Effective Study Skills and Academic Performance

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Introduction

Effective study skills are necessary for a college student to excel academically. The student must develop these skills in order to retain information learned in the present for their future benefit. Study skills can be a combination of several techniques, including time management, note-taking, self-testing, and test-wiseness, to name a few. There is no one best way to study, therefore, techniques can be tailored to the needs of the student to achieve the most optimal result. However, diagnostic testing is also available to assist students in assessing their weaknesses in their learning behaviors and study habits. Research has shown that effective study skills lead to improved academic performance. The habits that students develop during their college years will remain with them long after graduation and will be reflected in their performance in the workforce. This paper will provide insight into the different techniques that improve study skills, and in turn, improve academic performance.

The Merriam – Webster Dictionary defines the word study as "the application of the mental faculties to the acquisition of knowledge, which can be in a particular field or to a specific subject." The dictionary then defines skill as "the ability to use one's knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance." A rather general combination of the two terms would yield, "learning and motivational strategies considered essential in being successful in college" (Tuckman, 2003 page). A more in depth conceptualization of the term is the "competence in acquiring, recording, organizing, synthesizing, remembering, and using information and ideas, and are among the skills that can be modified for learners of all ages" (Harvey, 1995 page). In other words, study skills are systemized approaches to learning and retaining knowledge to apply to academic and non-academic progression in college and beyond college (White, 2004).

Gettinger and Siebert (2002) concluded that effective study skills lead to positive results across multiple academic fields. Research has even shown that study skills yield "benefit[s]…in areas beyond improving their academic performance" (White, 2004, p.38). Study skills are vital because they help to improve one’s retention of information, aid in strengthening one’s performance in classes and in evaluation, and to assist in applying information in real life or in work setting.

Effective study skills can take the form of a range or combination of various learning strategies and techniques. All, when performed properly, increase the possibility of improved academic performance. Additionally, the amount of time spent studying in class can also increase a student’s likelihood to perform better academically. Research shows that it is unclear whether the amount of time spent studying is more important than having effective study habits. While a majority of college students lack the skill sets for effective studying, many researchers argue that it is the time spent studying that will have the greatest effect on performance. One study shows that upon entrance to college, most students are less prepared than their counterparts from decades ago (Nonis and Hudson, 2006). As the demands of college-level work increase, the motivation and time spent studying must also increase to maintain or improve academic performance. However, since 1987, time spent studying outside of class has steadily been on the decline (Higher Education Research Institute, 2003). Surveys taken by college freshmen from 413 of the nation’s colleges showed that only 34 percent of these students spent six or more hours per week studying during their senior year of high school. The assumption was made that study habits were carried forward into college and explain the lack of preparedness for students completing college-level work. In another study of college freshmen, the correlation between time spent outside of class on academic...
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