Learning Cor

Welcome to the Learning Corner - the Academic Success Center website that provides information, tips, and strategies to help you maximize your learning and success. We've organized the Learning Corner to allow you to browse and navigate different strategies though our six core areas. Use the categories above and the links at the right to find strategies and tips that will help you in all areas of learning and academic success.

If you're looking for general success strategies, or if you're unsure of where to begin, check out the following links:

Learning in College

learning in college

Do you want to improve your study skills (reading, taking notes, preparing for tests), so you are a more effective learner? Do you feel lost during lectures or are not sure what to do with your notes after class? Do you feel like you don’t always remember what you study?

Completing assigned readings, attending class (lecture, recitation, lab or seminar), taking notes, and reviewing and practicing with content are the building blocks of learning and studying in the college environment. Professors and instructors assign reading, conduct lectures, and hold class discussions and labs to communicate a large volume of information in a variety of formats. In a university setting, it is the student’s responsibility to read, take notes, and learn much of the information outside of class in preparation for the tests and assignments.  For students taking classes online, these habits are especially important. In an online environment, “attending class” may consist of spending more time reading a variety of source materials, participating in online discussions, and engaging in weekly assignments.

The way to learn this information is through reading, reviewing notes, and completing homework assignments. Because this level of independent learning is a major difference between high school and college, it takes time and effort to get used to these expectations.  It takes attention and effort to hone the skills needed to study effectively and efficiently.  The cycle below indicates that reading, taking notes, and practicing problems or actively recalling information are the building blocks for actively learning information. Every week of the term, new information is introduced through lectures and discussions in class and readings outside of class. We recommend you spend 80% of your study time engaged in reading, taking notes, and actively reviewing material for that week, and 20% of your study time reviewing material from prior weeks. This system helps you stay caught up and keeps you from forgetting information from earlier in the term. In addition to the topics mentioned below, the links to the right provide information about the how to focus while studying and how to commit information to memory, both of which influence the effectiveness of your learning.

In addition to the links to the right, check out another great and thorough source on Learning in College: The Guide to University Learning put together by The Learning Commons at University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

The Memory Process

Memory ProcessLearning is the process of acquiring knowledge or information. You also need to retain the information to use it at a future time, and that is where the memory process comes in. One of the best ways to make college-level studying more effective is to understand and apply information about how we as humans learn and store information in our memory. The information below about attention, encoding, and storing information provides the rationale for reading and note-taking strategies; this information also can help you assess if you’re preparing for exams in an effective way.

Attention

Information enters our brains through sensory receptors that hold onto that information for mere seconds. Although thousands of bits of information come at us at once through our eyes, ears, touch, and other senses, our brains filters and selects things for us to pay attention to.  When you consciously pay attention to something (a sign, a sound, where you put your keys) this means your brain receives that information and it is consciously perceived. That conscious perception is the first step of the memory process.

Encoding

Once we have perceived information, we move that information into either (a) our short-term/immediate memory which lasts for only a few seconds (e.g., a phone number you are trying to remember for a few seconds) or (b) "working" memory which can hold more information for longer, but only if you’re actively working with it (e.g., the numbers from a math problem that you’re talking through with a study group). Working memory can really only hold information for 10-20 minutes (Sousa, 2001), and can only hold 5-9 pieces of information at a time. That is why it is so important to take deliberate efforts to move information from your short-term memory into your long-term memory through storage.

Storage

The act of moving information from short-term to long-term memory can be done in a variety of ways. Learning information initially is critical, but you must also find ways to organize information based on meaning and store that information into long-term memory for later retrieval (Sousa, 2001). “Going over” a reading will not store that information in a way that allows you to retrieve the information later. So, what WILL enable your brain to store information in long-term memory?

ACTIVITIES

  • Repetition. "Rehearsal" and "repetition" are both terms that refer to the act of practicing your recall of information. Quizzing yourself using flashcards and doing random practice problems until you can do them correctly are examples of repetition-based recall practice.
  • Elaboration.  Elaboration is the process of connecting new information with prior information and looking for relationships between information. You can elaborate by thinking of examples of concepts, practicing explaining a concept to someone, or creating a summary based on your notes.
  • Organizational Schemas.  Our brains are natural pattern seekers. Your brain will find it easier to remember information if you make associations or connections between ideas.  These associations create a structure of knowledge for information which is easier to remember than random facts. Creating your own study guides, making a concept map, and comparing and contrasting ideas are examples of study techniques that fall into the category of organizational schemas.  For example, you might think that Waldo Hall is a building at OSU (new information) that looks like a castle from the Harry Potter books/movies (stored information). 
  • Multiple modes. When you’re studying, you can create stronger memories if you engage your visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses.  Information stored using more than one "sensory mode" will be easier for you to remember and recall later (Cuseo, Fecas & Thompson, 2007).
  • Sleep & Breaks. Sleep is vital to the memory storage process because the transfer of information into long-term memory occurs during the REM stage of sleep (Sousa, 2001). If you want to engage in effective studying, your time spent studying needs to be spaced out over multiple sessions on different days, with periods of rest in between. Studying in shorter sessions with more breaks focuses your concentration and attention, both of which are important for encoding and storage.
Retrieval

The ability to retrieve information when you want to (e.g., on an exam) is a product of many factors.  How you pay attention and how you encode and store the information play a big role in whether or not you’ll remember the information later.  Research on the science of forgetting suggests that regular review of information is important in order to store that information in your long-term memory for later retrieval.  Spitzer (1939) examined rates of forgetting textbook material and found that from the time of first learning information from a textbook, we forget almost 50% of information within one day, and up to 80% of the information within 2 weeks.

Since you are likely to forget information unless you use or revisit the information regularly, you'll need top plan each week for time practicing retrieval of previously stored information. You can do this by focusing not just on new information you're learning each week (in lectures, reading, etc.) but by focusing time on reviewing material from previous weeks.  By using repetition/practice and elaboration, you can make connections between the previous information and the new information you're learning.  Monitoring learning and taking time to test your knowledge and recall are important ways that you can assess if you are well-prepared for an exam or need to spend additional time studying.

TOOLS

Concentration & Distractions

The effectiveness of your study time is only as good as your ability to focus and concentrate while studying. Choosing a quality study environment, decreasing any internal or external distractions, and limiting your multitasking can help make your study time productive and effective.

Choosing a study environmentConcentration

The environment you study in can have a big impact on your ability to concentrate.  Choosing a good environment is a proactive step towards monitoring possible distractions. Consider the following factors when evaluating a potential study location:

  • Are you unlikely to be interrupted or distracted?
  • Is the environment (lighting, temperature, etc.) comfortable enough to work, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep?
  • Are you able to either tune out the ambient noise, or do you have control over the noise levels?
Distractions and interruptions

Distractions come in all shapes, sizes and sounds. External distractions include things like noise, people talking, TV, music, phone alerts, and anything else that diverts your attention from the task at hand. Internal distractions like hunger, fatigue, illness, stress, worries, other distracting thoughts (things you should be doing instead, things you’d rather be doing,  etc.) can interrupt your concentration as much as external distractions.

Multitasking

When it comes to studying, multitasking is ineffective.  While it may seem like multitasking would be a good thing, research has shown that people who are multitasking are not doing two things at the same time.  Instead, they are switching back and forth quickly between tasks.  The result of this movement is that performance suffers on both tasks, and people who are multitasking are less likely to remember information later (Dzubak, 2008). There may be other areas of our lives where multi-tasking is useful; however, studying and problem solving require deep concentration, and interruptions and distractions make it harder to focus and decrease your chances of recalling information later.  

TIPS

  • Evaluate your study locations.  If one location isn't working effectively, make adjustments to that location or investigate other locations as options for studying.
  • Identify your distractions. Whether they are internal or external distractions, note on a piece of paper what distracts you from studying. If there are consistent distractions, ask yourself how you can limit those and if any personal choices or adjustments could be made to keep that distraction to a minimum.
  • Make a list.  If you consistently have random thoughts pop into your head about other tasks you need to do or other commitments, keep a list as you study.  Don't dwell on the other task you thought of, but write it down so that you do not forget it but can refocus on your studying. Set up your study time so you minimize internal distractions. Get enough sleep, eat healthy food, exercise, monitor caffeine intake, and monitor mental fatigue. 
  • Schedule breaks. Unfocused studying can be a sign that you need a short break prior to trying to refocus. Having breaks scheduled reduces the chances of your getting off track between the breaks. 
  • Vary your study strategies.  If you lose focus when studying in one way for a long time, vary the ways you study.  Try studying in one way for 20-30 minutes and then study using a different strategy. The variety can help refresh your focus.
  • Put away obvious distractions.  If you know your phone or laptop is a distraction for you or that the alerts on it will interrupt your studying, turn these off.  Make a choice or commitment to a certain period of time studying without those distractions. 
  • Use rewards to motivate yourself. Make small goals for concentrating for a specific amount of time, or accomplishing a task, and reward yourself when you complete it.

TOOLS

Reading Strategies

Reading is a foundational learning activity for college-level courses. Assigned readings prepare you for taking notes during lectures and provide you with additional examples and detail that might not be covered in class.  Also, according to research, readings are the second most frequent source of exam questions (Cuseo, Fecas & Thompson, 2007).  

Reading a college textbook effectively takes practice and should be approached differently than reading a novel, comic book, magazine, or website. Becoming an effective reader goes beyond completing the reading in full or highlighting text.  There are a variety of strategies you can use to read effectively and retain the information you read.Reading Help

TIPS

  • Schedule time to read. Reading is an easy thing to put off because there is often no exact due date.  By scheduling a time each week to do your reading for each class, you are more likely to complete the reading as if it were an assignment.  Producing a study guide or set of notes from the reading can help to direct your thinking as you read.  
  • Set yourself up for success.  Pick a location that is conducive to reading.  Establish a reasonable goal for the reading, and a time limit for how long you’ll be working. These techniques make reading feel manageable and make it easier to get started and finish reading.  
  • Choose and use a specific reading strategy.  There are many strategies that will help you actively read and retain information (PRR or SQ3R – see the handouts and videos).  By consciously choosing a way to approach your reading, you can begin the first step of exam preparation or essay writing.  Remember: good readers make stronger writers.
  • Monitor your comprehension. When you finish a section, ask yourself, "What is the main idea in this section?  Could I answer an exam question about this topic?" Questions at the end of chapters are particularly good for focusing your attention and for assessing your comprehension. If you are having difficulty recalling information or answering questions about the text, search back through the text and look for key points and answers. Self-correction techniques like revisiting the text are essential to assessing your comprehension and are a hallmark technique of advanced readers (Caverly & Orlando, 1991).
  • Take notes as you read. Whether they’re annotations in the margins of the book, or notes on a separate piece of paper. Engage with the reading through your notes – ask questions, answer questions, make connections, and think about how these ideas integrate with other information sources (like lecture, lab, other readings, etc.)

TOOLS

Note-Taking

Attending class lectures is one of the most important things you can do for your academic success. Taking effective notes in class ensures your time spent in class is productive and useful. According to experts, taking notes in class has two primary functions: (a) it keeps you alert, attentive and accountable as you listen, and (b) the notes themselves become a record of what was said in lecture or discussion that can be used later for studying and review (Seward, 1910).  According to Hartley & Marshall (1974) students who take notes experience increased attention and concentration in class (as cited in Cuseo, Fecas & Thompson, 2007). In addition, writing during class and reviewing notes before tests produces better recall which is important to your performance on exams (Kiewra, 1985).  When evaluating your own note-taking strategies, ask yourself if you are achieving those two primary functions.  If not, consider ways you could alter your strategies to be more effective.Note-taking

First, consider the different levels of note-taking. Surface-level note-taking involves writing down the words you hear but not really paying attention to the meaning or topic.  This might be similar to a court reporter taking a transcript of a trial.  They record information but may not be personally processing it (Anderson & Armbruster, 1991). In comparison, you should aim for meaning-based note taking which is characterized by thinking and processing what is being said. This level of note taking is ideal for the classroom lecture when you listen for main ideas, make inferences, and identify question areas.

TIPS

  • Prepare your brain for information. Read before you go to class and organize your reading notes before class begins. This allows you to anticipate the lecture and make connections between what you've read and what you are hearing in lecture.
  • Print any provided lecture notes.  At times, instructors will post lecture notes or PowerPoint slides on Blackboard or the class website prior to class.  As you write notes on those pages, try to capture new information from the lecture; don't recopy information already provided for you.
  • Pay close attention to the entire lecture.  Listen for main ideas, relationships between concepts, and examples. Actively think about what you’re hearing and make choices about what to write down in your notes.
  • Take notes on assignments and exam information.  If the lecture includes any discussion of expectations for an assignment or exam, this is important information to write down.  The information may not be included on a formal assignment description or on Blackboard.
  • Revisit the information.  After class is over, spend time revisiting, rewriting, and/or studying your notes. Add to your notes with information from the book or information that your classmates may have written down that you missed while taking your own notes.  
  • Evaluate your note taking. Compare with other students, check in with the instructor, and try to use your notes to teach someone the material.   If your notes do not seem effective when you revisit information or are studying later, revise your note-taking strategy.

TOOLS

Homework & Weekly Practice

It’s rare that weekly or nightly homework is assigned in college; so when it is, make sure to take full advantage of it. And when it isn’t, see if you can design something to replicate this practice. Homework is all about learning, practicing, and remembering the skills you need for exams and for future applications of information. Simply put, doing homework = studying for exams. Homework (whether you assign yourself or the professor assigns it) is a chance to practice what you know so you’re fully prepared for a quiz, test, or exam.

Common types of homework:Homework
  • Practice problems
  • Practice questions
  • Quizzes on reading
  • Reading chapters

The goal of these activities is to give you hands-on practice with the concepts and problems you will need to know in the future. As you may know from the “The Memory Process,” repetition and elaboration will help you remember material, and practice will show you what you know well and what you need to spend more time learning. All of these skills contribute to self-monitoring that gives you an accurate picture of how you’ll do on tests.

TIPS

  • Don’t take shortcuts. Looking up answers or guessing until you get an answer right doesn’t actually teach you the material.  Actively engaging with information for comprehension is what makes homework effective.
  • Approach problem sets as chances to study for exams. Try to focus your attention and learning on the types of problems and ideas being presented.  Do not try to memorize individual problems or questions.  
  • Practice identifying the concepts you’ll be tested on. Every problem/question is an example of a concept the instructor wants to make sure you know. Try to think about homework from that perspective.  In doing so, you'll get a sense of how problems are designed and how they relate to the larger concepts in the course.
  • Mix up problems from different chapters and parts of the term. This mixing increases retention and retrieval (Roediger, 2013).
  • Work toward comprehension.  If you’re struggling to understand how to do a problem or answer a question, revisit the text and read through the information again. If it still doesn’t make sense, ask a peer, friend, or your instructor for guidance.
  • If there aren’t enough practice problems or questions, make up your own problems and questions.  One of the best ways to prepare for tests is to try to anticipate possible problems or questions and then answer them.
  • Focus on homework regularly.  Take time each week to complete homework.  Nothing makes homework harder than the panic of needing to do it at the last minute. By monitoring homework and keeping up with it throughout the term, you can avoid anxiety and continually monitor your progress in the course.
  • Overlearn the material. Overlearning means you know the information and how to do a problem so thoroughly that you can retrieve it quickly even during a stressful exam.

TOOLS

Learning Styles

Many people describe "learning styles" or "learning preferences" as the individual preferences you have for how you learn information. There are many models and classifications for "learning styles" and they describe different techniques, tendencies and strategies that fit each mode or style.  are ways of talking about the variety of methods for learning information in a Have you ever thought that you might be more effective in your classes if you fully understood the methods for learning and studying that work best for your learning style? This section is designed to allow you to assess your learning style and provide some ideas for strategies that will help you to be more effective in the classroom. Remember, we all learn in different ways but everyone can learn effectively.

Learning Preferences

Assessing Your Learning Style

Because there are so many models for learning styles, there are different inventories that give you information of each of these models. If you're interested in taking an inventory, follow the links below. These inventories are meant to give you some ideas for different ways to study but should not be considered diagnostic or predictive. After the assessment be sure to look at any helpsheets associated with the model.

VARK Learning Styles Questionnaire

Kolb's Learning Style Inventory

A Word of Caution:

While you may receive results from either of these inventories, learning styles are not designed to tell you how to study. In fact, there is considerable research that shows that learning information according to your style or preference is no more effective than learning through other styles or preferences. You may have better luck focusing on your active recall and making sure your studying aligns with the memory process. Things that you can take away from learning preferences inventories (and the VARK in particular):

  • You may have preferences for some styles of studying. Keep those in mind as you design a study plan, but also make sure you branch out and learn new ways to study in different styles and approaches.
  • If you work on learning information through each/all learning styles, you'll have more pathways to remember the information when you need it. Multimodal studying may be more effective than focusing on learning in one way.
  • Instructors do not usually cater to individual students' learning styles, so it's important that you're flexible in how you learn. If your course is highly visual or reading/writing based, make sure you add variety when you study on your own.

Exams, Tests and Quizzes

Are you looking for new and effective ways to study for tests? Have you gone in to tests thinking you were prepared, but realized you weren’t once the test started? Do you struggle with test anxiety? Do you want to improve your performance on future exams?

exams and quizzes

Tests, exams, midterms, and finals are a focus of most students’ studying efforts each term. Many strategies go into strong test preparation and test-taking.  To improve your own test-taking, you can start by learning about how the brain/memory works.  Attending class consistently, making weekly efforts to complete reading and assignments, and creating a strong study plan are all strategies that can help you prepare for an upcoming exam. 

When it comes to test preparation, the best place to start is by analyzing your weekly study habits and making any needed changes.  As the test gets closer, you should organize your time, create a study plan, and use a variety of study methods. The rituals and habits you create for the time leading up to and during the test can help you prepare physically and mentally for an exam, in turn reducing your test anxiety.  Once you’re in the test it doesn’t hurt to use some “test-wise” strategies.  Because each professor designs and organizes their exams differently, analyzing your initial results and using that feedback can help you strategically plan your studying for the next exam. The links to the right will help guide your exploration of test-taking strategies.

Test Preparation and Studying

Different kinds of tests require different kinds of studying. As you progress through college, you’ll experience instructors with a wide array of testing philosophies and approaches. That is why it is a good idea to spend time early in the term figuring out what kinds of tests you’ll have, what kinds of knowledge you’ll be asked to demonstrate (vocabulary, concepts, problem solving or computation, etc.) and what kinds of questions you’ll encounter (essays, multiple choice, etc.). Knowing this information will help you plan your study sessions and will guide you as you select appropriate review strategies.Test Preparation

While it may sound strange, studying for exams should begin the first week of the term. If you take notes while you read, take notes in class, consolidate and reorganize your notes weekly, and do homework problems, you’re engaging in weekly study activities that prepare you for exams. However, as you think about preparation for specific exams, there are a few techniques and tips to consider.

It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling a false sense of knowledge about material.   You might think you are "going over" or "reviewing" materials in an effective way, but these might not be activities that are furthering your understanding of the material.  To effectively study for exams, you must actively engage with material instead of passively read through it again.

TIPS

  • Develop a study plan specifically for the exam. This includes knowing what the test is covering, organizing the materials needed for studying, planning out your study time to ensure you have time to cover all areas, and choosing study techniques that fit the material and exam.
  • Assess what you do and do not know.  By identifying areas of strength and areas that challenge you, you can make a more concrete plan for how to divide your time and what to put the most energy into studying.
  • Use specific study strategies for reviewing and testing yourself on material.  You should not use the exact same strategies that you use for note-taking, completing homework, etc. Find ways to test yourself to reveal what you know and what you need to spend more time learning or practicing.
  • Form a study group when possible and use the time to test each other on information, do practice problems, and talk through difficult concepts. 
  • Vary your process. Study different things in different places in different ways. As we discuss in “The Memory Process,” the more ways you encode information, the more pathways you have to retrieve it again when you need it.
  • Add variety.  Vary the ways you practice problems or answer practice questions.  Try to see if you could get the same correct answer using a different process.  Alternate between topics or skip around to different chapters and content areas. This approach is more likely to accurately simulate a testing situation where exam material is drawn from a portion of or the entire term.
  • Give yourself time to practice recall.  In the last 48 hours before the test, try to focus on recalling information, not on learning new information.  Use self-quizzing, practice problems, etc. to prepare yourself.  Be sure that before the test you are mentally and physically prepared through strong study practices, good nutrition, and sufficient sleep.

TOOLS

Taking Tests

There are many factors involved in being a good test taker, and while preparation may the single most important predictor of success on tests, there are techniques students can learn and use while taking tests that have been shown to have small, positive impacts on exam grades (Wark & Flippo, 1991).Test Taking

TIPS:

Before the test (adapted from Cuseo, Fecas & Thompson, 2007)

Prepare appropriately ahead of time. There are a variety of ways to prepare for tests that go well beyond studying and assessing your learning of course content.  Being prepared both mentally and physically can provide you with the right frame of mind as you enter a test.  

  • Get enough sleep before the test. Not only does sleep help your long-term memory retain information, but getting enough sleep in the days leading up to the test will make you more alert, contribute to a positive mood, and decrease stress.
  • Plan your meals. George Elliot says “no man can be wise on an empty stomach.” Eat breakfast (ideally with complex carbohydrates), but don’t eat too much right before the test as that can take blood away from your brain.  If you need a snack, opt for a piece of fruit.  Try to avoid caffeine right before the exam; it can leave you feeling jittery or anxious.
  • Develop some pre-test rituals. Consistent habits and behaviors can put you at ease in stressful situations. Examples might include taking a short walk, listening to music, or visualizing your success on the exam.
  • Arrive early and prepared. You’ll want to be able to choose your seat, and you can only do this if you arrive early. Bring all of the materials you need to take the test with you. If you’re thoughtful about your preparation, you will be more at ease as you wait for the test to begin. Make sure you bring appropriate writing utensils (and back-ups) and things like a calculator or a notecard/page of notes if they are allowed.
  • Avoid standing/sitting around anxious people.  If you know that the room is crowded and can see people who are overtly anxious, find a different place to sit or stand. Use time prior to the test to relax, take deep breaths, and think positive thoughts. Focus on your own preparation and future success.
During the test

Develop a process for taking tests that demonstrates “test-wiseness." This means using strategies to help you navigate the test in addition to your knowledge of the material and content. Check out our handout on "Test-Taking Tips" to help you evaluate your own testing strategies.  In addition, here are a few strategies that research finds have a positive impact on test scores (Wark & Flippo, 1991):

  • Read over the exam when you first begin.  Take notes on the number of questions, point values, and other important information.  Next, plan your time so that you have a few minutes to spare to review your answers.  Be especially aware of test characteristics if you are taking a test online.  Before you begin, find out if you will be able to go back and review answers online or if the test only allows for moving forward after answering questions.
  • Answer all of the questions. Start with the easy questions, skipping over difficult questions or questions you’re unsure of. Studies show this technique helps students achieve higher test scores (Cuseo, Fecas, & Thompson, 2007). Be sure you mark these questions so you can return to them later. You may find clues to the answers in other questions, and answers/ideas may come to you as you are answering other questions. Note: If taking a test online, this may not work as a strategy, so be aware of test characteristics like the ability to go back and review answers.
  • Consider a “brain dump."  This means writing down any formulas, mnemonic devises or equations on a scrap paper as soon as you receive the exam.  By recording things you are worried you might forget later, you can begin the exam with more confidence and less stress.
  • Review answers. Be willing to change your answer if you realize your earlier answer is not correct. Studies show that reviewing test questions may help you catch errors or mistakes; however, this is different from second-guessing or doubting your answers.  Only change answers when you are sure you have made a mistake.
After the test

What you do after you finish a test is almost as important as what you do to prepare for a test.  The time after a test is an opportunity to analyze your performance and look for information about how to improve on future tests. Use a “Test Autopsy Form” or other technique to analyze the problems or questions you missed, to determine what techniques or strategies might have helped you, and to plan for how you’ll approach your next test.  Students who are able to reflect on and learn from their test-taking experiences are more likely to make specific changes to their test-taking process—changes that will benefit them on the next test.

TOOLS

Multiple Choice Tests

Instructors are not out to trick you, but multiple choice tests can sometimes feel that way. Multiple choice tests are designed to make sure you know the information, and to do so, these tests often include more than just recognition, vocabulary, and knowledge-level questions. These tests often require you to compute, to apply concepts to new situations, and to think critically about what you've learned in the course. You have to know the material backwards and forwards, and when you get to the test, you may see unfamiliar material.Multiple Choice

One your first pass through the test, don't guess on questions.  Answer the questions you know, and mark the ones you don't know or are unsure of so that you can revisit them.  If, on a second visit to the question, you’re still unsure of the answer, try some problem-solving strategies first:

  • Critically read the question. Underline key concept words and absolute words like "never," "all," and "always."
  • Try to answer the question without looking at the answers.  Seeing if you already know or can calculate the answer without seeing choices can help you reduce confusion over similar answers.
  • Read and consider all of the answers. You need to select the BEST answer, even though there may be more than one good answer (Van Blerkom, 2010).  Try to select the answer that is more true than the other answers.  
  • Narrow down distracting answers.  When unsure of an answer, eliminate answers you know are incorrect so that you are choosing from a shorter list of possible answers.
  • Look for clues in other questions.  At times, tests include clues or bits of information that jog your memory.  Use these clues in other questions to help you answer the question you are unsure of.

If you still have no idea what the answer to the question is, you can try some strategic guessing. Please note these strategies are not meant to be used if you already know what the answer is or if you can make an educated guess!

  • Try to spot decoys or distractors. Rule out any answers that don't make sense given common sense or the scope of course content.  
  • Beware of the “all of the above” answer. If one possible answer doesn’t apply, don’t choose “all of the above;" however, if 2 or more answers are correct, chances are that "all of the above" is correct.
  • Consider the length of the answers. Often times the correct choice is the longer one that includes the most information.
  • Beware of two similar answers. Test-makers may use two similar choices to confuse you. If you’re going to guess, pick one of the two.
  • Take a guess.  Instructors often select “b” or “c”for the correct answers (Linn & Gronlund, 1995 in Cuseo, Fecas & Thompson, 2007).
  • Answer every question. Even if you are guessing, be sure to choose an answer, especially if you have marked questions to return to after completing the ones you were certain of.

TOOLS

  •  Video - Coming Soon!

Managing Test Anxiety

Experiencing some test anxiety is pretty typical. In fact, some would argue that having a small level of anxiety helps motivate you to study, stay alert during the test, and focus on the task at hand. That being said, high levels of anxiety can interfere with your concentration and ability to perform well on tests. The distinction between the two is captured in the diagram below (from UTAustin) illustrating the difference between facilitative and debilitating test anxiety. Levels of test anxiety differ from person to person; they also differ from subject to subject, and test to test, depending on the value you place on the test and your belief in your ability to do well.

Managing Test Anxiety

According to Mann & Lash (2004), anxiety is a natural human response, indicative of our fight-or-flight defense mechanism. In a testing situation, you may experience a number of anxiety symptoms in response to the perceived threat of the exam. Unlike the gazelle on the prairie trying to evade being dinner for the puma, extreme anxiety may not enhance performance, but detract from it.

There are different types of anxiety you might experience during a test. Physiological anxiety appears as a high heart rate, excessive sweating, tension, or nausea. Cognitive anxiety appears as difficulty concentrating or focusing on questions, being easily distracted by other things/people in the room, and the feeling of “go blank” during the test and not remembering what you studied.  Emotional anxiety symptoms can be negative thoughts; feelings of fear, anger, and helplessness; or uncontrollable laughing or crying (Mann & Lash, 2004).

The techniques below provide some suggestions for how you can address test anxiety. If you continue to experience test anxiety after trying out some of these techniques, consider visiting the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) office.  They often work with students who experience test anxiety.

TIPS

  • Monitor your test anxiety. What makes you anxious? What symptoms do you feel? What seems to help? Be aware of the types of anxiety you are feeling and how you are choosing to address them.
  • Try deep breathing. Take 2-3 deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling so your abdomen expands and contracts. Deep breathing can trigger the body's relaxation response, reducing your feelings of anxiety.
  • Consciously relax.  Try to relax muscles in your shoulders, arms, neck, legs, etc. or alternately tensing and relaxing muscles.  By relaxing your body, you may be able to also relax your mind and approach the test with more comfort.
  • Decrease distractions.  Arrive early to tests so that you can choose a seat in the front corner away from the door or in a back corner where you can turn toward the wall.  If you are in the front of the room, you won’t have to look at how many people have left the exam or how many are still working.
  • Engage in positive self-talk. If you catch yourself thinking about failing the test, or not knowing an answer, or what this means about your intelligence or your future success and happiness, tell yourself (in your head) to stop thinking that way.  Replace those negative thoughts with a positive message like “I can do this" or "I am prepared for the test."
  • Don’t fixate on the clock. Keeping track of time is important for pacing yourself in the test, but don’t get distracted by checking the clock too frequently.
  • Remain calm.  Come prepared and on time, and stay away from stressed or anxious students.  One research article found that students who did a free write on their thoughts and worries for the test before the test started outperformed a similar group of anxious students who didn’t do the free write (Ramirez & Beilock, 2011).
  • Be confident.  Trust your preparation and your ability to perform well.

 

TOOLS

Achieving Balance

Do you feel like your life is out of balance? Do you feel like you’re being pulled in numerous directions and are not sure how to deal with everything? Do you want to figure out how to feel more balanced and together?

achieving balance

Achieving life balance is an ongoing process. Corey Keyes refers to optimal life balance as "flourishing" (Keyes, 2002). Flourishing is experienced when all areas of your life are working together in the best possible way. When you flourish, you feel happy and satisfied; have high levels of emotional well-being; feel that your life has purpose; accept all parts of yourself; are capable of growing, evolving, and changing; and have a strong sense of autonomy and internal locus of control (Keyes, 2002). Flourishing means that you’re being the best version of yourself.

Flourishing and achieving life balance while enrolled in college involves establishing a support network, getting involved in activities outside of your course work, taking care of your health and wellness, establishing strategies to help manage and reduce stress, and exploring your career options and future possibilities.

There are many areas of our life to bring into balance. Usually we’re better at taking care of our needs in some areas of our life, but in other areas there is room to reflect and improve. To consider which areas of your life may need more attention, check out some of the quizzes below aimed at determining your balance across multiple areas of wellbeing. Each quiz is a bit different, but you may find the results from one will offer insight you can use to prioritize some goal setting around areas of your life you’d like to develop further. Once you’ve set some goals for yourself, seek out resources, and make commitments to changing your habits toward the positive. 

Remember that finding balance is an ongoing process. There will be times throughout the year when you will feel like you’re flourishing, and, most likely, there will be times when the term is difficult and you do not feel like you're flourishing. That’s okay. Keep in mind that achieving balance and flourishing are life-long pursuits.  Change can be gradual; one small step in the right direction will build momentum and the repercussion of that step might have a significant impact on your productivity, outlook, and overall academic pursuits.

Links to Quizzes:

Career Exploration

Students enroll in college because they believe it will help them in the future. Many are hoping college will help them obtain stable jobs upon graduation. No matter where you stand in your career exploration path, here at OSU, you have a wide range of resources available to you that can help you find a path that is right for you. Take advantage of the tips and resources provided to you and explore the options that interest you. Talking to your academic advisor, professors, or other faculty members can be a great place to start exploring future career options.Career Exploration

One of the first steps in career exploration is self-assessment. You can do this through discussions with faculty, values tests, online resources, interest inventories, personality assessments, or in a career exploration class. Some of the questions you will be asked are: What are the things that interest you? What do you spend your time doing? What skills and abilities do you have that you would like to use in the workforce? What are the values that you live by? What is important to you? What are things that you don’t care as much about? These questions help lay the foundation for career exploration and development; the questions also help guide you through the decision-making process.

Career exploration involves more than finding a major and doing coursework. It involves the active investigation of careers and work experience. After graduation, when students are looking for jobs in their career field of choice, employers look at more than the coursework the student completed; they want to know about the internships, clubs, research, and work environments the student took part in during the time spent in school.

TIPS

  • Define your values. Figure out what is important to you and what isn’t. Always keep your values in mind. As you begin to seek out possible careers, see if the possibility matches up with your core values.
  • Use campus resources for picking and finding a major. The University Exploratory Studies Program (UESP) is a great resource for OSU students.  UESP provides guidance as you explore your interests and find a major that fits your personal needs, interests, and career plans.
  • Take the ALS 114 Career Decision Making class. This class incorporates self-assessment, the exploration of academic and career options, as well as intentional decision making and action.
  • Look into internships, jobs, and volunteer work that relate to your interests or major during your summer break. Use these experiences to demonstrate to employers that you have valuable skills that can be useful in your field.
  • Go to Career Fairs. Meet employers and talk to them about job opportunities and what skills and/or classes might help you if you are considering joining their field.
  • Use SIGI3 on the Career Services website, and find out what careers may be right for you based on your interests, values, and personality type.
  • Set up informational interviews and job shadowing opportunities with professionals in the field.  Use those experiences to gather more information about specific professions.
  • Get involved. Join a club or organization, study abroad, volunteer, and/or go to campus events and programs. These opportunities allow you to explore your interests while having fun and adding to your resume.  
  • Visit Career Services. Make a career counseling and assessment appointment. Get feedback on your resumes and cover letters, and set up mock interviews. These services will prepare you for entry into the workforce.
  • Visit the Writing Center or use the Online Writing Lab.  Take job descriptions, your resume(s), and your cover letters to the Writing Center.  A writing assistant can help you focus and enhance your writing based on the job description and requirements.

TOOLS

Getting Sleep

Managing your time, developing effective study habits, and dealing with stress are important for success; however, in order to carry out these success techniques, you need sleep. Getting enough sleep is vital to your success as a college student. Proper sleep hygiene (the habits and practices for good sleep) makes you a more effective student: you study more effectively, earn better grades, and maintain your physical health. Students who get less sleep than their bodies need typically earn lower grades than students who get a sufficient amount of sleep (Cuseo, Fecas, & Thompson, 2007).   Not getting enough sleep is similar to overdrawing one’s bank account. Overdrawing your body’s energy supply will result in poor health, changed moods, and lower performance. Conversely, developing a consistent sleep routine will improve both your physical and mental health.Nap Time

There are many factors that go into good sleep hygiene (Gilbert & Weaver, 2010). An average person requires 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Keeping a regular sleep pattern by going to bed and waking up around the same time every day maintains the health of your body and mind (Pauk, 1984). Staying up late or all night for a cram session may cause health issues as well as produce unnecessary stress on the brain. Further, your brain needs sleep to remember what it has learned. Without adequate sleep, all the information you studied will not be adequately imprinted into your memory for recall.

When considering your own sleep hygiene, remember that sleep location matters. If you nap or daydream a lot while sitting at a desk studying, your body might start thinking of the desk as a location for sleep, and it will be harder to stay alert and pay attention to your studies (Pauk, 1984). Studying in bed before going to sleep is not a good practice for the same reason. For the best sleep, separate your study space from your sleep space.  

When there’s a gap between classes or studying, many students enjoy taking naps. Researchers say that a 10 to 20-minute power nap can help students rejuvenate before getting back to work, whereas an hour nap helps with cognitive memory processing, positively impacting your learning (Mednick, Nakayama, & Stickgold, 2003). If time permits, a 90-minute nap involves a full cycle of sleep and can aid in creativity as well as emotional and procedural memory, both of which could be beneficial for your class projects or papers (Mednick, Nakayama, & Stickgold, 2003). By taking naps and developing healthy sleep patterns, you can maintain better health and give your brain the rest it needs to process and function.

TIPS

  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Large variations in sleep schedule can have the same effects as not getting enough sleep.
  • Come up with a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Just as you cool down after a workout, your mind needs a cool down before you go to bed.
  • Use your bed for sleep, not as a study space. Separate these two locations and activities in order to use both spaces more effectively.
  • Don’t eat within two or three hours of your planned bedtime. Eating too close to bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Exercise, but not close to your bedtime. Regular exercise makes it easier to fall asleep and can help improve sleep quality, but if you exercise right before you go to bed, it can be harder to fall asleep. Try to finish your workout at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine before bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and cause your body to be more alert. Avoiding caffeine six to eight hours before bed can improve sleep quality. Though alcohol is a depressant and can make you feel sleepy, it disrupts your R.E.M. cycle and can prevent you from getting deep, refreshing sleep.
  • Avoid screen time (e.g. cell phone, computer, or T.V. use) before bed. Blue light waves emitted from electronic devices have the same effect as sunlight and stimulate your body to be awake.

TOOLS

Stress Management

Stress is the state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. For many students, college can be a stressful time. There are a variety of reasons for increased stress.  For example, you may experience heavy course loads; changing relationships; unfamiliar physical environments; or new subjects and professors each term.Stress

Stress differs from person to person. The signs of stress can be physical; they can also be emotional or behavioral. Physical signs of stress can vary, including “knots,” “butterflies,” or pain in your stomach; a rapid, pounding heart beat; cold, clammy hands; headache, hyperventilation; tightness in your neck or shoulders; tightness in the chest; lower back pain; and a tendency toward illness such as colds or flu (Burka, 1983). Emotional or behavioral signs of stress include irritability; fatigue and exhaustion; trouble concentrating; mood swings; increased alcohol or drug use; changes in sleep, appetite, or sexual interest; inability to relax; inability to enjoy the things that once brought you pleasure; apathy or lethargy; and forgetfulness (Burka, 1983). Knowing yourself well enough to identify your own signs of stress is vital as you work to manage stress.

Adopting strategies for stress management helps reduce stress; these strategies can be integrated into your daily routine so that stress is less likely to overwhelm you in daily life. Here are several strategies that can help you manage stress: avoid unnecessary stressors; alter stressful situations; make time for fun and relaxation; and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

There are many resources available to help students cope with stress. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers counseling and psychological therapy along with the Mind Spa, a meditation and relaxation room that serves as a space to sooth the mind, body, and spirit. Student Health Services (SHS) offers acupuncture, massage therapy, Beaver Strides (a motivational pedometer program), health coaching, and tobacco cessation services. Using these resources can help you find healthy and effective ways to manage the stress you feel here at OSU.

TIPS

  • Take on challenges and tasks one at a time.
  • Stay organized with your time and money. Much of our stress is related to time or financial management.
  • Journal. Write down your thoughts feelings; use your writing to reflect upon your stressors and how you can manage them.
  • Laugh. Laughing and finding humor in life is one of the best ways to reduce stress.
  • Exercise. Exercising is essential to our physical and mental health and can serve as a great way to alleviate stress.
  • Use campus resources. Visit SHS or CAPS for services available at no additional cost for students.

TOOLS

Health & Wellness

Wellness WheelOptimum health and wellness can have a positive impact on your academic success. By establishing healthy habits in nutrition, exercise, and other areas of wellness, you can set yourself up to be more successful in your academics (Ruthig, Marrone, Hladkyj, & Robinson-Epp, 2011). In addition, many of the activities that keep you healthy can also improve your mental focus, decrease stress, and improve the quality of your study time. For instance, exercise “increases mental energy and improves mental performance” by pumping more oxygen to our brains through increased blood flow (Cuseo, Fecas, & Thompson, 2007). Because our brains burn energy at ten times the rate of other body tissues and use 20% of the body’s fuel, it’s important to consume enough water and nutrients to optimize brain function (Smilkstein, 2011).  This optimization of brain functions will make your time spent studying more focused and effective.

One important perspective to consider is the idea that wellness is a spectrum that ranges from sickness (poor health) to optimum wellness (good health). From this perspective, wellness is something we can always be working on. Often we wait until we’re sick or injured to turn our attention to habits of health and wellness. A more proactive approach to staying healthy through daily behaviors, habits, and rituals can help you maintain your health on a daily basis. By proactively promoting good health, you may also prevent disruptions to your term caused by illness.

Because health plays such a pivotal role in your academic success, it's worth taking time to reflect on your own health and to explore new ideas about health. While there are general guidelines and information about nutrition, exercise, and other ways to generate healthy habits, the exact behaviors that promote health and wellness differ between individuals. Part of evaluating your own health is monitoring the effectiveness of your concentration, study time, and performance. If there are areas you’d like to improve, you can seek out information and resources to assist you in forming habits that promote your physical well-being and academic success.

TIPS

  • As you schedule your time each day, week, or month, plan time for wellness-based activities such as preparing and eating healthy meals, exercising, and engaging in stress-reducing activities.
  • Monitor your nutrition. Do you have energy? Feel lethargic?  Using the tools below, and an abundance of resources on the internet, learn more about how to enhance your academic success through nutritional habits. optimal nutrition, exercise habits, and other healthy behaviors that promote well-being.
  • Monitor your physical activity. Does exercise help your stress levels? Is it positively impacting your ability to study, sleep, and get to class? Learn more about how to enhance your academic success through physical activity.
  • Take a proactive approach to using health resources. Find out about the clinical services at OSU’s Student Health Services (SHS), as well as the community health resources, and make use of them for both routine check-ups and urgent needs. When you check out SHS, look into the programs and information they provide to help students improve their health and wellness which in turn help increase academic success.

TOOLS

Getting Involved

Student involvement encompasses the total amount of physical and psychological energy students invest in their college experience (Astin, 1984). Every activity counts. The ten minutes a residential student spends in the MU quad talking to a career center worker or the fifteen minutes the E-campus student spends chatting with an OSU librarian about a project add to the collective college experience. Getting involved contributes to student success and happiness. Students who are involved engage themselves as active learners by attending classes, completing coursework, and partaking in community activities (Astin, 1984).Getting Involved

Here at OSU, we have many opportunities to help you get involved. Whether you’re interested in volunteering in the community, joining a club, or seeking out a leadership role on campus, there are many ways you can invest your time and energy.  Your involvement is a vital part of Beaver Nation.

TIPS

  • Volunteer. OSU’s Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) has information on service opportunities in the community. The CCE can do individual service consultations to help students connect to meaningful service opportunities. They also lead Alternative Service Breaks
  • Join one of the 400+ clubs on campus. Find out more by searching the student organization data base
  • Get to know your neighbor. This could be your roommate, floor-mate, or someone living nearby you. When you spend time getting to know people around you, you are more likely to have people to turn to when you need support.
  • Explore ways to get involved at OSU’s Corvallis Campus.
    • Ask others for advice. Ask professors, advisors, RAs, and peers about opportunities for involvement based on your interests.
    • See what’s happening with Student Leadership & Involvement. Join a club on campus, or if you have a passion that isn’t represented, start your own club.
    • Go to on-campus events hosted by student organizations and the cultural and resource centers. MUPC hosts Dads & Family Weekend, Moms & Family Weekend, OSU Has Talent, Battle of the Bands, and the Flat Tail Festival. The Office of Equity and Inclusion hosts a MLK celebration every winter. ISOSU hosts coffee hours, mingles, and different cultural nights. The cultural centers on campus host events throughout the year. All students are welcome to join in any of these events.
  • Explore ways to get involved in your local community.
    • When you’re drinking coffee at your favorite café, check out the signs and posters for upcoming events. Pick your favorite and attend the event.
    • Find events and opportunities in your local newspaper.
    • If you're interested in spiritual involvement, visit local faith-based organizations to find a community that matches your needs.  
  • Be intentional about your involvement by asking yourself exploratory questions:
    • What have you done before that you really enjoyed?
    • What new skills or abilities would you like to gain?
    • What new experiences would you like to have while you are at OSU?
    • How can your involvement better prepare you for your chosen career field?

TOOLS

Maintaining a Support Network

A support network can include a variety of forms of interaction with a range of people who can support you in different ways. Social networking and other forms of technology make it easy to communicate quickly and with many people different people. Building relationships and spending face-to-face time with people who support us can help us find balance and promote academic success.Support Network

Spending time with friends or classmates helps you effectively learn college material. Research has shown that college students learn as much if not more from peers than they do from instructors and textbooks (Cuseo, Fecas, & Thompson, 2007). Collaborating with faculty and staff is also important though.  Student-faculty interaction positively influences academic achievements such as maintaining higher GPAs, obtaining degrees, graduating with honors, and enrolling in graduate or professional schools (Astin, 1993).

It's also important to keep in touch with your family and loved ones. Students who move away from home to attend college sometimes feel the need to break away from their families and old friends completely. Although relationships will change and grow as you journey through your academic career, the friends and family that supported you before you went to college can continue to be an important part of your support network. You can stay connected by calling home, Skyping, or writing emails or letters. Let your family know about school and other important life events. Listen to what’s happening at home as well. They may be able to give you an outside perspective that you need when you’re having a difficult or frustrating day.

Dedicating adequate time to building relationships is an important part of achieving balance. Spending too much time socializing can detract from your studies, but spending too little time may make it harder to feel supported. Finding the right balance between school, work, and socializing is an important part of establishing a positive support network.  

TIPS:

  • Introduce yourself to people when you attend activities and participate in programs on campus or in your community.
  • Call home. Keep in touch with your family, friends, and loved ones.
  • Get to know your professors. Check in during office hours. Build rapport that could help you throughout your college experience.
  • Join a Supplemental Instruction study table if you are enrolled in a supported class.
  • Create your own study groups for the classes you are taking. You’ll make new friends and most likely better understand course material.
  • Find a community. Some students take comfort in a faith-based community. Others enjoy athletic communities. Finding the right community for you will help you make friends and feel at home.

TOOLS:

Personal Success

Are you achieving your goals? Are you taking responsibility for your learning? Are you seeking out the tools and resources that will help you achieve these goals?

College provides an environment where you are encouraged to take responsibility for your personal success.  In college, you are the person in charge of your own academic achievement. You are responsible for your grades and for working toward your academic goals. 

Starting the term out strong is a great way to achieve your academic goals.  The time and energy you spend planning academic success early in the term will pay off throughout the term.  You can also reduce your levels of stress and anxiety by managing your time effectively in order to complete assignments and projects and maintain a healthy life balance with your schoolwork.

Tracking your grades and GPA also contributes to your success, and it is easy to do!  By tracking grades and GPA, you can be sure you are achieving your short-term and long-term goals.  Establishing goals and checking in on them regularly makes you more aware of your progress and allows you to seek out help and additional resources when needed.

Keeping a positive attitude towards learning will allow you to embrace challenges and learn from your mistakes. Getting a low grade does not make you a failure; rather, it means that you have room to grow and improve. By seeking out help and being willing to try again and put in extra effort, you can achieve your academic goals.

continual improvement

Starting a New Term

Starting a new term is exciting.  At the beginning of the term, you have the chance to set yourself up for success and build positive momentum that can stay with you throughout the 11 weeks of the term.  Checklist for new term

To plan for a successful term, first do some self-analysis. Look at your grades from the previous term and review any successes or challenges.  Ask yourself questions to help you gauge your success in the previous term and create goals for the new term.  Did you earn the grades you wanted? Do you know why you earned these grades? Were you on time, prepared, and attentive in class? How did you study throughout the term?  How did you balance your work in different courses?  Answering these questions and reflecting on your academic processes can help you evaluate the previous term, learn from it, and improve in the term that follows.  Reflection can also help you set concrete goals for your academic success. 

TIPS

  • Buy your books. Open them. Look through them. What’s the format? How will you read them?  What strategies will you use based upon the course content and assignments?
  • Organize your time for each class.  Some students like to use paper planners. Others prefer to rely on their smartphones or computers. There are many homework and organizational apps that you can purchase for your smartphones or tablets.
  • Explore Canvas. See what your professors have already posted. Often, professors will post the syllabus on Canvas before the first day of class.  At times, professors may even post all materials and assignments for the class prior to the first day of class.   
  • Learn your professors’ names before the first day of class. Find out their office hours and email addresses so you can connect with them throughout the term and seek out help if needed.   Plan to communicate and build relationships with professors regardless of if you are struggling in the term.
  • Read your syllabi. Not all professors go over the course syllabus in class. Read through the expectations and assignments. Note any questions you have and contact the professor for clarification. Look for any opportunities for extra help such as study sessions, GTA office hours, or review sessions.   Plan ahead to use available resources.
  • Introduce yourself to 2-4 people in your class. Exchange contact information.  If you miss a class or want to connect with people to study, you'll know a few people who might be interested.

TOOLS

Track Your Success

One habit of successful students is self-reflection.  If you want to improve your academic success, one of the best places to start is with reflection about what aspects of your study habits and processes are working for you and which aspects are not working.  Think about the times when you were successful. What study patterns, approach, trends did you notice? What were the key characteristics of your success? By paying attention to what made you successful, you may be able to employ the same strategies and actions you used in those successful situations within other areas where you may be struggling.  When reflecting, also think back to the difficulties and challenges you have when you were struggling.  What are some of the variables that impacted your ability to be successful?  Remember to consider your own actions and how they contributed to your outcomes, in addition to how external factors influenced you.  Active reflection helps you become more aware of and involved in your own learning and success.  Reflection allows you to plan for effective actions and decisions that will contribute to strong academic performance.Track Your Success

TIPS

  • Analyze your strengths. Focus on what you do well.  Continue to do well in those areas, and try to apply your strengths in other areas where you are struggling.
  • Set small, realistic goals. Goal setting will help you stay focused.  Completing your goals will add motivation and momentum as you work.
  • Monitor your progress. Use grade analysis sheets, check Blackboard’s “MyGrades” regularly, and track your GPA. Knowing your grades throughout the term will help you prioritize your efforts in classes and on assignments.
  • Seek help. When you notice that you’re struggling in a class (and it’s best to acknowledge this as early as possible), use your resources. Talk to your instructors, evaluate your study strategies, meet with an academic coach, and be proactive in asking for suggestions.
  • Stay in touch with your values and your long-term goals. Keep an eye on your degree and your long-term plan. Revisit your goals and plans for motivation when you get discouraged.

TOOLS

Your Mindset

Think about the following situation. It’s a rainy day. You forgot your jacket at home. You got a flat tire as you were riding your bike to school. You arrived late to class. Your professor glared at you. You spilled coffee on the paper you had to turn in, and you burned your hand in the process. You received your score from the past exam, and you got a C-. How do you feel and react? What’s going through your head?Your Mindset

The attitudes we have during obstacle-ridden days are good illustrators of our mindset. Carol Dweck (2006) found two mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets believe that their talents, abilities, and qualities are carved in stone, whereas people with growth mindsets believe that their basic qualities such as talents and intelligence can be cultivated through their efforts (Dweck, 2006). Those with fixed mindsets avoid challenges, give up when obstacles get in their way, ignore criticism, and find the success of others threatening. Those with growth mindsets embrace challenges, persist through obstacles, learn from criticism, and are inspired by the success of others.

With the growth mindset, we can acknowledge our failures and find inspiration to keep improving. For example, getting a D on a paper is not the end-all of your college career. That D shows the potential for improvement and learning.  The D might inspire you to work harder and seek out the resources and tools that will help you earn the grade you are capable of achieving. While the grade may be frustrating, your mindset will affect your response to either avoid the challenge or embrace the challenge and improve your work.

TIPS

  • Seek out new challenges. Even though you may struggle or fail, the amount of growth you’ll experience will be powerful and could influence other areas of your life.
  • Be persistent. When obstacles get in your way, power through. Do not give up.
  • When you receive criticism, do not ignore it. Listen to the criticism. Learn from it and see if you can change your thinking or actions so that you’ll be more successful in the future.
  • Draw inspiration from the success of others. When your friends succeed, offer sincere congratulations. Be motivated by success. Avoid comparing the success of others with your own path, as no two paths to success will look alike.

TOOLS

Using Resources

Do you have the tools you need to help you reach your goals? What kinds of resources and services help you to excel at OSU? How might you identify additional resources and make use of them?

Using Resources

OSU is committed to providing resources for students to support your academic success and to enhance your overall confidence and comfort as you navigate the university setting. At OSU we have a broad definition of “resources” that includes a range of services that might be of use to you at different points in your academic career. In addition to the offices and departments on campus (CAPS, Student Health Services, Academic Success Center, Office of Student Advocacy), individuals can be resources (your advisor, your instructors, a good friend, a classmate); technology can be a resource (MyDegrees, a website, your email), and even spaces (the library, the MU, the Quad), can be resources. Making use of these resources can be challenging at times because it involves recognizing that you might benefit from using a resource, finding a relevant resource, and learning how to make use of it. 

If you find yourself wondering about available resources, ask! Your academic advisor, professors, friends, and the faculty and staff working at many of the support offices are often happy to help you find a resource you’re looking for. You’re always welcome to call or stop by the Academic Success Center or Beth Ray Center for Academic Support!

While we’ve listed a range of resources available at OSU, also keep in mind the resources that you bring with you: the support of family and friends, your own motivation and determination, years of experience thinking and learning (in and out of school). These are all resources and strengths to draw from as you navigate your academic path at OSU.

As a student, you have a wide range of resources to make use of. Think creatively about your needs, and explore the available options to find resources that meet those needs. Below are some suggestions for how you might use a few of the resources. Here are some helpful tips for making the most of your resources:

Professors, Instructors, TAs

As a resource, professors and instructors provide the most direct link to the course content you’re studying. If you’re struggling in a class, have questions about material, or want to know more about a subject, your instructors are a great first contact for learning more.  Most teaching faculty have set office hours.  You can visit office hours to discuss anything, from questions about course content to recent grades/class performance.  Faculty may also know about internships and other academic opportunities in their department or field which may be available to you. It’s worth taking the time to get to know your professors.  Professors can be great mentors and strong advocates for you when you're seeking out a new opportunity in the field or requesting a reference for graduate school.  

Friends, Peers, Classmates

The students who surround you are an invaluable form of support for your academic success.  Your fellow students contribute greatly to your college experience. In an academic context, think of your fellow students as potential study partners or study group participants.  Study partners and groups are excellent resources, as you can collaborate together to understand and master course content.  Outside of academics, your fellow students provide you with rich opportunities to learn about people from varying backgrounds, to gain insight into other people's world view, and to develop strong relationships based on shared interests.

Campus Services, Programs & Offices

OSU has a wide range of services and programs on campus. For many students, finding the right resource can be a challenging task.  If you find yourself wishing there was an office that did X, or a person to talk to about Y, contact the Academic Success Center.  We will do our best to help you connection with the most appropriate resource that can meet your individual needs. On this webpage we have academic resources listed in the menu above, and general success resources listed in the menu at the bottom of the page.

Technology – Websites & Apps

As a student at OSU, you are expected to navigate a range of websites and learning tools (Blackboard, myOSU, MyDegrees, Student Online Services) and to regularly check and use your email for university communication.  It takes time to learn how to use all of these different resources, but these tools are designed to improve your experience as a student and to increase your opportunities to engage with course content and learn in a variety of ways.  In addition to OSU-specific technology, innovative technology continues to impact the learning, studying, and research habits of students, faculty and staff. If you’re interested, we encourage you to seek out learning apps, websites and videos, and other pieces of technology that improve your experience as a student.

Your Academic Advisor:

Academic advisors are trained professionals whose role is to help you navigate degree requirements, encourage reflection about educational interests, engage you in career preparation and planning, promote use of resources, and answer questions as you progress in your academic career. Each college has different requirements about how and when to meet with your advisor, but, as with other resources, you should be proactive in working with an academic advisor.  By establishing a relationship with your advisor and sharing your ideas and concerns with them, you can maintain a strong support network that will keep you on track as you progress through your degree requirements.

What's on the Web?

This page provies a list of academic-related websites that may be worth checking out. You'll find the images below provide links to the sites so you can check them out and see what they are all about. It is worth exploring these resources as you never know what is out there and available that might work for your studying needs. If you find other academic resources you'd like included in our list, feel free to send us an email!

brightstormcliffsnotesdropboxeasybibgoogle scholaruniversity of guelphhow to studyhow to studykhan academyMind toolsmintowlsanger learning centerstudy bluestudy guides and strategiesMeriam Webster

Learning Corner Sources

Anderson, T. H. & Armbruster, B. B. (1991). The value of taking notes during lectures. In R. F. Flippo & D. C. Caverly (Eds)., Teaching reading & study strategies at the college level. International Reading Association, Delaware.

Astin, A. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel, 25(4), 297-308. 

Astin, A. (1993). What matters in college? Liberal Education,79(4),  4-12. Retrieved from http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&an=9409260313

Burka, J. B. & Yuen, L. M. (1983). Procrastination: Why you do it, what to do about it. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Burns, D. (1993). Ten days to self-esteem. New York: Quill.

Caverly, D. C. & Orlando, V. P. (1991). Textbook study strategies. In R. F. Flippo & D. C. Caverly (Eds.). Teaching Reading & Study Strategies at the College Level. Delaware: International Reading Association.

Covey, S. (1987). The seven habits of highly effective people. New York: Fireside.

Cuseo, J. B., Fecas, V.S., & Thompson, A. (2007). Thriving in college and beyond. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

Dzubak, C. M. (2008). Multitasking: The good, the bad and the unknown. Ejournal of the Association of the Tutoring Profession, 1.

Ellis, A. & Knaus, W.J. (1977). Overcoming procrastination. New York: Signet Books. 

Gilbert, S. P. & Weaver, C. C. (2010). Sleep quality and academic performance in college students: A wake-up call for college psychologists. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 24, 295-306. doi: 10.1080187568225.2010.509245

Hartley, J. (1998). Learning and studying: A research perspective. London: Routledge.

Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2010). Switch: How to change things when change is hard. Canada: Crown Publishing Group.

Hillman, C. H., Erickson, K. I., & Kramer, A. F. (2008). Be smart, exercise your heart: Exercise effects on brain and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9, 58-65. doi:10.1038/nrn2298

Hirsch, G. (2001). Helping college students succeed: A model for effective intervention. Ann Arbor, MI: Sheridan Books.

Keyes, C. L. M. (2002). The mental health continuum: From languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 43, 207-222. doi: 10.2307/3090197

Kiewra, K. A. (1985). Students’ note taking behaviors and the efficacy of providing the instructors notes for review. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 10, 378-386.

Linn, R. L. & Gronlund, N. E. (1995). Measurement and assessment in teaching (7th Ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall

Locke, E. A. & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation. American Psychologist, 57, 705 - 717 

Marshall, J. S. (1981). A model for improving the retention and acadmeic achievement of nontraditional students at Livingston College/Rutgers University. (ED 203 831).

Mann, W., & Lash, J. (2004). Some facts psychologists know about… test and performance anxiety. Retrieved from http://www.schoolcounselor.org/rc_files/testanxietyhandout.pdf

Mednick, S., Nakayama, K. & Stickgold, R. (2003). Sleep-dependent learning: A nap is as good as a night. Nature Neuroscience, 6, 697-698. doi: 10.1038/nn1078

Oregon State University. Financial aid and scholarships. Retrieved from http://financialaid.oregonstate.edu/

Oregon State University. Office of the registrar. Retrieved from http://oregonstate.edu/registrar/

Pascarella, E. T. & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students (Vol. 3). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pauk, W. (1984). How to Study in College. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Ramirez, G. & Beilock, S. L. (2011). Writing about testing worries boosts exam performance in the classroom. Science, 331, pp. 211-213.

Reddy, S. (2013, September 2). The Perfect Nap: Sleeping Is a Mix of Art and Science: Why Some Snoozing Sessions Leave You Groggy While Others Help. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/home-page

Roediger, H. L. (2013). Applying cognitive psychology to education: Translational educational science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14, pp. 1-3.

Ruthig, J. C., Marrone, S., Hladkyj, S., & Robinson-Epp, N. (2011). Changes in college student health: Implications for academic performance. Journal of College Student Development, 52, 307-320. doi: 10.1353/csd.2011.0038

Sawyer, R. K. & Berson,S. (2005) Study group discourse: How external representations affect collaborative conversation. Linguistic and Education, 15, 387-412.

Seward, S. S. (1910). Notetaking. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Smilkstein, R. (2011). We're born to learn: Using the brain's natural learning process to create today's curriculum. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Sousa,  D. A. (2001). How the brain learns. London: Corwin Press.

Spitzer, H. F. (1939). Studies in retention. Journal of Educational Psychology, 30, 641-656.

Springer, L., Stanne, M. E., & Donovan, S.S. (1999). Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69, 21-51.

Steel, P. (2003). The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of self-regulatory failure. Retrieved August 13, 2013 from PsycNet.

Van Blerkom, D. L. (2010). Orientation to college learning. Boston: Wadsworth.

Wark, D. M., & Flippo, R. F. (1991). Preparing for and taking tests. In R. F. Flippo & D. C. Caverly (Eds.), Teaching reading & study strategies at the college level.Delaware: International Reading Association.

Where Do I Start?

We’ve organized the Learning Corner website to allow you to browse and navigate different topic areas based on topics you’re interested in exploring or that will help you improve your learning. If you’re looking for general success strategies or if you’re unsure of where to begin, we recommend these starting points:

  • Check out the handout “Zero to Success in 77 Days” which provides a week by week list of how to navigate the entire term.
  • Take the “Study Habits Inventory” (by Slate & Jones, and listed in Hazard & Nadeau, 2009) and score your answers. Do you see any themes? Are there areas of your academic success that need more development? Use the results to decide what work on next!
  • Set up a meeting with an academic coach at the Academic Success Center to talk about what’s working and what needs improvement when it comes to your academic success.
  • Check out some of our favorite books that give students information on being successful in college:
    • Cuseo, J. B., Fecas, V.S., Thompson, A. (2007). Thriving in College & Beyond: Research-based strategies for academic success & personal development. Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing.
    • Pauk, W. (1984) How to Study in College, 3rd Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
    • Van Blerkom, D.L. (2010). Orientation to College Learning, 6th ed. Boston: Wadsworth.

Our recommendations for students who say:

 “I can't concentrate"

I hate reading"

I can’t remember what I study

I’m a procrastinator

My test grades are low because I get test anxiety

“I can't concentrate"

Not being able to concentrate makes it difficult to focus when reading, taking notes, or studying. This can negatively impact your ability to store information in your long term memory for later use on tests or papers.  When students say they can’t concentrate, there are many things that might be going on. Here are a few pages that can help you learn more about this issue:

  • Concentration & Distractions - Learn tips for creating a good study environment and for identifying and monitoring your distractions. 
  • Reading Strategies - Try out these strategies for becoming an effective reader.  When reading, you can focus more intently if you have a purpose and plan prior to reading.  Using reading strategies can help you pay attention as you read, take effective notes while reading, and retain information that you've read.
  • Test Preparation & Studying - Discover study activities that keep you engaged during your study sessions.  Learn strategies for success with different exam types (multiple choice, essay, short answer, etc.).

 “I hate reading"

Reading textbooks in college might not have the same appeal as reading a novel, magazine, comic, Twitter, or Facebook. While you may not always enjoy your course textbooks, reading has an important function in college, and learning to read effectively can be beneficial for your study process.  Here are a few pages that can help you learn more about issue:

  • Reading Strategies - Read actively to find main ideas, to discover answers to questions, and to create notes and study guides for later review.
  • Goal Setting - Divide your reading into manageable chunks, set aside time to get that reading done, and reward yourself when you accomplish your goal.
  • The Memory Process - Focus on understanding the information you’re reading, monitoring your comprehension, and engaging personally with the reading. Try to connect the reading to what you already know or to a topic that is personally relevant to you.
  • Concentration & Distractions - Create an environment for reading that maximizes your ability to concentrate. Discover the best environment for you and the situations that either distract you or promote concentration. 
  • Positive Mindset - A positive attitude will help you concentrate on the material and retain it more effectively.  Dwelling on the fact that you dislike reading can use valuable time and distract you from the reading.

“I can’t remember what I study”

There is nothing more frustrating than getting to the end of a study session and realizing you can’t remember what you were working on. Here are a few pages that can help you learn more about this issue:

  • The Memory Process - Learn about the process by which information gets transferred into your long-term memory. Once you are familiar with the process, you can apply memory strategies to your reading, note-taking, and studying.
  • Time Management - Use time management techniques and test preparation planning to make sure you have enough time for studying effectively throughout the term. 
  • Test Preparation & Studying -  Find examples, connections, anecdotes and other interesting pieces of information to make the material relevant and exciting.  Find ways to engage with material that go beyond passive re-reading of your notes or textbook.  Use active learning strategies to fully engage with the material and commit it to memory.

“I’m a procrastinator”

Everyone procrastinates a little bit. By identifying yourself as a procrastinator, you limit your ability to see yourself as someone who can plan ahead and manage time well. In reality, there are many techniques and strategies that can help you limit your procrastination tendencies and be more productive with your time. Here are a few pages that can help you learn more about this issue:

  • Time Management - Time management techniques are a good start to counteracting procrastination.  If you plan how to spend your time, you are more likely to commit to an effective process for getting your work done.
  • Goal Setting - Setting realistic goals can generate energy around getting work started and completed.  If you an identify a support system for your goals (friends, family, study groups), you are more likely to remain accountable and accomplish those goals.
  • Managing Procrastination - Understand how procrastination occurs and review worksheets, time budgets, and other websites that can help you identify strategies that will help you stay focused on getting your work done. 

“My test grades are low because I get test anxiety”

There are many factors involved in how well you perform on tests or whether you experience test anxiety. You may feel like you "blanked" and couldn't recall information, like you didn’t earn the grade you expected on the exam, or like you got to the exam and didn’t have a chance to show what you knew. Here are a few pages that can help you learn more about this issue:

  • Test Preparation & Studying - Feelings of test anxiety may actually be the feelings of stress when you realize you didn’t prepare adequately for the exam.  Learn strategies for effective studying prior to exams and for planning for specific exam types (multiple choice, short essay, true/false, etc.).
  • Test Taking - Have a plan for the day, hours and minutes leading up to the exam. A strong plan and a set ritual can help you relax before the exam. Learn strategies to apply during exams if you feel stuck or like you can't recall information.
  • Test-Anxiety – Learn about some of the general causes of test anxiety and some of the techniques you can use to manage that anxiety before and during a test.
  • Using Resources - Seek out resources that help you master material and prepare for the test. Learn about techniques that can help you feel more confident in your preparation, like forming an effective study group or visiting office hours.
  • Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) - Work with a counselor on strategies for test anxiety, general anxiety, and stress. Students can meet with counselors for free, as the meetings are covered by student fees.

 

Elements adapted from Hirsch, G. (2001). Helping College Students Succeed: A Model for Effective Intervention. Ann Arbor, MI: Sheridan Books