your work quickly and more efficiently. You’ll learn how to allocate your time appropriately, and you will be on your way to beating procrastination.

2) Start with something you know.

It’s quite difficult to actually start working when there are so many more tantalizing things you could be doing! By reviewing material that you already know first, you’re easing your brain —  and mindset — into studying, and you’ll be less likely to procrastinate. Plus, you’ll give yourself a nice confidence boost!

3) Set a time limit.

If you really want to watch TV or play a video game, then set some manageable time limits for yourself. Set a timer and commit to studying for 40 minutes non-stop, and then reward yourself with a 20-minute study break to do whatever you’d like to do. Using a timer will ensure that you stay productive and on task.

4) Break down your assignment into steps.

Don’t think of the whole big picture for your assignment — this can make it feel overwhelming. Instead, divert your attention to breaking down the assignment into manageable pieces. If you’re studying for a World History midterm, for example, study one culture (like the US) one day and another (Africa) on the next day. By breaking it down into smaller pieces, the challenge at hand will seem less scary, and you’ll be less likely to succumb to procrastination.

5) Plan a study schedule with a reward system.

If you have trouble with beating procrastination, then reward yourself for each and every hour of work in which you stay on task. If you have a tangible reward waiting for you at the end, you will be more motivated to work harder and faster to earn your prize. If you don’t trust yourself to stick with the program, have a parent, tutor, or trusted friend dish out your reward. If someone else holds you accountable, this can also help you succeed.

Implementing these five tips into your daily study routine will help you become more productive, successful, and procrastination-free in no time!

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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Learning by Doing: Ways to Study as a Kinesthetic Learner


Do you learn best with a hands-on approach? Learn about the most effective kinesthetic learning strategies in this guest post by New Milford, NJ teacher Matthew H...


In a previous post on study skills for high school students, I discussed some of the different learning styles that work best for different people. Sometimes, a student can even be a mixture of two or more types of learner. As a result, the way you approach studying should reflect the way that your body and mind process information best. Before you can start studying, find out what type of learner you are.

Determining That You Are a Kinesthetic Learner

You most likely are a kinesthetic learner if you have ever said that you learn best by doing something yourself. Occasionally called tactile learners, kinesthetic learning strategies need to incorporate a “hands-on” approach to whatever subject you are studying. What separates each learning style from the other is when and how that “a-ha” moment happens. For kinesthetic learners, the light bulb often goes off in the middle of using their body in motion to subsequently understand a new concept.

Ways to Incorporate Kinesthetic Learning into Your Studying

  • Intense Approach

When studying, anyone with kinesthetic tendencies should use his or her body and movement to the fullest potential. This doesn’t have to be super intense, but incorporating diverse muscle groups is useful because then the whole body is working together in helping your mind discover a new way of thinking. For example, if you have a history test and need to remember different country names, get up and envision the floor as an enlarged flattened globe. Walk to where each location would roughly correspond with each other. In doing so, you are allowing yourself to learn the information based on a spatial relationship with your body in motion. Using a transparency to project a map on the ground might be useful if you have the resources available.

  • Moderate Approach

But a kinesthetic learner doesn’t have to go to such extreme measures to incorporate more of this style into his or her study habits. Even smaller movements, like synchronizing hand gestures to trigonometry formulas can be useful. In this case, a closed fist could represent sin, open palm cos and an extended index finger tan. Use these different hand signals in conjunction with reviewing the formulas while preparing for an exam. These types of gestures will help a kinesthetic learner retain information because the body will be reinforcing the mathematical concepts based on the relationship of the subtle to exaggerated movements with the mind’s thought process.

As always, everybody is different and every body is different. You have to figure out what works best for your own body based on your unique experiences. The best kinesthetic learning strategies are those that keep you active. Staying still will not get you anywhere. If you recognize that you are not only a kinesthetic learner, but also do well aurally, incorporate playing music or dancing into your study sessions. Maybe you’re a mix of kinesthetic and visual, in that case, draw or paint or shape clay to help you learn the material. In any case, by incorporating more movement into your preparation, the learning process will become more fun, and you will have much more productive study sessions.

MatthewHMatthew H. teaches a variety of subjects both online and in New Milford, NJ. He recently received his MA from NYU with a background in Sociolinguistics and related research. Learn more about Matthew here! 



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8 Study Tips You Never Thought of (That Actually Work!)

Study Tips That Work

Put away the double espresso and throw out those energy drinks! With these eight easy study tips from San Diego, CA tutor Natalie S., you no longer have to jump through hoops to stay awake and cram for your exams. Check out the tips below, and start your journey towards better study habits now:

  1. Learn your personal study process. Are you most productive in your room, at the library, outside, or in a coffee shop? Do you like to listen to music, or does it have to be totally quiet? Do you need an occasional cup of coffee to get you started? Are there certain healthy foods that you like to eat while studying? Do you need to write down your notes in order to comprehend the information, or is it better to read them aloud? In other words, are you primarily an auditory or a visual learner? Figure out your study process, and it will be much easier for you to focus and get a lot of work done.

  2. Eliminate distractions! Don’t waste time texting and stalking people on Facebook. Those activities are a time suck, and they get in the way of developing good study habits. Put your phone on silent, and close the Facebook tab on your computer.

  3. Find your favorite study music. If you like to work in a coffee shop or a bookstore, but need to avoid some of the public distractions, make a playlist of your favorite study music and listen to it on your earphones. Instrumental music is often the best since it doesn’t have any lyrics that will distract you and tempt you into singing along. Classical music is also said to stimulate the brain, so it’s good to listen to this type of music first as it may boost your brainpower!

  4. Take stretch or exercise breaks. Hours of sitting and studying exacerbate mental fatigue. Instead, spend five minutes stretching, doing sit-ups, or jogging in place to get the blood flowing and give your brain a break.

  5. Drink water! Studies show that staying hydrated with water helps the mind stay sharp and focused more than any other liquid. Skip the sugary sodas or the caffeine-filled energy drinks in favor of pure water. If you simply must have some sort of flavor in your drink, try making a natural, herbal tea.

  6. Write down your notes. Rewrite your notes, and then rewrite them again. Students often write too much information when they first hear a new concept. They record everything the teacher has said and they crowd their brains with too many details. Take your first set of notes, and read them over. Rewrite them a second time in a more concise fashion, paraphrasing only the most important details. Finally, rewrite them one more time in bullet points. Rewriting your notes and cutting them down each time forces you to learn and remember the material, so it’s more manageable.

  7. Use alarms. If you have trouble buckling down and studying for long periods of time, try setting a timer to go off every 30 minutes. Then step away your computer, put your phone on airplane mode, and study until the alarm goes off. Take a short break; check your texts if you have to, and then do it again. Working toward an immediate deadline makes you focus more because you’re working toward something concrete.

  8. Use a reward system. Whether it’s lots of small snacks throughout your study session or one big prize at the very end, give yourself a treat for hitting certain study milestones. Maybe you could reward yourself for reading up to a certain chapter, or perhaps you get a reward for every hour you study. Whatever you choose, if you stick to this system, you’ll have more motivation to study harder!

Use these study tips to figure out your personal study process, and you’ll be on your way to successful, productive study experiences that will increase your GPA and reduce your stress.

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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Don’t Go Back to School Without Doing These 10 Things

Summer is coming to an end – are you ready for a new academic year? If not, don’t fret. Get organized for back to school with these tips from online tutor Natalie S

Back-to-school prep is upon us! The summer is drawing to a close, and it will soon be time to get ready to begin a new school year. We know it can be overwhelming when you start to think about the long list of things to do in order to prepare for school, so here are some steps to help you get organized for back to school and start the year off on a successful note!

1) Write down your goals

write down goals

A new year is beginning and that means opportunities for a whole new set of experiences. Take a few minutes to write down five goals that you hope to accomplish this year, and think about how you can make this year better than the last one. Do you want to improve your knowledge of a specific subject, to prepare yourself for AP classes later on? Or maybe take on a new hobby, like photography or learning how to play an instrument? Get excited about what’s in store!

2) Get one step ahead of everyone else


If you know who your teachers are and you can easily contact them, consider sending an email asking for the class syllabus. Most teachers generally stick to the same schedule each year, so they can give you an idea of what books you might be reading or what concepts you might be working on in the first few weeks of school. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can begin to read ahead or study some of those concepts on your own. This will help lighten your workload later in the semester when you have less time!

3) Review last year’s math concepts


This is especially important if you’re advancing into a higher consecutive math class, like Algebra I to Algebra II, or Pre-Calculus to Calculus. Spend 20 minutes each day reviewing the concepts that you learned last year, and attempt to get ahead by reading over the first chapter or two for the new, more advanced course.

4) Form a study group

study group

Are you and a few of your friends taking the same class? Make a commitment to study together! Even if you all have different teachers, the core material will be the same. Set up a plan before school starts, so everyone builds it into their schedule from the beginning of the year.

5) Write


Most students take an entire summer off from stringing eloquent arguments together, and because of this, their early semester essays suffer. Take 20 minutes each day and practice writing short introductory paragraphs. You may also want to get ahead by working with a writing tutor, or at least lining one up for when you need help with your first writing assignment.

6) Review last year’s foreign language notes

spanish words

If you’re taking Spanish, French, or any other foreign language, review the vocabulary and grammar rules before school begins. Most foreign language classes hit the ground running with very little review, so make sure you take the time to look through your old notes and books.

7) Identify the course you are least excited to take this year


Maybe you really hate learning new math concepts, or perhaps biology just doesn’t interest you at all. Regardless of the reason, figure out which subject might be the most challenging for you and start preparing for that class now. Do some online research, find a tutor through TakeLessons, and really dedicate some time to learning more about this subject. Even though it may not be fun, this will help a ton!

8) Purchase a daily planner

day planner

This is perhaps the most important item to buy before the school year starts. It’s been proven time and time again that people are more effective when they write down their goals, plan out their days, and give themselves deadlines for projects and assignments. This is a great habit to get into at a young age, and it is a huge part of what makes people successful. Be disciplined, make yourself stick to a consistent schedule, and write down the top five things you want to accomplish each day. You will stay motivated and be more productive. Most importantly, you’ll be creating healthy habits that will facilitate success in your future endeavors.

9) Organize your study time before school starts

study plan

Create a study chart depicting when you’ll study for each subject, and hold yourself accountable to making the time to study for those classes. Make sure you plan for some flexibility in case one subject needs more attention than another.

10) Seek out a tutor now


It’s important to enter the new school year feeling confident in your abilities, so if you foresee any issues, don’t wait to find a tutor! Your workload is only going to become tougher and more intense as the year goes on. Be proactive and get the help you need, before you’re really struggling.

Follow these steps to get organized for back to school and you’ll be ready to start off the new year with confidence and a plan for success. Each year brings the possibility to learn, grow, and be more inspired than you were the year before. Enjoy the ride and embrace all of these newfound opportunities that will soon arise for you!

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors online in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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10 Ways to Study without Distraction

8726823600_46f28ec28d_b (1)

Need to get some studying done, but not sure how to handle all the distractions? Check out these helpful tips from Honolulu tutor Jinan B...


Sometimes focusing on studying can become an uphill battle between your mental thoughts, the noise around you, that game you want to play on Facebook… the list goes on. Read on for 10 simple tips and ways to study to combat distraction.

1. Create the right environment.
Distraction is often a byproduct of an environment filled with noise, excess technology, open browsers – you get the idea. Create an environment designed for studying. This can be as simple as clearing your workspace, restarting your computer, and taking a few deep breaths to quiet the mind.

2. Set an intention.
Distraction can also happen when you are unclear about the direction in which you are headed, or what you are trying to accomplish. Set a clear intention for a period of time or a project so that you are always working towards something specific, achievable, and quantifiable.

3. Turn off the channels of communication.
Facebook, Twitter, email, telephone – all of these are great for communicating and reaching out, but when you are trying to stay focused, they can undermine even the most determined of us. Turn your phone to silent, sign out of your email and social media accounts, and know that most communication is non-urgent, so returning to it an hour or two will likely cause no disruption at all.

4. Vary your routine.
Boredom is a leading cause of distraction. When you’re bored, you don’t want to focus and accomplish something specific. You can avoid boredom by varying your routine in terms of your study location, your method of studying (flashcards, asking someone to quiz you, reading aloud versus silently, etc.) and any other factor within your control.

5. Make your goal public.
When you have your reputation at stake, you will be much more likely to meet your goal. So find an accountability partner or post your goal to study without distraction for a certain amount of time to social media, and then follow up with a post stating how you did. Achieving your goal can be even more rewarding when your network knows about it, too!

6. Find support.
Sometimes distraction happens because we are overwhelmed by the tasks in front of us. Finding help can be as simple as taking a study skills class, talking to a friend, or reaching out to a classmate. This is one of the best ways to study efficiently, because when you feel supported and in control, you are more likely to be productive.

7. Manage expectations from others.
Those around you can also be a significant source of distraction. If you know you need to study quietly for the next two hours, but your partner, child or roommate doesn’t know this, it’s bound to result in distraction. Communicating your needs simply and clearly ahead of time can create the space you need without offending those around you.

8. Take breaks.
All work and no play results in… not a lot of work done. Taking breaks is essential to recharge your mental and physical state, so that when you do study, you can use your time well.

9. Prepare beforehand.
Studying can be as simple as finding your book and notebook, but other times, you may need additional equipment. Preparing ahead of time by charging your laptop, printing out any reading material, or downloading study guides can ensure that you spend your designated study time actually studying rather than locating the tools that you will need. Similarly, make sure you are as well-rested, fed, and hydrated as possible so that you are not distracted by bodily sensations of sleepiness, hunger, and thirst.

10. Use time management techniques.
There are a few ways to study and techniques to try; the Pomodoro technique, for example, can revolutionize your use of time. Making use of simple tools for time management can ensure you stay on track.

With these tips, you should find that you accomplish your study goals in less time. Remember to make small changes and tweak your routine according to your daily needs. And give yourself a little leeway, too – nobody is ever 100% distraction-free, so just do your best and reward yourself as you take steps toward an organized, efficient studying routine.

JinanJinan B. tutors in Life Science in Honolulu, HI. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, teaching various courses including Community Nutrition, Concepts in Nutrition Education, and Advanced Child and Adolescent Nutrition. Learn more about Jinan here!  


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How to Score a 5 on the AP World History Exam

494053737_72f3856212_bGetting ready to take the AP World History Exam? Brush up on these study tips from Olympia, WA tutor Tali H


Lucky for you, the AP World History Exam tends to be one of the easier AP tests. It’s just over three hours long with two sections that are weighted equally: a 55-minute 70-question-multiple-choice section and a 130-minute free-response section. (Learn more about the test here.) Regardless of your intellectual capabilities, it is impossible to know every bit of history. Instead, you need to know what information to focus on.

1. Buy an AP Review Book
Instead of slogging through textbooks, which generally overload the reader with information, facts, and dates, buy an AP review book, which highlights the important concepts in compact units. I recommend Cracking the AP World History Exam (used, slightly dated editions like the 2012 version can be found on for under $1). These books are also loaded with test questions and come with two full-length practice tests.

2. Know the World Map
In order to get a solid grasp on the material you’re learning, you should first become familiar with the world map. Pay special attention to places that have changed over time. For example, “Mexico” used to be called “New Spain” and “East Pakistan” is now “Bangladesh.” I’ve seen plenty of students confused because, not realizing the territory has been renamed, they can’t find New Spain on the map! To make sure you have a good geographical foundation, practice drawing the world map a few times (or at least filling in a pre-drawn but blank world map). Make it a contest with fellow classmates or friends to spice up this activity. Also, there are plenty of online sites to test your “map and geography knowledge.” (Try Lizard Point Geography Quizzes.)

3. Make A Timeline
Many teachers will tell you “dates aren’t that important for the exam.” In essence, I agree with this statement, especially the farther back in history you go. However, it’s important to know the general chronology of historical events. Here’s why: The AP World History Exam places emphasis on global interactions and change-over-time (there is actually a “Change-Over-Time” essay), both of which require having a reasonable idea of when things occur (not necessarily dates) and what else is going on in the world simultaneously. This emphasis makes sense: People, countries, and continents are not isolated. They may exist separately but they fluctuate together, constantly evolving. So, to really understand “time,” I suggest a timeline. Now, because so much happens in our world’s history, it’s important to have a big timeline. If there’s room in your house, put up a roll of paper from one of the wall to the other. Then you can make a line and label events as you go through the world history course. Make it interactive by drawing pictures to go with significant events. If you don’t have room in your house, you can go online. I recommend (or a similar site with a wide open canvas that you can zoom around on, add information, and upload pictures and video).

4. Supplement Your Reading
If you’re taking a class, you will almost undoubtedly be working with a history textbook. However, words on a page often have trouble sticking in our brains by themselves. What you need to do is find movies and short videos (use Youtube) that you can watch after you’ve read about an event. Then go back to the textual information and reread it, checking to see if the way you imagined the event matched up with what you saw. This helps you more than you realize. By combining reading and watching, you’re first creating an original virtual reality experience, then comparing that with the media you’re viewing, and then, during the second read through, you’re analyzing the differences. This process interweaves many facets of your brain enabling strong recall and memory with the information you’re learning.

Yes, it may take a little extra time to read, watch, and then reread information on one particular concept. You definitely don’t want to do this with every significant event. To start, I recommend choosing 10 important events (spaced out over our historical timeline) that interest you.

How do you choose the events? If you have an AP Review Book, they will have an “important events” list at the end of each unit, which are generally separated by time periods. Otherwise, go online, type in “AP World History Important Dates,” and choose some from a list that comes up.

If you’re stuck, here’s a good starter list (but remember there are so many to choose from):

  • 2000 Judaism begins w/Abraham
  • 1320-1340 Spread of Bubonic Plague
  • 1029-258 Zhou Dynasty
  • 470-430 Golden Age of Athens
  • 610 Rise of Islam
  • 1492 Columbus expedition
  • 1600-1690 Scientific Revolution
  • 1770 Beginning of Industrial Revolution
  • 1948 Creation of Israel
  • 1959 Cuban Revolution

Don’t forget to put all the events you spend extra time with onto your timeline.

Finally, remember that world history is just one, long, ongoing story about the human race. Try to put yourself in the shoes of those you read about and recognize that understanding the concepts is far more important than knowing exact dates. Learning specific study skills for this type of memorization can be easily achieved with a tutor, so check out TakeLesson’s selection of experienced world history tutors for additional help. For more information about the test, visit The College Board’s website.

TaliHTali H. tutors in various academic subjects in Olympia, WA, as well as through online lessons. Since 2010, she has worked with numerous students in elementary, middle, high school, and college in both group settings and one-on-one. Learn more about Tali here! 



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3 Important Study Skills for College Students

study skills for college

Ready for college? Make sure your study skills are on track with these tips from Honolulu tutor Jinan B...

Doing well in college is often a balancing act: you are learning so many new things, being exposed to new ideas and people, making friends, and having fun. Having good study skills will ensure that you both succeed in your classes and also make the most of your study time, so you also have time to experience the many other facets of life that college offers. As a professor at a large university, here are some tips I offer my students to enhance their study skills for college.

1. Confusion is good.

That’s right, I said it. College is a time of great exploration, and learning requires making errors and experimenting. The key is to use any confusion you encounter as a jumping off point for digging deeper into the material. Welcome confusion as a chance to understand something more profoundly instead of becoming frustrated and giving up. College is an opportunity to develop a true sense of curiosity in learning, rather than simply memorizing material. You can also use confusion as a stimulus to engage and get to know your professor. As a professor, I am always appreciative when students bring me challenging questions with the desire to further their knowledge and understanding. It is also very clear to me that students are deeply invested in learning the material if they visit me during office hours to discuss any questions they have about the material.

2. Make use of all the resources you have.

Colleges and universities offer an incredible network of support to students. This includes librarians, study skills centers, teaching assistants, and other students. Consider these individuals part of your path of learning, and you will reap great benefits from their advice, knowledge, and experiences. If you’re struggling with an assignment, reach out to another student or the teaching assistant in the class to troubleshoot. If you’re studying for an exam and don’t know how to approach the huge amount of material, sign up for a session at the study skills center. Or, perhaps you’re writing a paper and need help finding rich source material; check in with the librarian who may have excellent ideas for how to locate good materials. You can also find a private tutor to help you.

3. Study for the midterm and final from day one of the class.

By learning the material in an organized, methodical way you will be in very good shape when exam time rolls around. Most college students wait until the last minute and then try to cram a few days before exams, but if you put in a few minutes a day of focused learning, you will be much better able to learn large amounts of material. When you are reading the assigned material, make it a point to write down the key ideas. This is one of the best study skills for college students to establish, as your notes will serve not only as a study guide later, but also as a way to concretize your understanding by writing the ideas in your own words. This makes you an active learner rather than simply passively reading the material. If you’re having trouble finishing the reading assigned for all of your classes, consider taking a speed reading class, which may be offered at your study skills center.

Remember, college is a unique experience, so make the most of it by studying efficiently so you can both succeed and have time for extracurricular activities as well. With these tips, you will be poised to learn, succeed, and enjoy the journey!

JinanJinan B. tutors in Life Science in Honolulu, HI. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, teaching various courses including Community Nutrition, Concepts in Nutrition Education, and Advanced Child and Adolescent Nutrition. Learn more about Jinan here!  


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The One Study Tip That Will Change the Way You Learn

dry erase

As you’re learning new material, you’ll notice that some study tips work well for you, while others may not. If you’re a visual learner, here’s a great technique to try from Olympia, WA tutor Tali H


No doubt about it, learning material on your own can be a challenge, especially if it’s under the pressure of an upcoming test. In today’s fast-paced world, where there is so much to learn and so much to do, maximizing “study time” is crucial. Lucky for you, I have one simple study tip that works amazingly well. It allowed me to keep my high school record full of A’s (even with multiple Honors and AP classes) and my GPA at 3.95 while balancing sports, a job, and a social life. What is it you may ask? Make your windows (yes, real glass windows in your home, office, living space, etc.) a learning canvas. This technique is the foundation of my study process. It will change the way you study.

1. Getting Set-Up

In order to write on windows, you obviously need windows. The space you’ll need depends to some extent on what it is you want to learn. For instance, if you’re just trying to memorize a few formulas, a small bathroom or bedroom window can be perfect because you don’t need that much room and you’ll likely see the windows quite often (repetition is important).

However, if you’re trying to learn a whole chapter of information, then you’ll want a larger window area. My house happens to be set up perfectly for this type of learning. The whole upper story is windows, sometimes making me feel as though I live in a fish bowl. Yet, even a house with only a few windows will work (check with other members of the house though to make sure they’re okay with drawing on the windows). I recommend using your dining room windows because you will see your study material every time you sit down to eat.

2. Buying Your Supplies

Buy NEON whiteboard markers (when erased they leave NO marks). DO NOT buy regular whiteboard markers, as these will not show up well on your windows unless the light is really good. I recommend Expo Neon Dry Erase Markers because it shows up extremely well. Keep in mind that even some neon whiteboard markers can be hard to see. What’s great about neon is that it shows up in the dark. So when I do my evening and late-night study sessions, I can see clearly (even with lights on, regular whiteboard markers tend to fade into the blackness of the night outside). Also, buy lots of colors, the more you like the colors the better (you’ll be seeing them a lot). My color collection includes a bright aqua green, a bubblegum pink, a zesty orange, a lemon yellow, and a beautiful sky blue (which came package together for around $10).

3. Using the Windows

There are many, many ways to use your “canvas for learning.” First of all, a big idea behind using the windows as a whiteboard is that you’re going to teach someone else the material once you’ve gotten it all written up. Teaching others is one of the best study tips out there, as it’s a great way to learn material. It forces you to go over the material yourself, discern what’s important, and then regurgitate the material in your own words. In my case, I taught my dad (who LOVES to learn) or my peer group (we would draw up windows simultaneously and then present to each other). Keeping the goal of presenting in mind not only gives you an end goal but it also helps you to be more organized. Even if you have no one to present to, I encourage you to pretend you have an audience and go ahead and present.

Note: Besides learning the material, this learning method has a host of other benefits. One, you are up moving around (and trust me, erasing your work is quite an arm workout). Two, you can let the inner artist in you out through diagrams, pictures, and the general color-coded organization of information. That’s right, DRAW, DRAW, DRAW. Three, you can work on your presentation and public speaking skills.

4. Making it Interactive

Oftentimes, when I’m working on my “study canvas,” I’ll make fill-in-the-blanks when something I need to memorize comes up. I recommend numbering the fill-in-the-blanks and keeping a piece of paper that gives the answer to what word or phrase is supposed to go there.

Note: This is one of the more time-consuming methods when it comes to study tips. It takes a lot longer to write up all your notes with diagrams and interactive features. However, it is worth it. This is quality learning, meaning once you’ve learned it, you’ve really learned it. Plus, the visibility of your windows allows you to repeatedly see the information you want to learn. This method provides you an easy way to present the information – not just once, but multiple times.

TaliHTali H. tutors in various academic subjects in Olympia, WA, as well as through online lessons. Since 2010, she has worked with numerous students in elementary, middle, high school, and college in both group settings and one-on-one. Learn more about Tali here! 

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5 Crucial Study Skills for Middle School

study skills for middle school

Middle school is a great time to identify your learning style and strengthen your overall study skills. Read on as Decatur, GA tutor Ezra A. shares his top tips for success…


One of the most important factors determining a person’s success is their ability to learn – and many strong learners begin by developing study skills in middle school. In a world that just gets busier and busier, students need efficient ways to learn. Sure, you could hammer a chapter into your skull by reading it 10 times, but you’ll hate it – and life’s too short to hate learning new things.

I taught for 13 years, and throughout that time, the most efficient students I knew all used these study skills for middle school.

Get Organized

Every honor roll student I taught had one place where he wrote everything down. For one of them, it was a notebook that she carried from class to class. For another, it was an actual school calendar (some places call this an agenda), and every day had notes about classwork, special events, and other things he thought were important. This can look different for each student, so find a way to make this work for you.

Use Flashcards

Successful students with strong study skills in middle school almost always used flashcards. Every subject has knowledge you just have to learn – vocabulary, formulas, facts, or steps in solving a problem. Research tells us that it’s easiest to learn by repeatedly quizzing yourself, and notecards are a great way to test your knowledge. Research also shows that the best results come from writing a question on one side of the card and its answer on the other side – and keeping the answers short. Having a bigger stack of notecards is better than having notecards with lots of words on one side.

Read the Whole Chapter

Sure, you can scan the material for the answers to the questions, scribble the answers, and call the homework finished. Unfortunately, this kind of reading is only efficient for one assignment – and that’s not efficient! If you get in the habit of reading the whole chapter, you will soon see how facts are part of a theme, and how a theme is part of a larger theme, and how a discovery in one place affects a discovery in another place. You’ll enjoy what you learn because you will see for yourself how important something becomes when seen as part of something else – which is the point of learning study skills for middle school!

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!

Sometimes, you get to a test and discover you don’t know the material as well as you thought. This happens to everyone, and the students least affected by such a surprise shared this trick with me: they prepared themselves for the hardest test they could imagine. One student who excelled in Spanish vocabulary learned all the words on flashcards, then created new sentences using each word, and finally challenged herself to use her new vocabulary words in a single paragraph. By the time she got to the test, she was ready for anything!

Master Time Management

Finally, another one of the best study skills for middle school students to master is to make time your friend, not your enemy. How? Study before you ‘have’ to study. Think of it like this: if a test is three days away, and if you’d normally cram everything into your head over an hour, try studying 30 minutes tonight, and see how much time you need to study tomorrow night to feel ready (hint: it’s probably less than 30 minutes). Since you’re ready for the test a whole day early, you can add another 15 minutes of review the night before the test, just to stay sharp. The students I know who approach tests like this usually make high A’s – and they don’t waste time stressing out about the test! They build confidence by preparing early and using the additional time for relaxed reinforcement of what they’ve learned.

Use these study skills for middle school, and as studying becomes a habit, you’ll find learning not only fun, but something you look forward to doing every day. With the right tools for learning, you (or your child) will finish 8th grade and enter high school with the ability to face – and overcome – any challenge life sends your way.

EzraAAfter 13 years in the classroom, Ezra A. spends his time tutoring a variety of subjects (online or in the Atlanta area), preparing for a new career as a physician, and spending time with his beautiful wife and two dogs. Learn more about Ezra here! 



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