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Essential Study Skills

Study Skills

Studying is a skill that you can learn like any other. Below are some tips that can help you – whether you’re new to self-directed learning, or you’ve been at it for a while.

Be prepared.

Preparation is important for every stage of study and flight. If you’ve never been a very organised person, now is the time to learn!

Know why you’re studying.

Have a goal to focus on to keep you motivated. Put pictures and inspirational quotes up around your study space. When you get stuck or frustrated, remind yourself why you’re doing it.

Pre-read texts before briefings.

This will mean you are going into the briefing with a basic understanding of the concepts. You can make better use of your instructors by having a list of questions you want answered before you go in – if they haven’t been answered by the end of the briefing, ask them!

Get creative with your study techniques.

Make flash cards, put up key information bites above the kettle to read while you make coffee, or have a poster of information on the back of the toilet door. There are no rules – do what feels right for you.

Study in short sessions – about 40 minutes to an hour is usually good.

Set yourself a goal for each study session. Ticking things off – no matter how small – creates a feeling of accomplishment and helps keep you motivated.

Take regular breaks.

Get up and go for a walk around the house, do some star jumps, or tidy the kitchen to give your mind and body a break from your study. If you’re spending a lot of time in front of screens, make sure to give your eyes a break, too.

Active study is your best bet.

Don’t just read big chunks of information and hope you’ll remember it. Take notes, draw out diagrams, and test your memory/understanding regularly by covering up sections and trying to recall the key points.

Identify your weaknesses.

Acknowledge you will need to spend more time/effort improving those areas. Seek resources to help you. For example, if you have trouble with taking good notes, research note taking techniques.

Find or create a regular study space.

This is more than just a desk or study room. Make it a place you want to spend time. Add plants, cute stationary, candles, music, posters, lamps, or a comfy chair to read in – whatever works for you.

Studies show most people work better in silence – and this can be important for exam study. Creating the conditions that you will be undertaking exams in helps create automatic associations in your brain. You may find you recall things better under exam conditions if you studied them in silence.

Other people like instrumental music to help block out other noises. Study is personal – try different things for yourself.

Minimise distractions.

Turn your notifications off, and close doors to the rest of your household.

Try every trick you can find.

Mnemonics (acronyms, acrostics, and rhymes), involving multiple senses when learning, and rehearsing information recall are some proven strategies.

Practice reading.

Especially if you have not been a big reader previously. Reading a variety of publication types and on different topics will help you improve your overall reading and comprehension skills.

Two psychologist-developed study techniques are POWER and SQ3R.


  • P Get clear on what you hope to gain from your study session.
  • O How will you get there? Create a mental roadmap of what your study session will look like.
  • W Read the material, watch the videos, etc.
  • E Assess how well you’ve understood the material. Do any review questions to test your knowledge or try to explain the key concepts to someone else.
  • R Critically analyse what you’ve just learnt. How does it connect to previous topics? Put it in the bigger picture.


  • S Do an overview of the material to be studied. Look at headings, introductory comments, figures, and captions.
  • Q Formulate questions about the topic. Use any review questions provided to guide your reading, but also create your own. What do you want to know at the end?
  • R Read the material actively and critically. Think about how it relates to other topics.
  • R Describe to yourself (or a friend) what you have just read/viewed. Identify your degree of understanding. Create summary notes.
  • R Look over the material again. Answer any review questions. Edit your summary notes.

Some more resources for studying:

Dartmouth College Academic Skills Centre:

Curtin University offers study support with free access to anyone – there are modules for time management, writing, math, test tips, and much more.

UNSW “Resources” page of their Learning Centre website provides access to learning resources, as well as more links to other helpful pages

UniSA “Study Resources” page has a variety of links to files and pages with tips on reading, note-taking, writing, exam preparation, grammar, and even Excel training –

ANU study skills page includes advice on reading strategies, time management, and participating in classes –

Flinders University study guides – math resources, effective reading tips, and more.

Monash University “Quick Study Guides” offer brief overviews of topics like time management, note-taking, and proof-reading. Some have links to further resources.

*all links correct at time of publishing. If you have trouble with them, please try Googling the relevant university.