Study Skills for High School: 5 Crucial Steps to Succeed


When it comes to essential study skills for high school, what do you need to know to be successful? Here are the 5 most important skills, as outlined by tutor Matthew H.:


High school can seem like such a scary place. After all, we often hear that the choices we make in high school will ultimately shape who we become as adults. Major stressors include the pressure to do well so that you’ll get into a good college, so that you will land an even better job. These are understandably important issues to consider, but they seem much less intimidating and much more manageable when you have the right study skills for high school to guide you.

1. Identify what learning style works best for you.
This may seem like a no-brainer, yet many students (regardless of age) are not in tune with how they individually learn best. You could be one of many different types of learners: visual, auditory, reading-based, kinesthetic, and so on. Some people may even be a mix of various styles. The trick is to isolate what works best for you and not confuse it with what you like to do. In other words, you may be an excellent artist, but you retain information better by hearing someone say it first. If you aren’t sure what learning style you fall under, many guidance counselors know of quick tests you can take to determine what works best for you. Also, similar quizzes are available online, although those may not be as accurate.

2. Organize more efficiently.
Organization is super important. In most cases, high schools supply each student with a personal agenda at the beginning of the academic year. You may choose to purchase a larger planner for yourself, especially if you have a ton of extracurriculars on top of different homework assignments due, projects to turn in, presentations to give, and tests to take. Having everything written down in one central location will make it much easier for you to complete all of the necessary tasks in as stress-free a way as possible, and avoid procrastination.

3. Prioritize your time and determine what is essential.
Now that you have an easy-to-follow list of upcoming assignments, rank them in order of importance, difficulty, and due date. For instance, if you have a presentation due the same week as an exam for a different class, factor in how much of each final grade those are worth. If the presentation is 15% of your History grade and the exam is a midterm worth 20% of your Math grade, then maybe dedicate a little more time for the exam. But if you are more confident in math and need to bolster your history grade, then adjust accordingly. Flexibility is an important trait to have!

4. Incorporate your own interests into your studying habits.
Earlier I mentioned the importance of separating your interests from the way you learn in developing good study skills for high school. However, that does not mean you should never consider what you like to do. If you discover that you are a kinesthetic learner but have a passion for music, bridge the two together in some way. This can be as simple as playing your favorite band’s album while studying geography by moving around index cards, or as sophisticated as creating your own music by playing an instrument (specifically one with a lot of tactile contact) to accompany your history project. Be creative!

5. Connect what you’re learning to other subjects.
Don’t think Algebra and foreign language have anything in common? Guess again. Neurological studies have shown that math and language skills are kept relatively close to each other in the same hemisphere of the brain. This is in part due to the importance of the structure of patterns in language similar to those found in diverse math subjects (geometry, probability, etc.). The truth is virtually everything you learn can be connected in some way. Once you draw your own comparisons between different subjects, you will retain the information from both classes much easier.

Perhaps the most important study skill for high school (or for any grade level, really) is the ability to relate to what you are learning. When you can relate to the material on some level, you will be able to apply the concepts in a more effective way. Topics will make more sense and you will feel better about yourself. Use the skills not just in high school, but for the rest of your life!

MatthewHMatthew H. provides tutoring in various 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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Literature Study Guides: Supplements NOT Substitutes!


Think you can skip the book and go straight to the literature study guides or CliffsNotes? Not so fast! Check out tutor Matthew H.‘s advice here…


Many high school and college students will use some form of literature study guides during their schooling. These can be really useful tools when implemented appropriately. Unfortunately, too many people view them as a way to avoid doing the assignment rather than as a way to understand the material better.

First of all, let’s discuss the structure of most literature study guides. The general format (keep in mind that this will vary by brand) begins with a brief overview of the book’s major themes, a plot synopsis, short character descriptions, chapter breakdowns/analyses and ends with a dissection of quotes and key points. Important questions to keep your focus on the actions and impact of the literature will be included throughout the guidebook. This is clearly a great tool that presents the key concepts of the book or play in an easy to digest, accessible way. However, if you solely rely on a guide, you are going to be cheating yourself out of a fully fleshed out understanding and appreciation of the reading.

Why is that? Remember that study guides essentially are condensed versions of the original writing. That makes for a great reference, especially when factoring in all of the additional background details they may provide, such as the historical perspective of when the work was written. While this type of guidebook in and of itself is particularly helpful in honing in on specific elements, it never will replace the complete experience of reading a book and drawing from your personal experiences after emotionally connecting to a character or story.

This is why literature study guides should be supplements and not substitutes to reading!

I know what you’re thinking: “But the whole point is so I can free up my time. If I use that on top of doing the actual reading, I’m adding more work instead of less!” It’s true that students have increasingly more homework, projects, extracurricular activities, studying for SATs, the list goes on and on. While using a literature study guide after doing the reading may seem redundant, it actually will end up saving you more time in the long run.

If you opt to skip out on the reading and solely use an abridged version instead, you are not going to be able to connect to the reading in a substantial way to answer every question in class. You might feel like it’s enough to pass by, but if you are tested on the material, you may not be able to provide enough depth to earn a high mark. You even might have to retake a quiz or test to ensure a higher GPA, and that’s only if your teacher or professor allows it. Either way, it’s a big hassle.

Here’s how you should go about any reading:

  • First, use the synopsis and thematic overview portions of your study guide to know what to look for in terms of the general plot and ideas.
  • Next, read the book! If it’s a longer play or novel, break up your readings piecemeal by chapters or scenes. As you’re reading, write down any questions you have regarding the characters, their actions, and anything else. Be sure to take notes on any obvious symbolism or something that jumps out at you.
  • Once you’ve done that, you can use the guidebook to answer your questions and see how much of your own commentary matches theirs. If you spend some time to read the assignment, the literature study guide will clarify anything you weren’t sure about by introducing new concepts or reinforcing the ideas that you already came up with on your own.

In short, literature study guides like CliffsNotes or SparkNotes are good tools in addition to but NOT instead of the reading. They can provide you with another perspective that you might not have considered before, as well as affirm what you already thought. Either way, they will help you out tremendously when applied correctly. Use one (and your brain) today!

MatthewHMatthew H. provides tutoring in various 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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Living With Dyslexia | How to Overcome Learning Disorders

overcoming learning disorders

Typical classroom settings can be a struggle for students with learning disorders like dyslexia – but fortunately, there are ways to overcome your struggles and stay on track. Here, Redmond, WA and online tutor David S. shares his story…


Many people reading these words I type have always taken for granted the ease with which they can read them. I am not one of them, because I grew up with dyslexia. The experience of actually having the learning disorder has always been difficult to explain. To the outside observer, unfamiliar with the challenges that are being overcome, it can seem like a dyslexic child is just lazy or lacks comprehension. The truth is that a dyslexic student is struggling with a disorder that can be overcome with the right educational methodology. I’m living proof of that.

Overcoming A Learning Disorder

I was one of the lucky ones. When I was in elementary school I was enrolled in the Slingerland program, which I still believe to be one of the most comprehensive and effective ways to educate those suffering from dyslexia. For those unfamiliar with the methodology, the Slingerland program is a multi-sensory approach that expedites learning by engaging multiple senses simultaneously. Not many public school students are as lucky these days, as budget cuts have shut down many such programs and left dyslexic students to fend for themselves.

When I learned that my old school had shuttered the program that had rescued me from virtual illiteracy I was shocked. A Multi-Sensorly Learning (MSL) program is essential to helping dyslexic students manage their condition. I had gone from not being able to write to being a published professional writer thanks to the skills that I learned. This was when I decided to go into private tutoring and use the methods that worked to help dyslexic students overcome their disability just as I had.

What Every Dyslexic Student Should Know

In the documentary “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia” by HBO Films, many of today’s most successful and fascinating people are interviewed about their experiences with dyslexia. They include billionaires, finance gurus, doctors, and lawyers. They include those who achieved masters degrees and PhDs. Clearly, having dyslexia does not mean that you will never be successful in school or in life.

Dyslexic students are offered certain protections by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Among these protections are accommodations for their disability, which could include more time to take tests or complete assignments. Although it can be difficult to ask for these accommodations, they are your legal right. Many of these accommodations were not available when I was growing up.

How Tutoring Helps Students Overcome Dyslexia and Learning Disorders

Having dyslexia does not mean that a student will never learn to read or write as well (or better than) their peers. It just means that it will be more strenuous and require more mental energy. Working with a tutor or reading coach on a daily basis is indispensable to the learning process of these students. Every reading session, whether academic or for pleasure, should be viewed as a workout. In the gym, when you are lifting heavy weights you get someone to spot you. That is why dyslexia specialists like me are here. We know what you are going through, and you should never be afraid to ask for the help that you need to succeed.

DavidSDavid S. tutors various academic subjects in Redmond, WA and also through online tutoring. He has two BA degrees in History and English from Seattle University and is working on a Masters in Teaching at the University of Washington. David specializes in teaching children with Dyslexia and ADHD. Learn more about David here!



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10 Study Habits That Actually Make a Difference

Guide To Establishing Great Study HabitsThe middle and high school years are the best time for you to form study habits that will guide you through a great academic career! Your parents and teachers might be able to encourage and push you further, but staying on top of things ultimately falls on you. If you start practicing effective study habits now, you will discover later that it was well worth the effort. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Set up a schedule. One of the most effective study habits is to make sure you do your homework at a specific time every day. Allow for a few hours when there is nothing else you need to do, so nothing is stressing you out or keeping your mind off of the work. Decide how much time you’re going to give to each class, and put aside more time for harder classes.

  2. Create a workspace. Set up your study space so that it caters to your individual learning style, whether that’s completely quiet, or perhaps with a bit a background music. Also, keep everything organized and clean, as well; if your workspace is pleasant, this will make studying a lot easier!

  3. Avoid distractions. Don’t fall into the trap of leaving the TV on while working or being constantly interrupted by Facebook notifications. Switch everything off and only use the Internet for research. These kinds of seemingly harmless disturbances can end up taking hours from your work without you even realizing it, so remain focused and stay on schedule.

  4. Use a planner. For most students, this is the best way to keep track of tasks, manage your time, and remember important dates for upcoming tests and assignments. Not the planner type? Find another method that works for you – whatever helps you keep everything organized!

  5. Take breaks. Always take breaks when doing your homework. Although you may be in a hurry and desperate to finish, the truth is that the more you cram, the less you really learn. Try splitting the work into manageable parts and take regular breaks after you finish a task. This way, you’ll stay rested, you’ll remember everything you read, and you won’t get burned out.

  6. Reward yourself. When you finish a difficult or time-consuming project, reward yourself! If you have a huge test coming up, plan to go to a movie with your friends that night. Do something that allows you to unwind and have fun so that you have the motivation to get started on something new again soon.

  7. Determine your learning style. If you’re finding it difficult to remember things, then perhaps you are not making the most of your particular learning style. Some students learn more effectively through visual aids, while others learn by hearing someone explain it to them. Some need to write the information in order to memorize it, while others feel the need to physically engage in a project and learn through experience. Determine your style, and make the most of your strengths.

  8. Take care of yourself. Just because you’re busy and have a test coming up doesn’t mean that you should forget about what comes first – which is you being well-rested, healthy, and happy. Take care of your body and mind by sleeping well, eating healthy, and exercising — the rest will follow.

  9. Take advantage of resources.Use the local library. Don’t forget – you’re not expected to know all of the answers right away! Take advantage of the resources at your fingertips, such as your local library. Incorporating outside resources – like images and documentaries – can add life to your school projects.

  10. Ask for support. If you feel that a particular topic is too difficult for you or your teacher at school is not explaining it well, don’t be afraid to ask for extra help. Private tutors are a great option for support; not only will he or she help you understand the material, but they can help you develop good study habits and stay organized. Study groups with friends in your classes can also work – as long as you stay on task!

Establishing solid study habits now will prove to be a great asset in your life. So stay concentrated and motivated; invest some time and effort now and you will be glad you did!


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