When I was transitioning from high school to university, I was advised to study three hours for every hour of lecture I attended. Being the keen student that I was (and still am—to an extent), I tried my hardest to follow this rule from the very first lecture. However, this piece of advice neglected to teach me HOW to study, which I struggled to figure out over the next three years. Now, as a fourth-year student, I’m still not an expert by any means—but I’ve picked up a few things along the way.
1) Begin practicing active learning early.
Active learning is when you study in a way that engages your brain, allowing you to remember and understand the information. In other words, it’s when you make your brain work hard to maximize study time.
In contrast, passive learning is when you do not engage with the study material, and simply let it wash over you. This includes reading the textbook or listening to a lecturer.
We all learn passively sometimes, but it’s important to try to use active learning as much as possible. For example, instead of passively highlighting your textbook as you read, try writing important points in your own words as you go instead. Some active learning techniques I personally use now include mind mapping, answering questions that I make up based on the textbook, and making elaborate diagrams for confusing concepts.
2) Change your study techniques when they’re not working for you.
When I entered university, I wanted to find one study strategy that would work seamlessly for every single one of my classes. However, I’ve since learned that this is unrealistic. It will actually vary depending on how you’re being graded. For example, are the exams multiple choice or long answer? For multiple choice, you have to recognize the information; for long answer, you have to know enough details to be able to recall it. Will you be expected to answer math question or write essays? Try to pay attention to how you’re expected to know the information and adapt accordingly.
It’s important to keep the same mindset for your active learning techniques. Not every active learning strategy will work for you—and that’s completely normal! For example, flashcards are a great way to study that I have to accept do not work for me because they make me feel scattered. I also cannot keep up with lecture if I am taking notes by hand—I absolutely have to type. All you can do is try different active learning techniques out and be willing to change it up if/when it is not working!
Ultimately, university will not expect you to study three hours for every hour of lecture. What it will expect from you is active engagement with your studies, and the flexibility to be able to learn different kinds of material. Whether you’re just starting out or in the middle of your studies, I believe it is important to acknowledge these expectations and make the effort to meet them.
For more guidance on how to study, the Academic Learning Centre is a great resource for all University of Manitoba students! You can find out more here.
About the Author
Hey everyone! I'm going into my fourth year of psychology with the Faculty of Science. I joined hu because I want to make a positive impact on the university community by talking about mental health-- a topic I truly love.
I'm a people-loving introvert that spends her free time immersed in stories, whether it be video games, books, TV, or music. I also love to swim!