Resources & Strategies

Subject-Specific Tips

Though general study skills can be applied across all subjects, some subjects employ a different form of thinking and therefore, can require a different form of studying. Below are some tips and resources that will help you study most efficiently for any of your biology, chemistry, history, or social science classes!

Website Resources

Reading in a Biology/Chemistry Textbook

Be sure to utilize your strategic reading skills!

Avoid highlighting every word of your biology textbook - you're not reading a novel. Since much of the information is organized in diagrams and charts, and key concepts are often defined by structure and function, you will become more efficient and understand more using these methods:

  1. Pay attention to diagrams and charts. Use the text as a dictionary to help you read these illustrations more closely.
  2. Try to figure out as much as you can by looking at a diagram alone. Use the writing in the text only to confirm and supplement the diagram.
  3. If you think you'll need to identify parts of a diagram from the book on an exam, try to make your own diagram and label it as you test yourself.
  4. Make sure you can define the italicized words-both by example and by their relation to the main headings and subheadings of the chapter.
  5. Learn the steps of the important processes described in your textbook (the ones your instructor discussed in class).
  6. Put the key points of each chapter into a graphic organizer that best suits you.

General Tips

  • The CrashCourse Youtube channel had lots of videos on history as well as political science, psychology, and sociology. These videoes should not be used as a substitute for information from class, but rather as a study aid when reviewing.
  • Read before class: Professors tend to assign readings that provide background on the discussion for class. Reading before class will help you learn more in class and engage more in discussion.
  • Participate in discussion: A lot of these classes function on discussion and the professors really enjoy when students participate!

Tips for Reading History and Social Sciences Textbooks

  • Continue to use your strategic reading skills when reading a history or social science textbook:
  • Read through the introduction thoroughly - this will tell what main points, key terms, and events you should look for.
  • A lot of social sciences literature show relationships in what they report, using words like "for example", "for instance" "on the one hand", "nevertheless", "however", "because" and "therefore". When you see these words, you can probably safely guess they are making an important conclusion or statement.
  • List these conclusions in the Cause and Effect graphic organizer or any other that fits your needs!
  • Study the examples provided - these help commit the main points to memory.
  • Most importantly, do not try to read every word of the text. This can overwhelm you and have a negative effect on what you remember. By looking for the main points, examples, and key conclusions, you can effectively engage with the text.

A short list of problem-solving tips:

  • Work on material regularly- several days a week, if not every day. Work on practice problems every time.
  • Conduct a preview of the content before each class, focusing specifically on lecture notes provided beforehand and/or assigned readings.
  • Within 24 hours of class, possibly right after, review your notes. Fill in any missing content, write out questions to ask about in the next class session, etc. Make sure your notes are clear.
  • At the end of each review session, quiz yourself on key concepts. Consider periodic cumulative reviews (weekly, perhaps).
  • Once or twice a week work with the textbook and resources such as Khan Academy to study more in-depth, even if problems are not assigned or being graded. This will help develop an understanding of the material to ensure higher degrees of success on future graded work.
  • Try creating visuals (graphic organizers, flow charts, etc.) to help you remember or make sense of a tough concept.
  • Identify clues in the problem that may suggest which formula or approach will make sense.
  • Once you know how to solve a problem completely, find more problems like this one. Practice these problems as if they were on a test, without looking at the sample problem. Then, identify errors. This way, you are able to truly test your knowledge and identify particular steps that may be causing you issues, helping you be more targeted in your studies.
  • Practice checking your work--discuss strategies with your professor, classmates, or content tutor on how to review a problem for possible errors. Sometimes there are common sense clues you can become aware of.
  • Spread out the time to practice so you aren't trying to do it all at once, especially if it is a source of stress.
  • Try to watch for anything that might be confusing, and identify ways to keep ideas straight--clues in the words, numbers, etc.
  • Practice good stress management in general. Deep breathing daily and whenever entering a stressful situation or when you observe symptoms of stress. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Take care of yourself. Remember you are human.
  • Be aware of and work to reduce any negative self-talk. Nobody is born understanding these concepts! Work and regular practice are required for true understanding and some content takes more time and practice than others. 
  • Don't be afraid to seek help! Take advantage of learning labs, tutoring, your professor's office hours, etc. to find answers to your questions.