On this page, you will find a variety of tips for improving your academic skills to help you be successful at OWU.

Textbook Tips

Lecture Tips

Stress Tips

Outside Resources

Textbook Tips

Many students skip this important step in studying and preparing for class. Your textbook is a valuable resource. It may contain more detail about subjects from lecture, provide relevant examples, and it may also give summaries and important vocabulary terms. Here are some general tips that may help make textbook reading less of a chore:

Study in a quiet environment with adequate lighting

  • Don't read in bed. You'll fall asleep. For the best focus, you should be seated upright in an environment with good lighting.
  • Don't read while listening to music with lyrics. You'll get distracted. If you feel like you must block out background noise in some way, try listening to instrumental music or white noise.

Read carefully

  • Differentiate between skimming to get an overview, casual reading like you would do for a novel and reading for content, which is what you want to do with textbooks.

Get rid of your highlighter

  • The methods you'll learn involve no highlighting. Highlighting something does not mean that you know it any better, it simply means that you have read it once.

Read actively

  • Think about what the author is saying, formulate questions in your mind, use intonation to imagine what the words sound like and to organize your thoughts.

Here are some tried-and-true methods for reading your textbooks. Keep in mind that you may need to adapt these methods to fit your learning style. But try them for at least 2 weeks before you decide whether or not they work for you.

SQ3R Method

The SQ3R system was developed in the 1940s by a psychologist from Ohio State and has remained popular for many years.

S » Survey » Go through the chapter and get an overview of what you'll be reading. Look over the chapter and section headings, read the sections summaries, and look at charts and graphs. Try to get a feel for how the chapter is organized.

Q » Question » Turn the chapter and section headings into questions. This will help to identify the main points that you should be reading.

R1 » Read » Read each paragraph or section actively to answer the question you formulated.

R2 » Recite » After you have read a paragraph or section, cover up the page and try to recite the answer to the question you created. If you cannot do this, reread the section and try again.

R3 » Review » When you are done reading, go back to the beginning and glance through what you have read. Think about your questions and answers. You will finish with an overview of the chapter.

Question-in-the-Margin System

This system is based on the SQ3R method, with a few additional steps added in. It includes the formation of questions after the reading has been done, as well as adding a final step to encourage thinking about the material in depth.

Survey » Skim over the chapter to get an overview of what you'll be reading. Read the chapter and section headings and read any summaries.

Question » Turn each heading into a question by adding words such as "what," "how," or "why."

Read » Read carefully and actively. After a few paragraphs, stop to think about the main idea of what you read, the supporting details, and how they're linked together.

Questions-In-the-Margin » In the margin write a brief question about what you read. Then use a pencil to underline only the key words and phrases in the text that make up the answer.

Recite » Cover the textbook page, leaving only the questions in the margins showing. Recite your answers to the questions out loud if possible and then check your answers.

Review » Go back to the beginning and glance over your questions again. Try to remember the answers and get a feel for how the chapter fits together as a whole.

Reflect » Once you've mastered the facts, go back and think about them for a few minutes. Think about their relevance to lecture, how they fit together in the chapter, and try to integrate them into your existing knowledge.

By using either of these techniques, you will become a more active, thorough reader. Although they may seem time-consuming and difficult to remember, once you get in the habit of doing them, you will see they take up little extra time and are very valuable tools for learning. 

Lecture Tips

Your lecture is the most important means for learning and understanding material for class. You should be prepared, maintain concentration, and be an active listener in class.

Be Prepared

Often the reason attention strays during lectures is because students are not prepared for class and don't know what the speaker will be discussing. Here are some tips for being prepared:

  1. Always read before class
    • Make it a goal to always have the assigned reading finished.
    • If you don't have time to completely finish, at least skim the major headings so you'll have some notion of the topic and how to organize your notes.
  2. Quickly review notes from last class before the lecture begins
    • Taking 5 minutes between classes will jog your memory and is good review to decrease amount of studying later.

Maintain Focus and Concentration

  1. Location, Location, Location
    • Make it a point to sit in the front row of your classes—you will see and hear better and it will be easier to remain alert and attentive.
    • If you can't sit in the front row, at least sit in the middle row, professors look in this T formation most of the time, and again you will be more engaged in the lecture.
  2. Take morning classes if possible
    • Most people are much more alert in the morning than afternoon or evening.
    • If you can't schedule early classes, at least get up, have a good breakfast, and prepare for your class in the morning.
  3. Minimize external distractions
    • If you know that sitting by the window will distract you, then move to another area of the classroom. Also avoid sitting near doors if traffic and noise will disturb you.
    • Only sit with friends if you are sure you won't be tempted to socialize during class.
  4. Minimize internal distractions
    • Keep a "worry pad" to jot down any thoughts which keep popping up as an assurance that you will deal with them later.
    • If your mind is wandering, try to think of a one-sentence topic for the lecture in order to bring you back to the present.
    • Try not to think about work you have in other classes. Focus on the here and now.

Be an Active Listener

Pauk (2001) suggests you use the 3 A's of listening

Attitude » Maintain a positive attitude

  • Go into each class assuming the professor has something useful to say.
  • Maintain focus even if he or she expresses an opinion different than your own.

Attention » Concentration and focus are keys

  • Anticipate the lecture and become curious about the subject.
  • Concentrate on actually processing ideas instead of just copying them down.

Adjustment » alter your expectations as the lecture proceeds

  • Often lectures go where the audience interest lies or are led astray by an interesting question. Try to keep up with these shifts of focus and reflect them in your notes.
  • Don't just tune out the parts that don't fit what you expected- these are often the most interesting!

Being ready for class and actively participating in lectures will make them a much more valuable learning experience.

Pauk, W. (2001). How to study in college (7th Edition). Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Try the Cornell Note-Taking System

This system helps make note-taking a more effective tool in preparing for class and exams by giving you space within your notes to write study questions about the material and succinctly sum up and entire page of information. This system in turn helps you to be more actively engaged with the material both during and after class.

Download a sample of the Cornell System template.

Stress Tips

Being able to deal effectively with the stress of college life can help students find greater success in their academics.

The demands placed on college students can be very stressful, but thankfully, with a few tip and tricks, much of that stress can be avoided.

Be Prepared

Anything can seem overwhelming if you are not prepared ahead of time. Some ways to stay prepared are:

  • Reading the text before class.
  • Finishing assignments before the due date.
  • Studying well in advance of exams to avoid cramming if possible.
  • Asking professors what is expected for the exams and what format the test will use,

Get Some Sleep

Not getting enough sleep and being constantly tired is enough to put anyone on edge, and getting good, restful sleep is even more important on the eve of tests (another reason to avoid cramming). To help improve your sleeping habits you should:

  • Reserve your bed for sleeping, not studying.
  • Manage your time so you can schedule appropriate amount of sleep.
  • Exercise frequently.
  • Eat a healthy diet.

Positive Thinking

Doubts and negative attitudes play a huge role in causing stress. Being able to visualize your success and having a positive attitude can effectively reduce much of the anxiety caused by school. Remember, with the right amount of work and determination, you can succeed.

Deep Breathing and Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation are two techniques that work to reduce stress through physical relaxation.

Read more about Deep Breathing.

Read more about Progressive Muscle Relaxation.

Outside Resources

HowToStudy.org (for study skills in different disciplines)


Academic Skills Center Contact Info


Sagan Academic Resource Center
Hamilton-Williams Campus Center #324
61 S. Sandusky St.
Delaware, Ohio 43015
P (740)-368-3925
E arc@owu.edu