Study skills and why you need them

by Anita Naik

Good study skills can improve your ability to learn and retain knowledge, as well as ensure you maximise your revision time. Developing them and using them can help you feel in control of your work, as well as help you feel more confident around exam time. Here are the skills you need.

Effective reading

While we all know how to read, not everyone understands effective reading. Unlike reading for pleasure, effective reading is an active process that helps you to learn as you read. It requires you to focus on what you are reading, make links between texts, understand opinions within the book and think about how it relates to what you already know.

The critical part of this process is to learn to read critically. Analyse, as you read, question what the author is telling you and evaluate your opinion as you go through the text. Learning to do this takes time but try working in short bursts with breaks, to improve your comprehension and retention.

Finally, skim reading and scanning also have a place in effective reading. Start to skim read to get an overview or scan to look for specific pieces of information. If the text is complex and you need to remember a lot of it you can then read it more carefully and make notes.


A skill that goes side by side with effective reading is note-taking. Again note-taking isn't just writing down everything you read. It's about filtering what you read and selecting the key information you need. Notes can take the form of:

1. Highlighting important opinions and ideas. Use highlighters in different colours to identify different ideas and sections.

2. You can also code your notes in a traffic light system. Green for what you know well, amber for areas that need attention and red for sections you need to learn.

3. Writing questions n the margins of your notes will also make you question what you are learning as you go back over your notes.

4. Adding summaries to flashcards of essential sections, with ideas, dates and keywords.

Organisation and time management

Learning how to manage your time goes hand in hand with being organised. These are skills that don't come easily to everyone but can be learnt.

1. Have a set area to study in. This helps with both time management and organisation, as all your notes, books and equipment are always in one place ready to go.

2. Create a to-do list, so you have a sense of achievement you will feel as you score things off. If you think you've got a lot of work to do break it all down into smaller tasks and split them across a few days''. This way, even if you manage even just a little bit of what you need to do each day, you'll still be on track to have it all done.

3. Set up a routine. Routines get you into a pattern of getting your work done. The key is to know when you work best. Is it first thing in the morning or later at night? Are you more productive in 90-minute blocks or longer? Find what works for you and stick to it.

4. Manage your study time. If you are working in 90-minute blocks, focus on one set piece of work for that time, with an end sight goal. For more extended periods of study break up the time with different subjects to help keep your focus.


Memorisation is a skill that is needed by all students. The good news is there are a variety of methods, which will help with memorisation. Try them all out to see which work best for you. Methods include mind maps, quizzes, creating flashcards, word association and mnemonic devices.

Interestingly teaching other people what you have learned is a fantastic way to memorise work. It not only solidifies new information in your brain but also helps you better understand it.

Spaced repetition where you review the material over and over at incremental time intervals; also helps when you have to memorise facts.

Who can help?

If you are struggling with the above or want to hone your study skills, our tutors can help. Get in touch today.