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Tips for Academic Success

Study Skills are the key to success at Wits! Most students have to enhance the skills they bring to the university setting. It is normal to find that you are required to digest larger amounts of information at a quicker pace than that which was required in high school. Furthermore, the nature of testing at university level often demands a conceptual as well as factual level of understanding.

There are skills that can be learned that will facilitate this transition. Here are some tips to consider incorporating into your study habits as well as two downloadable leafltets on TIME MANAGEMENT AND PROCRASTINATION.


Realistic time planning

Time management skills can help you feel in control of your life so that you can find more free time for effective study.

  1. Structure your academic schedule as if it were a 40-hour work week.
  2. Use a planner or calendar to write down all your regularly scheduled activities as well as any due dates for papers or exams. It is important to include time for sleep, exercise and social activity/recreatic.
  3. Determine your study environment and optimal time of day for concentration. Plan study time each week that is consistent with your preferences.
  4. Take ten minutes before each class to review your notes from the previous class. Take ten minutes after each class to "fix up" and review the notes just taken.
  5. Break large or overwhelming tasks into smaller manageable steps.
  6. Reward yourself for completing tasks. This means noting what you have accomplished even if an entire project is not complete.

Read actively

  1. Before you read, preview the material in the chapter. Read any introductions, headings & chapter summaries.
  2. Have a purpose when you read. You may want to think of a question that you are trying to answer in each section of the material.
  3. Do not move ahead in the chapter until you can answer your question. Ask yourself, "Am I getting it?". If not, go back and find the place where you last understood the material, and reread.
  4. Ensure you can answer the "who, what, where, when & how" questions at the end of your reading.
  5. Focus on the main idea and any supporting information.
  6. Take notes as you read. Try making an outline of the material by organizing the main ideas and each supporting detail.
  7. In your own words, write a brief summary of the main ideas. Or, draw a diagram/mindmap illustrating the relationships between the main ideas.

Maximise your memory potential

  1. Before trying to memorize, assess your level of concentration. If you are not able to focus, you are not likely to retain much information. Determine what you need to do to enable yourself to focus (e.g., eat, take a short nap, a walk, several deep breaths, etc.). Take care of this need, then refocus.
  2. Use flashcards. Write a word or formula on the front of a card and its definition on the back. Go through the cards until you can define each word correctly.
  3. Create acronyms. Make up a word or phrase using the first letter of each term you want to remember (e.g., the spectrum of colours in a rainbow can be remembered with Roy G. Biv = red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).
  4. Draw diagrams of concepts that your are trying to remember. Be able to verbally explain the concept and reproduce the diagram.
  5. Study to the point of recall, not simply recognition. This means that you can define and explain material in your own words.

Take tests wisely

  1. Pay close attention to directions, both oral and written.
  2. Skim the entire exam before answering anything, then plan your time according to the difficulty and value of each item.
  3. Answer the easy questions first, then go back and do the more difficult questions. Pay attention to information in questions that may help in other parts of the exam.
  4. Watch out for qualifier words in questions (e.g., none, some, frequently, never, most, etc.)
  5. Watch your time management.
  6. BREATHE! Ten deep abdominal breaths will help release tension and enhance your focus.

Remind yourself that your entire future does not depend on one test and that you will learn from this experience regardless of how well you do on the exam.


Understand your stress

  1. Recognize how you typically respond to stress (physically, emotionally, and cognitively).
  2. Assess your stress level before you begin studying. If you are experiencing a high degree of stress you won t be able to study as effectively.
  3. Respond to your stress accordingly: determine what you need to do to reduce your stress.
  4. Remember - some anxiety or stress is normal and can actually enhance your performan

English for Academic Success

Students who feel that they need assistance with developing English competence in order to succeed at their studies should explore that links below for the Wits Language School:

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