Study skills

Study skills

Employ an in-depth study method:

Contextualization: obtain a complete overview by defining the theme and placing it in the context of the topic and programme.

Reading for comprehension. Read carefully but actively to enhance your understanding of lectures, if relevant, and consult textbooks. This includes analysis of the topic and the interrelation between the topic you are studying and previously studied topics.

Repetition for memorization. Write down and repeat out loud any definitions, concepts, new terminology, formulas and problems, equations, etc. already covered that need to be committed to memory. Bear in mind the importance of memory in the education process: without the capacity to memorize, it is not possible to acquire knowledge of any subject. However, this capacity is not simply a case of rote learning, but involves retaining what you have understood and making it your own. Often, we believe we know something because we have understood it, but there remains an essential step, i.e., memorization, and yet another step to ensure you achieve an A or an A+ in your exam grades, i.e., your command of the subject.

Methods for studying topics in more depth, carrying out exercises and problems, reading set texts, completing scheduled work, delivering projects, etc.

One final review is needed to ensure it is imprinted on your memory once and for all. Read through the theoretical information quickly, one last time, using practical methods.

Why is it worth going to class?

One basic principle for success in a subject is not missing classes:

• They help you understand the content more quickly.

• They help you identify the key points more easily. By attending lessons, you’ll gradually get to know the teacher’s expectations and you’ll find out what is considered most important. You’ll study more effectively afterwards, because you’ll revise the important points right away.

• They help you prepare your study materials.

• They help you differentiate between the difficult and easy points.

• They help establish relationships between content, topics and/or chapters.

• They ensure you stay in contact with your classmates and keep abreast of what’s happening in the subject.

How to prepare for a class

The teacher may present a book’s contents, but he or she will provide comments and explanations that will help you in your subsequent study. To get the most out of a class, you should try to be an active listener, ask questions and follow the teacher’s line of reasoning.

Before class

• Revise your notes from the previous lesson.

• Read about the topic in the recommended books.

• If there are published notes for the subject or support material in ADI, take a few minutes to read what they are going to explain.

During class

• In class, try to pay attention to as much as possible, and try to understand and learn it by heart. If you pay attention in class, 50% of your work is done.

• Take notes, but don’t write down everything the teacher says word for word. Focus on understanding. Concentrate on grasping the general idea.

• If you lose the thread at any time, you should respect your classmates’ concentration: leave a blank space and fill in what you didn’t understand at the end of the class.

• Try to respond to the questions asked by the teacher in general or those directed at your classmates.

• If any part of the explanation is unclear, ask.

After class

• Insert comments in your class notes, but don’t rewrite them.

• Can you define the objective of the lesson, link chapters and ideas from previous classes and draw conclusions on a topic?

Notes are:

• An important source of study material. In some cases, they are used as a basis to begin studying.

• A tool for making sure you pay attention in class.

• However, they shouldn’t replace guides or books. It doesn’t matter if your notes contain errors; the books contain the exact information.

How to identify the important concepts

• If the teacher outlines the lesson on the board, it may be useful to make a note of it.

• Follow the thread of the explanation and pay special attention to the relationship established between ideas. This should be captured in your notes.

• Be particularly accurate with definitions and demonstrations.

• Differentiate between the various parts of the subject.

• Pay close attention to the wording of problems and interpretation of the conclusions.

How to take notes

• Take selective notes and identify the key points.

• Make sure your notes are legible, leave spaces and underline.

• Keep them well organized with dates and page numbers, and sort them according to subject.

Review your notes as soon as possible

• Don’t leave more than 24 hours without completing your notes.

• Rewriting them is generally a waste of time.

• Check that they are legible, complete and comprehensible.

• Consult reference books and complete your notes.

• Underline the important points.

• Don’t write an outline or summary until the end of each topic.

• Consult them when practicing problems.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen”  – Winston Churchill.

To listen and to hear are apparently synonyms: to perceive sounds, words and messages with the ear. However, listening goes far beyond simply hearing, since it implies that you comprehend the information received and apply understanding to what you hear.

The sequence is also interesting: pay attention – understand – memorize.

Sometimes, apparent memory lapses are simply a failure to pay attention or to understand what you have heard or read.


In order to listen actively, you should avoid:

• Losing concentration and thinking about unrelated matters.

• Talking while you are being spoken to.

• Presuming that you already know what is being explained.

• Listening to only one part and ignoring details or subtleties that may be useful.

You should:

• Look at the person talking to you.

• Follow the explanation being given.

• Apply understanding to what is being said.

• Make a note of what is being said.

“Asking questions is proof that you think,” Tagore.

Throughout the year, you’ll certainly have questions about subjects. You should try to resolve them as quickly as possible, since gaps in your knowledge have a tendency to grow.

Questions that arise during class

• Ask your teachers; they are the best people to resolve any issues.

You can always ask during the lesson or at the end of class. You’ll have time between classes.

• You can use the time at the end of class to talk about issues from previous lessons.

Questions that arise during study

• First try to resolve any questions you have by consulting books or asking your classmates. If this doesn’t help, ask your teacher. That way, you’ll make better use of the explanation provided.

• Going to see your teachers when questions arise can be valuable for several reasons:

• Teachers can give you an overview of how to approach the subject, and this will help you study better.

• They get to know you personally and you get to know them. This makes communication easier from that moment on.

• Every teacher has a set timetable for dealing with students’ needs. Make a note of it in your work plan.

The aim of practical classes (case studies, problem-based and laboratory sessions, IT activities, etc.) is to learn from experience. Some tips that may help you:


• Review the theoretical knowledge that was covered in class or is related to what the practical classes will deal with.

• Anticipate and prepare the materials or resources to be used.


• Listen and take notes.

• Analyze and understand the problem.

• Apply theoretical knowledge to the topic covered in the practical class.

• Check and interpret the results of practical classes.


• Review the exercises and problems that were carried out.

• Carry out other exercises and problems proposed by the teacher and in related texts.

• Carry out a self-assessment of what you have learned.

Exercises or work

• These help identify how well you are absorbing what you are studying: whether you understand the basic concepts, if your style is appropriate, if you’re up to date on the subject, what aspects the teacher considers important, where your knowledge gaps and doubts lie, etc.

• It’s important to carry out these exercises and submit any work. Evaluate the results: they are a good indicator of the quality of your work. If the results are negative, go and see your advisor in order to find solutions and improve your performance.

When you have to write a paper or report, an important step is to check the information and ideas you intend to put across. To write a good paper, you should consult numerous sources: books, journals, encyclopedias, databases, etc.

All the information you need can be obtained from the University Library.

In addition, it is important to follow the criteria provided by the teacher: the format for citing sources, length, etc.

  • Superficial learning: you memorize the procedure and then repeat the topic or method. You’re able to recall and repeat most of what you have just read.
  • In-depth learning: you relate, integrate and apply the different parts. Over time you can remember more than if you had just learned it by heart.
  • Each university degree programme is a science that imparts a thought system.
  • Talk to your advisor to find out what questions to ask yourself about the lessons, books, notes and problems. If you know the reason for something, it’s easier to learn how to study it.
  • Don’t forget that in the First Year, you’ll be expected to learn the specific study skills and acquire the basic knowledge required for your degree.

First understand and then memorize what you have understood.

  • Understanding is:
  • “Getting” the subject as a whole; relating ideas to others and giving them unity.
  • Making the content your own in order to assimilate it, and being able to apply it.
  • Being able to explain it to a classmate or the teacher during the exam.
  • Understanding something well makes it easier to remember. We remember 40% of what we hear (without taking notes); 60% of what we read (taking notes); 80% of what we study (drawing diagrams); and 100% of what we explain to others.
  • Besides understanding something, it’s important to learn it by heart. It’s not enough to read it numerous times; you have to know how to recall it. It’s a process of retrieving information from within.
  • You then have to know how to relate what you already know and remember well to other aspects or parts of the subject until you have an overall view.

How to maintain your concentration while you study

  • Before you start, make sure you have all the material you need.
  • Avoid interruptions. Switch off your mobile phone.
  • Divide the subjects you plan to study by the amount of time you have available.
  • Don’t adopt an overly comfortable position.
  • Make sure the room has the appropriate conditions: it should be quiet, with suitable lighting, tidy, etc.
  • Make a habit of studying in the same place and at the same time.
  • Use a pencil and paper.
  • If you think of something unrelated to study, take a note of it and deal with it later.
  • Make sure you get to the end of the study period and the subject matter, even if it requires hard work. Your capacity for concentration will increase gradually.

As you can imagine, this is a personal choice. Everyone studies best in a different place. Find the place that suits you best as quickly as possible.



• You can resolve any questions that arise.

• You keep in touch with other people and stay up to date with any news about the subject.

• It provides a good study environment where you’re less likely to be interrupted.

If you study in the LIBRARY, bear in mind:

• You should remain silent and respect other users.

• Don’t waste time with your classmates. Breaks can be risky. If you go out for a break and meet someone, don’t forget you’re there to study.

• Take everything you need.


Group study: “Teaching is learning twice”

• Study groups present opportunities to clear up questions, strengthen knowledge and acquire the habits and skills that are necessary for communicating with others.

• Studying in a group means studying a subject that everyone has already studied individually.

• It’s a good idea to include time for group study in your weekly timetable.

Group study: What for?

• To complete your notes.

• To make sure you don’t fall behind in a subject.

• To explain the things you’ve understood. This requires a very clear understanding of the subject matter.

• To clarify any questions that hadn’t occurred to you.

• To get clarification on questions that have come up during your personal study time.

Not all subjects are equal, although they are all important for your degree programme. Each subject has its own unique features and an appropriate way to study it.

Several things may happen to you:

• You lack basic understanding and don’t realize it until the final exams.

• You get lost in class, take inadequate notes and declare the subject a write-off.

• You don’t enjoy studying it.

• You think you’re doing well, but you haven’t checked.

A few tips to avoid getting lost:

• Ask the teacher for advice and attend seminars, etc.

• Consider group work so that your classmates can support you.

• Ask someone in a higher year who performed well in the subject.

Confronted with a seemingly impossible subject, you may wonder: Do I need private classes? Bear in mind that:

• They are often an unnecessary expense.

• They don’t help you reason, but encourage a passive attitude.

• They programme you to automatically resolve standard problems.

• They help you memorize classified problems.

• They give you a false sense of security and knowledge.

An alternative is making the most of what the University can offer, such as asking questions in class, talking to the teacher in the subject, suggesting that an extra seminar be held, talking to your advisor and being imaginative. Trying to find solutions to problems.