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Study Skills

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Starting and Completing an Assignment

How to succeed at reading, planning and doing assignments in College and University.

Many students struggle with starting projects.  This tip sheet will help you get started and guide you through the steps of reading, planning, and doing your next assignment.

1 - Read it

  • Read the assignment instructions slowly and carefully
  • Highlight or circle key words and instructions
  • Ask your teacher to clarify the instructions if you are unclear
  • Be sure you know exactly what is being evaluated and what is expected
  • Ask for help if needed


2 - Plan it

  • Map out or break down all the pieces of the assignment
  • Create an assignment task list
  • Measure the time you think you will need for each section
    • Plan to spend 1 hour for every 5% the assignment is worth
  • Set due dates for each piece of the assignment and put them on your calendar
  • Re-read assignment


3 - Do it

  • Use reminders on phone, computer, and write on your calendar to ensure you stick to your plan
  • Focus your energy and remove any distractions when working on it
  • Reward yourself after each completed section
  • Review the assignment again; use a checklist to ensure all points are covered
  • Complete it a few days before it is due to allow for ample time for editing
  • When asking for help with editing, be specific with what you want your editor to look for: flow, grammar, content, APA, spelling, etc.
  • Take advantage of the support in the Writing Centre in the library for editing help

My Assignment Checklist

Read it...

Have I read the assignment instructions and rubric?
Have I highlighted or circled the key words?
Do I understand what I am supposed to do?
Am I clear on what I am being evaluated on?
Do I have any questions?
Do I need to get help?


Plan it...

Have I broken down the assignment in to chunks?
Have I measured the time needed for each section?
Have I set due dates and put them on my calendar?
Did I re-read the assignment instructions?


Do it...

Do I have reminders on my phone?
Am I limiting distractions and focusing on my work?
Have I given myself rewards after completing a section?
Have I re-read the assignment?
Have I edited or asked someone to edit my assignment?
Have I read the assignment out loud to listen for clarity?
Have I reassessed my plan?


Finally, reflect on how working on this assignment went and what you will do the next time you have an assignment.

Understanding My Learning Style

There are four main learning styles: visual, auditory, read/write and kinesthetic. Your preferred learning style is like your favourite pair of shoes: what you go to first. You may prefer one style over another, but preferences develop like muscles: the more they are used, the stronger they become. Successful students have flexible and integrated learning styles.

Use your preferred learning style to maximize how you take in information and study

Learning Style

How you prefer to learn

How you best take in information


Learn best by seeing information and images in the mind (visualizing)
  • Use photos, diagrams and posters
  • See the whole picture
  • Underline, highlight and use different colours
  • Use colours, symbols, mind maps and diagrams
  • Review the diagrams in the text and then read the text that explains them
  • Create flow charts


Hand cupped over an ear
Learn best by hearing, listening and talking things through
  • Attend classes and tutorials
  • Read aloud
  • Talk through the problem
  • Use rhythm, speaking, music
  • Express ideas verbally and explain to others
  • Record lectures to supplement notes


Learn best through reading and writing information and concepts
  • Make lists
  • Read glossaries and definitions
  • Often make notes verbatim, re-read them and summarize later into study notes
  • Textbook and handouts preferred formats
  • Turn charts and diagrams into words


Learn best through physical activity and "hands-on" learning
  • Go for a walk, build something, be active
  • Interact with material, and get involved
  • Use post-its, cue cards and models
  • Connect steps in a process to your walk to work, or your morning routine (ie. Get out of bed = the first step, get dressed = the second step, etc)

How to Study Using Your Learning Style

Learning Style How you prefer to study How you best understand and remember information


Studies best by seeing information and images in the mind (visualizing)
  • Use photos, diagrams and written information
  • Use colours, symbols, mind maps and diagrams when you study
  • Replace words with symbols, acronymns or initials
  • Find YouTube videos with lots of visuals
  • Create a mind map of the chapter
  • Rework your notes into picture pages
  • Practice putting pictures back into words


Studies best by hearing, listening and talking things through
  • Your class notes may be poor because you prefer to listen
  • Ask to photocopy classmates notes
  • Summarize notes and record them to listen to
  • Work through problems out loud
  • Find YouTube videos that explain the concepts
  • Explain your notes to a classmate
  • Record lectures to supplement notes


Studies best through reading and writing information and concepts
  • Write out the words again and again
  • Read notes over and over
  • Rewrite ideas into your own words
  • Imagine your lists arranged in multiple choice questions
  • Write your own exam questions to practice


Studies best through physical activity and "hands-on" learning
  • Your notes may be poor because the topics were not "concrete" or "relevant"
  • You remember 'real' things that happened
  • Use post-its, cue cards and models to match concepts
  • Include examples in your study notes and apply to a case study or real example
  • Take brain breaks when you study and move your body


Presentations in college give you the opportunity to demonstrate to your teacher that you have researched and are knowledgeable on a specific subject. It sounds simple, but many students struggle with this style of evaluation.

This tip sheet will provide you with practical strategies to plan, prepare and present effectively as well as overcome nerves. It's as easy as 1-2-3.

Step 1 - Ready


Ensure you have read the assignment carefully paying attention to: the length of the presentation, format, specific content that must be covered, and supporting documents. Ask yourself: What is the purpose of this presentation?

Begin researching and gathering information on your topic. This often takes longer than you think, so begin the assignment early. (See tip sheet: task management). A popular strategy is to plan to present three main points.


Step 2 - Set


Using sticky notes, brainstorm all of the possible things you could include in your presentation. Cluster these ideas into themes. Re-read the assignment to ensure you are covering the right information. Map out your presentation visually by creating cue cards with jot notes for each slide. This story board will allow you to rearrange, revise and delete information from your presentation. Turn your storyboard into a slide deck or speaking points having one key message per slide. Rehearse as this will increase your confidence and let you assess the flow of your presentation (see back for checklist).


● Tell them what they are going to learn


● Tell them


● Tell them what they learned


Step 3 - Go


The day of the presentation; choose to wear comfortable clothes, stay well hydrated, bring your speaking notes, a copy of the slides and your confidence. Review the information prior to presentation.


Relieving Tension

See the checklist on the back for specific ideas, but here are a few important ways to stay on top of presentation nerves. Start your presentation with something that will take the focus off of you (like a short video), walk around during the presentation instead of staying behind the podium, and most importantly, use the tension as it can help you stay focused, The audience doesn’t know that you are nervous unless you tell them.

Presentation Checklist

Ready - Plan

I have read the assignment carefully, noting key details: topic, length/how long, supporting documents
I am clear on the purpose of this assignment. If not, Question: ?
I have researched the topic and gathered information
I have organized my research into categories
I have identified 3 main points


Set - Prepare

I have brainstormed all of the possible points I could include in my presentation
I have clustered these ideas into themes
I have organized them into my 3 main points
I have re-read the assignment again to be sure I am on track
I have created a story board using cue cards or pages
I have organized my slides in a logical order


Go - Present

I have rehearsed multiple times
I have my speaking notes ready
I have emailed my presentation to my teacher, I have a backup of my slides in an email and on a stick
I have brought all of the handouts and supplies I need
I have a bottle of water
I have am confident and calm


Staying Calm Checklist

Before the Presentation

I got a good night sleep
I have all of my materials organized including: handouts, USB thumb drive, notes etc.
I have emailed a copy of the presentation to myself as a back up
I have visualized the presentation going well
I am well prepared


The Morning of the Presentation

I have limited the amount of caffeine I have consumed
I have a bottle of water with me
I am taking deep breaths and moving my body
I am confident and calm


During the Presentation

I am moving from behind the podium
I am breathing and speaking slowly
I am focusing on the material, not everyone looking at me

Top Tips for Overcoming Procrastination

Procrastination is a problem, particularly when it becomes a habitual way of handling demands. Procrastination is really two behaviours. It can be a way to put things off until later. Or it can be task avoidance, a deliberate effort to avoid specific jobs. People procrastinate for a variety of reasons. This tip sheet will give you tips on overcoming procrastination and help you reflect on why you do it.

1 - Set a Goal

  • Read the assignment description carefully so you are clear on what is being asked
  • Decide on what mark you would like to strive for
  • Use a reward system as you complete small portions of the assignment
  • Tell someone what your goal is and ask them to check in with you


2 - Manage your Time

  • Use semester and weekly plans to help keep up on your assignments (Come to the Academic Success for assistance)
  • Set reminders on your phone
  • Organize your work space so you don't waste time looking for materials you need
  • Plan to work on assignments when you are most alert and have the highest amount of energy


3 - Break Down the Task

  • Break down a large assignment into small pieces/chunks
  • Draw the assignment into a visual reminder, for example: Cue cards or mind mapping
  • Create a task list recording how long you think each task will take
  • Prioritize your tasks and work on the top ones first
  • Use a timer and commit to work on a part of an assignment for an amount of time e.g. 20 min


4 - Ask for Help

  • Use the resources available in the college to help you succeed
  • Find a student in your class who is organized and stays on top of their assignments and ask them how they do it

Think about why you might be procrastinating:

  • I wait for the perfect conditions and then run out of time
  • I let assignments get overdue and often feel guilty if I do not do my best
  • I often struggle making up my mind on what to do, or what to do first
  • I procrastinate because I am not motivated to do the assignment
  • I often underestimate how much time it will take to complete a task
  • My assignments have to be perfect and I delay the completion
  • I stop working on an assignment when it becomes too difficult
  • I lack confidence and worry too much about assignments
  • I have too much on my plate because I overcommit
  • I often use adrenaline to complete tasks at the last moment
  • I cannot seem to stay focused on assignments
  • I find other people's needs take priority over my school work


What patterns do I notice in my answers?

Are these habits I am willing to change?

What am I willing to do differently?


Top Tips for Studying

These tips will help you to study more EFFECTIVELY so that you can REDUCE text anxiety, manage your TIME, and ACHIEVE better marks!!

1 - Plan It!

  • Create a place to study with good light and ample space to work
  • Use planners (semester and weekly) to schedule your study time
  • Be sure to schedule time for a weekly review of your study material to improve your memory
  • Take regular breaks during study periods (about 10-15 minutes each hour)


2 - Study It!

  • Read your textbook before going to class using the SQ3R* method and make your own study notes and questions.
    *(Scan the content, Read the summary first, then chapter headings, and then the chapter, Recite information out loud, record and play back, or tell it to a friend, Review your notes)
  • Read your notes after class (same day is best!) and make study questions
  • Use cue cards, sticky notes, maps, and charts to create study tools
  • Use colour to organize and categorize study material


3 - Review It!

  • Attend all test reviews in class
  • Get a study buddy
  • Organize a study group

My Studying Checklist...

Plan it

I created a place to study with good light and space
I created a semester planner and a weekly planner to schedule study time
I have included time in my schedule for a weekly review
I have scheduled time for regular breaks from studying


Study It

I read my textbook before going to class and made study questions
I read my notes after class and made study questions
I used cue cards, sticky notes, maps, and charts to create study tools
I used colour to organize and categorize study material


Review It

I attended all test reviews in class
I found a study buddy
I organized or joined a study group
I met with a tutor (visit the Academic Success)
I asked questions during class reviews
Other ideas



Being a Successful Student at College

Most students come to college with the best intention of doing well. However, some students do not get the grades they had hoped for or end up leaving college. Transitioning to post-secondary education can be challenging because you have entered a new culture with its own set of expectations. If you manage your education you will have lots of time to fully enjoy life outside the classroom. Remember you are not alone. If you are experiencing any difficulties there are many services here on campus to help.

Remember: It is easier to keep up than catch up.

1 Attend all of your classes

This sounds so simple, but it is so important. Students who attend class often report having better grades. Reading the Powerpoint slides is not the same as attending a class. Your teacher will explain the concepts in more detail and often give hints as to what will be on the tests. In class, you will learn from your peers and develop many skills other than academic. These include but are not limited to: communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, team work, project management. These are the skills you will need in the future to be successful in your chosen career.

2 Stay on top of your readings and assignments

You are responsible for balancing your personal, academic, social and work commitments. Readings and assignments are part of post-secondary life and, if not managed well, can lead to undue stress. Use semester planners and day planners to stay organized.

3 Know how you learn best

Every student has a unique learning style. Some people learn best in the morning and some late at night. Some students need a picture to explain a concept and some need to physically manipulate items to learn best. There are many tools to help you uncover how you learn best. See our tip sheet on working with your learning style.

4 Ask for help

There are many committed people on campus who are passionate about your success. The only way they can help you is if you ask. Your student fees provide you with many resources at no extra cost to you, so take advantage of the supports that are there to help you be successful.

Success Checklist

Attend all of my classes

Check Blackboard and student email regularly for updates from my teacher
Read the Academic Policies and Procedures
My program coordinator is:
Prepare for class by reading the chapter summary and looking up new terms
Create a note making system that works
Arrive at class 10 minutes early to prepare myself
Bring water and snacks


Stay on top of my readings and assignments

Create a semester plan with all of my assignments listed on one page
Create a reading plan for each class
Use my student planner or create a weekly schedule
Break my readings into chunks of content and avoid reading an entire chapter at once
Start my assignments as soon as they are assigned
Break the assignment down - see tip sheet on Assignments


Know how I learn best

Discover what my learning style is
Uncover what time of day I learn best
Become aware of how I process information
Review class notes often and summarize them to create study notes
Set a clear goal on what success looks like for me
Discover ways to stay motivated - see tip sheet on Procrastination


Ask for help

Find out what resources are available to you. For example, counselling, tutoring centres (e.g. Writing, Math), faculty office hours, study groups and more
Get involved on campus and stay connected
Seek out students who share my commitment
Prepare questions and bring them to class
Ask for help

Taking an Online Course

Taking an online course can be an excellent learning experience and many students excel at learning using this format. There are specific things you can do to ensure you have the best chance of doing well. This tip sheet will provide you with proven strategies to help you get started.

An online course is more than just PowerPoint slides on BlackBoard.

1 Get Organized

An online learning environment can take some time to get used to. In a face to face class there are many built in organizational systems like: handouts, teacher reminders, fellow students talking about the course. An online course you will have to organize yourself so you can stay on top of the work. Be sure you put all of your assignment and test due dates on a calendar. Many students find setting reminders on their phones helps them remember to go on BlackBoard and check their course.

2 Manage your Time

The number one reason students do not succeed in an online course is they do not book time on their calendar to work on their course and they fall behind. They often underestimate how much time it takes to do the readings, watch the videos, post discussions, and do the course work. Plan to book at least two 2-hour blocks of time per week on your calendar to work on your online course. Find a peer in the class that will keep you accountable and will meet up to work with you on a specified day and time during the week.

3 Understand the Expectations of the Course

Even if you have taken an online course before, each teacher will set up their course in a unique way. Take time to understand what is expected of you and how to contact the teacher if you have any questions. Read over the course outline to gain a big picture view of the course and what the assignment expectations are. Email the professor if you have any questions.

4 Participate in Discussions

You will learn at a deeper level if you participate in the online discussions. The students in your class have a lot to offer and you can learn from their posts as well as the teachers' comments. Connect with your teacher early so you will have developed a relationship in case you have questions in the future.

Succeeding in an Online Course Checklist

Get Organized

Familiarize myself with the learning platform and ask for help early if I don't understand
Review the course outline and information package
Record all of the tests, quizzes and assignments on my monthly calendar
Back up all my electronic submissions that I post online in a folder for my course(s)
Set reminders on my phone to ensure I stay organized and stay on top of my work


Manage my Time

Book a consistent time in my weekly schedule to work on my course(s) work
Log on often during the week to stay on top of discussions and announcements
Create a distraction free zone where I can focus on my course(s) work
Submit my assignments before the due dates in case there is a technical glitch
Set specific goals and deadlines for myself and stick to them


Understand the Expectations

Read the teacher's introduction and expectations carefully
Be sure I understand the types of assessments and methods of submission
E-mail teacher if I am unclear or having problems, well before the due date (or Contact using preferred method of communication).



Plan to add to the discussions at least twice per week
Connect with at least one classmate that I can email outside the discussions
Access all of the academic supports available via online, face to face or through video phone


Online Group Work:

Read the assignment carefully and decide which part would best suit your strengths
Get to know your group members as this will help with determining roles
Appoint a leader who can commit to keeping everyone on track and be the contact with the teacher
Decide how, how often and when you will communicate with each other
Create a contract for the assignment with deadline dates for each part
Divide up the parts of assignment (be specific)
Do your part of the assignment and stay connected with your group
Don't be the person who lets the group down

Tips for Successful Test Taking

Preparing yourself physically, mentally and emotionally for tests is an important skill for every college student. This tip sheet will provide some proven success strategies that can help when you sit to write the test.

Mastering test taking is an essential skill for college students, are you ready?

1 Read over the entire test before you begin

As you look over the test, note the length, the marks for each question, if there are diagrams and how long you think each question will take. This overview will help you plan your time during the test.

2 Do a knowledge dump

A knowledge dump is done after the teacher instructs you to begin the test. Using a scrap piece of paper or the back of the test, write down all the things you want to be sure to remember. These may include acronyms, definitions, confusing concepts, formulae, or steps to a problem. You can refer to this during the test if you need to recall these items.

3 Mark up the test

Read each questions carefully by marking up the questions. Pay careful attention to what the question is really asking. Note words like always, never, best answer, summarize, briefly. Cross off any information that is not important and re-write the questions. Jot down ideas as you think of them.

4 Do the easy questions first

By doing the easy questions first, you will ensure you get marks for the questions you know. When you go back to the more complicated questions you will have given your brain time to process your thinking.

5 Stay calm

A couple of tips for staying calm include: visualize your success, breathe deeply, scan your body to identify any tension, tense and relax your muscles, drink water, eat nutritious food, and get a lot of sleep. If you struggle with test anxiety, our counsellors are available to help with individual strategies.

Checklist for typical tests

Checklist for typical tests

Arrive early
Ensure you have all of your supplies: calculator, extra pens and pencils, erasers, scrap paper if permitted
Practice your breathing and relaxation exercises
Review the final concepts you were studying
Avoid the pre-test chatter with classmates
Bring water


As you begin the test:

Listen carefully to the teacher's verbal instructions
Do a knowledge dump
Read over the entire test
Note how many marks each part is worth
Mark up the question ensuring you understand what is being asked


Multiple choice

Cover up the answers
Read the question and think of the answer
Uncover the anwers and see if your preferred answer is there
Cross off the answers you know are incorrect
Read the answer back into the question to see if it sounds right
Ask yourself: is there a case when this would NOT be right?
Read question carefully



Read the question carefully
Distinguish between: analyze, compare, explain, summarize, discuss, describe, criticize
Create notes with key points and make an outline before you write on the test paper
Introduce the answer by getting to the point not just restating the question
Write legibly; you don't want to lose marks because the teacher could not read your work
If the question is worth 5 marks, be sure you have 5 strong points


Short answer

Concentrate on key words and facts i.e. Analyze, contrast, compare
Be brief and ensure you have enough details for the number of marks assigned to the question
Write an outline to get your thoughts organized

Time Management

Effectively managing your time will help you to reduce stress and maximize your ability to get good grades.

Good time management skills are key to success as a student and as a workplace professional!

1 Get Started!

  • Think of being a student as a full-time job
  • Expect to study at least 1 hour for every 1 hour of class time
  • Create weekly and semester planners
  • In addition to class and study time, build in flexibility and time for fun things.


2 Plan the Semester!

  • Print off the syllabus for each course and circle tests, assignments, and readings.
  • Write in the course name, day, and time at the top of the planner. Begin with the course that you attend first in the week, then second, and so on
  • Record the readings, assignments, and tests in your semester planner for week in the column below the course name
  • Make note of the percentages assigned to the assignments and tests and record this too. You will allocate less time to things that are worth less


3 Plan the Week!

  • List the fixed events first such as classes, appointments, and work hours
  • Schedule 3 hours per week for readings (before class), note review (after class), and test preparation
  • Use highlighters to colour code for each course
  • Make multiple copies for your binder and study area or take a photo with your phone and use it as a screen saver

Time Management Checklist

1 Plan It...

I think of being a student as a full-time job (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm)
I understand the time commitment required to be successful
I will create a weekly and semester planner to stay organized
I will include time for myself and fun activities


2 Plan the Semester

The syllabi for all my courses have been printed and the readings, assignments and tests circled
Each course name, day, and time is filled in at the top of the semester planner
The readings, assignments, and tests are recorded in the column below
Their percentages have been recorded beside them


3 Plan the Week

All the fixed events have been recorded in my weekly schedule first
Time has been scheduled before class, after class, and during the week to do readings, assignments, and test preparation
Highlighters have been used to colour code my courses
I have multiple copies for my binder and study space


Semester/Weekly Reading Plans 

Understanding What You Read in College - SQ3R


Do a quick survey of the table of contents, all the headings, pictures, captions, tables, bold type, key terms, questions (at the end of the chapter), and the chapter summary.  Say all of these out loud.


Turn the headings into questions and write them down in your notebook.

For example: If the heading is "Different Forms of Communication" you should write down the question, "What are the different forms of communication?"

This will prepare you for the reading, the lecture, and your exams of tests.

(The 3 Rs)


Read the first section.  Stop.


Recite out loud and in your own words what the section that you have just read is trying to convey.


Review your notes immediately before the class, immediately after the class and daily for the next 30 days.  This will increase what you remember from virtually 0% (no review) to 75% - 100% (for 30 days of review or until your exam).  Remember it only takes 4 to 5 minutes to review notes.