So many college students struggle because they don’t know how to study. They cram the night before tests, wait until the last minute to write papers, or don’t take good notes in class. Every college student has to learn how to study, no matter their level of intelligence. So I asked our faculty and staff at HBU what advice they had for studying and test preparation.

As Dr. Jerry Walls in our School of Humanities said, “Understand that your family, and HBU and your professors want you to succeed, but the person most important to care about your success will always be you.”

College student, we can give you all the advice in the world to help you succeed, and we hope that you will, but at the end of the day, you must decide that you will put in the effort to read, study every day, learn how to take good notes, work with your peers, and test yourself. You have to take ownership of your college education.

Good college students read a lot.

Read everything that is assigned. – Dr. Matt Boyleston, School of Fine Arts

Read the day’s assignments before class! You’ll be better prepared to follow the lecture, contribute to class discussions, and ask relevant questions for clarification. – Dr. Emily Stelzer, School of Humanities

Dr. Collin Garbarino has a practical blog about taking notes on what you read.

Successful college students study every day.

Study every day and particularly before the next class in that subject. The knowledge builds upon itself and it is much easier to understand the daily lecture if you comprehend the material that was given to you yesterday. – Dr. Jackie Horn, College of Science and Mathematics

Study in small “chunks.”  That means staying faithful to the time you have committed to doing the reading, researching, writing, and studying on a daily basis—not just right before class.  – Dr. Kaye Busiek, School of Education and Behavioral Sciences

Give your studying 100% of your focus.

You can’t read and watch TV or listen to music at the same time. – Dr. Matt Boyleston

People are so interested in multi-tasking because they know that there are many things that must be tackled daily.  Instead of multi-tasking — the equivalent of doing half-a-job on several items at once — focus on a task, complete it to the best of your ability, congratulate yourself on a job well done, and then move on to the next task.  – Dr. Jackie Horn

Study at the time you are most awake — mornings, afternoons, evenings. – Samantha Bottoms, Academic Success Center

Good students find the study techniques that work for them.

Realize that technique is important in studying. The students who do well are not necessarily the most naturally intelligent students but rather the ones who go about studying in an organized, consistent manner. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said that if you study steadily you do not have to study hard. – Dr. Anthony Joseph, School of Humanities

Experiment with different study tools. If you are struggling, ask students who are doing well about their study strategies. Keep experimenting with different approaches and eventually you will find what works for you. – Dr. Brenda Whaley, College of Science and Mathematics

How do you take notes?

Write lecture notes down on paper during lecture. After class and while studying, write the notes again, several times. Most of us are tactile learners and one of the best ways to learn is to get our hands involved. – Dr. Avin Brownlee, College of Science and Mathematics

Learn the art of note-taking and not simply copying what is written on a board or directly from a textbook. Note-taking involves making connections beyond what is expressed, posing questions and answering them, and allowing room for your own thoughts about the subject that is being notated. – Mon’Sher Spencer, Student Life

If your professor moves too quickly for you to take notes by hand, rewrite your typed notes by hand after class or print your typed notes out and annotate the printout with your thoughts and questions. Use different colors and fonts. Do anything and everything to figure out what helps you remember and understand. – Joannah Buffington, Office of the President

I also recommend Dr. Garbarino’s blog about note-taking.

Are you reviewing your notes?

After class go over your notes, organize them. If there is a lot of material, make a flow diagram of information to help you learn all of the material. – Dr. Doris Warren, College of Science and Mathematics

Review the information you learned during the day at least once at the end of the day. Doing this can help you retain the information longer. – Sarah Holland, University Events & Conferences

For every hour of class you have, prepare at least an hour before and an hour after. This doesn’t mean you constantly have to be in the library, nose glued to books, with no “life” outside of academics. What it does mean is you prepare for what will be discussed/taught before the class and digest what was discussed/taught after the class. – Mon’Sher Spencer

Are you testing yourself?

In each class, make every effort to learn how to use your study time to test and grade yourself in a way that simulates the exam format for the class. Research shows that self-testing (i.e. retrieval practice) is a very effective method for long-term retention of the material (see “The Critical Importance of Retrieval for Learning” by Karpicke and Roediger in a 2008 issue of Science Magazine). – Dr. Saul Trevino, College of Science and Mathematics

Are you in a good study group?

Find friends that you can study effectively with. I always tell my students that if they can “teach” their friends the material, then they have effectively learned it themselves. – Dr. Meredith O’Hara, College of Science and Mathematics

Learning is not always fun, but being accountable to others in a study group by agreeing to teach each other and quiz each other can help motivate you to put in the work of learning the material. Don’t let the material control you and stress you out. Instead, you control the material, master it, and make it your own. – Dr. Saul Trevino

Join a study group.  Studying with others helps the information “stick” more easily, keeps you accountable, and is more fun! – Dr. Kaye Busiek


Related College Blogs:


When writing a paper…

Give yourself time to read and revise essay assignments before submitting them. This is pretty basic stuff, but the fundamentals are important if you want to succeed! – Dr. Emily Stelzer

Start papers at least a week in advance. Write 3 pages for every 1 page of the length assigned and edit down to your best work. – Dr. Matt Boyleston

Master your schedule.

Build your schedule backwards from the due dates of assignments and tests.  Schedule everything, including athletic events, meals, homework, classes, social events, etc. – Dr. Angie Durand, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences

Set yourself a “Study Schedule” and stick to it as if it were actual class time. If you’re expected to be in class, you’re there. Treat your Study Schedule with the same discipline and “be there.” – Susan Priest, School of Nursing and Allied Health

Utilize the gap-times in your day, like between classes. If you study or prepare for class during those times, you can free up your evenings for campus involvement. – Samantha Bottoms

Good students ask questions and seek help…

from professors

Ask questions in class. Someone else likely is confused also. – Dr. Taiya Fabre, College of Science and Mathematics

Make sure you are clear about the expectations for the class session or upcoming test.  If you’re confused, don’t put off speaking with the professor.  Also, the course outline in the syllabus is a very handy reference. – Dr. Kaye Busiek

Mark the items in the reading assignment that you do not understand. Listen in class for the teacher’s explanation. If you still don’t understand, ask a question. Faculty members love for students to ask questions! Most students in the class are wondering the same thing, but are not brave enough to ask. Be sure and work on any homework assignments designed for you to do before you come to class. Again, this will allow you to determine what you don’t understand and give a starting point for your professor to give you extra help in his/her office. – Dr. Doris Warren

from the Academic Success Center

The Academic Success Center can be a huge help with exams and papers. Don’t just sit in your dorm room and despair! Reach out and get help from people who care for you. Do it early because everybody waits until the last minute. – Jeremy Neill, School of Humanities

Get help at the academic success center if you are having problems with reading and understanding. – Dr. Vickey Giles, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences


Blog edited by Joannah Buffington

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