Do-It-Yourself Learning Strategies


Attitudes are the source of behavior. Restructuring attitudes to create positive behavior can empower students to set appropriate goals for success.


  1. To realize that attitudes affect learning and goal setting.
  2. To develop positive attitudes about self and the relationships between school and life goals.

How to Develop a Positive Attitude

  1. Visualize yourself being successful.
  2. Control your inner voice--use positive self-talk.
  3. Reward yourself for doing well.
  4. Be a positive speaker and an active listener.
  5. Try to relate academic tasks to personal goals.

FYI: For more information on building a positive attitude, contact the Academic Resource Center at or call 501-279-4531.


Concentration is the ability to stay focused on a task and is necessary for effective learning.


  1. To be aware of types of distractions.
  2. To improve concentration.

Improving Concentration

  • Use a quiet place with no distractions to study.
  • Establish a regular routine.
  • Bring interest and purpose to the task (How will this help me to reach my goals?).
  • Reward yourself for accomplishments.

FYI: For more information on building effective concentration, contact the Academic Resource Center at or call 501-279-4531. 

Effective Listening

Listening is different from hearing. Effective listening is an active process and is essential to the learning process.


  1. To learn the definition of active listening.
  2. To apply active listening strategies to learning.

Active listening IS NOT...

  1. the same as hearing
  2. hearing what you expect to hear
  3. judgmental, critical, guilt-provoking, etc.
  4. a way to put the speaker on the defensive

Active listening IS...

  1. a conscious activity based on attitude, attention, and adjustment
  2. summarizing what the speaker has said
  3. nonjudgmental
  4. listening with your mind-not your emotions (be open-minded)

Adapted from Tutor Training Manual, LSU, Baton Rouge, Atkinson, Rhonda, Ph.D.

Effective Listening Strategies

Ask and answer the following questions BEFORE listening

  1. What is the speaker's purpose?
  2. What is my purpose for listening?
  3. What am I going to do with what I listen to?
  4. Will I need to take notes?
  5. Which strategies could I use?
    • imaging
    • categorizing
    • self-questioning
    • note-taking
    • discovering the organizational plan
    • clues from the speaker
  6. Which one(s) will I select?

Student asks and answers the following questions DURING listening

  1. Is my strategy still working?
  2. Am I grouping information?
  3. Is the speaker giving me clues about the organization of the message?
  4. Is the speaker giving me nonverbal clues (gestures and/or facial expressions)?
  5. Are the speaker's voice, pitch, speed, pauses, and repetitions giving me clues?

Student asks and answers the following questions AFTER listening

  1. Do I have questions for the speaker?
  2. Was any part of the message unclear?
  3. Are my notes complete?
  4. Did I make a good strategy choice? Why or why not?

Goal Setting

Goals are about making changes in ourselves or our environment for the near or distant future. These goals determine what actions we need to take today. The most overwhelming threat to achieving goals is PROCRASTINATION!!

The 5 Elements of a Useful Goal

1. Specific--it describes what you want to accomplish with as much detail as possible.

Poor example: "I want to read better."
Good example: "I will increase my reading comprehension score 10% by the end of the semester."

2. Measurable--a useful goal is described in terms that can be clearly evaluated.

Poor example: "I want to lose weight this year."
Good example: "I will lose 15 pounds by my cousin's wedding two months from now."

3. Challenging--It takes energy, effort, and discipline to accomplish.

Poor example: "I want to get to all of my classes on Thursday."
Good example: "I will complete the assignments and be prepared for my classes on Thursday."

4. Realistic--A realistic goal is one you are capable of attaining. This is the most difficult of the 5 elements. Making this determination requires a judgment. Making this judgment requires an adequate knowledge base, strategies for accessing it effectively, metacognitive awareness, metacognitive knowledge, and executive control.

Poor example: "I want to become the editor of the student newspaper in my first semester."
Good example: "I will become the editor of the student paper by my Junior year in school."

5. Set in Time--A completion date must be established. For long term goals, it may be important to identify shorter-term enabling goals. Target completion dates could be specified for these shorter-term goals that lead to the desired endpoint.

Poor example: "I want to do a lot of professional writing in my lifetime."
Good example: "I will complete a short story by the end of the semester."

From NADE Journal, vol 12, No. 2, Fall 1992, p. 1-2.

Goal Setting Weekly Checklist

Download Adobe Acrobat reader here.

Weekly Checklist PDF

FYI: For more information on Goal Setting visit the Academic Resources Center.

* To learn more about how to avoid Procrastination, visit the Academic Resources Center's Web page on Time Management. (see below)
* Recommended reading: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey.

Learning Styles

People learn in various ways. How you acquire information from your environment, process it for understanding, store memory, and recall is your learning style. Identifying and understanding your learning style will help you learn more effectively in and outside of the classroom.


  1. To help identify specific learning styles.
  2. To identify the characteristics of these various learning styles.
  3. To identify learning strategies best suited to your learning style.

FYI: For additional information on learning styles, contact the Academic Resource Center at or call 501-279-4531.


Motivation is another learning strategy that drastically affects your desire to manage your time and do well in college. It affects the immediate or near-term tasks necessary for successful completion of course work. The essence of motivation is the acceptance of personal responsibility for your education and taking a proactive attitude about whatever happens to you.


  1. To develop realistic expectations of your own achievement.
  2. To develop responsibility for performing specific tasks related to school success.

Characteristics of High Motivation

  • Sets goals and makes plans
  • Always attends class and participates in discussions
  • Works on assignments far in advance of their due dates
  • Studies as diligently for courses disliked as for favorite courses
  • Makes a connection between short-term tasks and long-range goals
  • Manages time well and devotes more than sufficient time to completion of assignments and test preparation
  • Understands that attitude affects motivation
  • Understand that taking the responsibility for what happens to you is not the same as blaming yourself

Characteristics of Low Motivation

  • Lacks understanding of how attitude affects motivation
  • Makes excuses for lack of achievement
  • Crams for tests
  • Only skims reading assignments
  • Spends much time socializing
  • Fails to plan

FYI: For more information on Motivation, contact the Academic Resource Center at or call 501- 279-4531.

* Recommended reading: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey, Simon & Schuster, NY.


Review is the key to learning. Effective note-taking is essential for reducing lecture and/or reading material to a manageable amount of information for organization and review.


  • To develop active listening, observation, and recording skills
  • To develop recall

Preparation for Note-taking

Physical Factors

  • Sit near the front and center of the class
  • Avoid sitting near doorways, windows, and good friends


  • Pens
  • 3-ring binder with wide-lined loose-leaf notebook paper

Before Note-taking

  • Record course name, date, and topic clearly at top of paper
  • Be sure of the speaker's purpose
  • Review previous notes and background materials
  • Review reading assignment

Effective Note-taking

The Cornell Note-Taking System

  1. Take notes on spiral bound notebook paper and place them in chronological order in your loose-leaf notebook. Material can easily be put in or taken out this way. Be sure to title, date, and number each page.
  2. Draw a vertical line 2 1/2 inches from the left edge of the page. You will use the remaining 6 inches to write down your lecture notes.
  3. Take notes in any format your prefer: numeral-letter, indenting, short paragraph.
  4. Concentrate on writing only main ideas and significant details during the lecture.
  5. Skip lines between main ideas and use only one side of the paper.
  6. Use abbreviations when needed to save time. Avoid too many abbreviations or ones you'll have trouble understanding later.
  7. Read through your notes after class, filling in incomplete information and rewriting illegible words.
  8. While reviewing, underline all main ideas, or outline them with a box.
  9. After reviewing your notes, jot down in the 2 1/2 inch margin, some key words and phrases that summarize the material in the right-hand column.
  10. Cover up the 6-inch side of your notes to see if you can recall the important details of the lecture with only the key phrases as clues.
  11. Continue this procedure until you can easily recall the important parts of the lecture.
  12. Before each new lecture, take a few minutes to look over the notes from the previous lecture so you can connect them with the lecture you are about to hear.
  13. Paraphrase what the speaker is saying
  14. Be an active listener

Note-taking Do's

  1. Attend all lectures.
  2. Be academically aggressive.
  3. Take a front seat to see and hear better.
  4. Use a large, loose-leaf binder.
  5. Carry lined, loose-leaf (8 1/2 by 11) sheets to class.
  6. Write on only one side of the sheet.
  7. On top of the sheet record course, lecturer, and date.
  8. Begin taking notes immediately.
  9. Write in short, telegraphic sentences.
  10. Make notes complete for later understanding.
  11. Strive to detect main headings.
  12. Capture ideas as well as facts.
  13. Skip lines; leave space between main ideas.
  14. Discover the organizational patterns.
  15. If the lecture is too fast, capture fragments or ask for repeat.
  16. Leave blank spaces for words to fill in later.
  17. Develop your own abbreviations and symbols.
  18. Record lecturer's examples.

Note-taking Don'ts

  1. Don't sit near friends that may distract you.
  2. Don't wait for something "important."
  3. Don't look for facts only.
  4. Don't give up if lecturer is too fast.
  5. Don't stop to ponder.
  6. Don't over-indent.
  7. Don't doodle.
  8. Don't use spiral-bound notebooks.
  9. Don't consider any example too obvious--copy it.
  10. Avoid using Roman numerals.
  11. Avoid too many abbreviations.

Tips on what to include in your notes

  1. Details, facts, or explanations that expand or explain the main points that are mentioned
  2. Definitions, word for word, especially if your professor repeats them several times
  3. Enumeration or lists of things that are discussed
  4. Examples. You don't need to note all of the details for each example, but you do need to know which general topic each example relates
  5. Anything that is written on the chalkboard or on a transparency (on an overhead projector)
  6. Anything that is repeated or spelled out.-drawings, charts, or problems that are written on the board
  7. Use symbols and abbreviations

After Note-taking

  1. Spend 3-5 minutes at the end of class reviewing main ideas
  2. Do a major review of notes as soon as possible within twenty-four hours
  3. Compare your notes with your friends' notes

FYI: For more information on Note-taking Skills, contact the Academic Resource Center at or call 501-279-4531.


Reading is one of the four basic skills. Knowing "how" to read for university level comprehension and reasoning is essential to effective learning. Using the strategies below can make reading more meaningful, enjoyable, and improve your reading comprehension.


  1. To improve reading efficiency
  2. To improve reading comprehension
  3. To improve reading retention

Strategies For Effective Study/Reading

  1. Read daily--you must read often to develop effective reading skills.
  2. Find your reading speed.
  3. Ask purpose-setting questions. Comprehension Monitoring Guide
  4. Use the SQ3R 5-step strategy for getting the most from study/reading.

FYI: For more information on effective Reading skills, contact the Academic Resource Center at or call 501-279-4531.

SQ3R/SQ6R (study reading)

SQ3R is a five-step technique for better studying. It helps the student prepare to study and to get more out of what they read. The five steps are as follows:

  • Survey

    This involves looking the article over to see what it is about. It is NOT reading the selection, merely skimming it or scanning it for general ideas. This part should only take a few minutes. It's like looking at a road map before you start on your trip. You can make some predictions about the reading also.

  • Question

    After you glance over the selection you should have some idea of the things you would like to know and what you need to look for while reading. These are your PURPOSE-SETTING QUESTIONS and they give your reading some direction, focus, and goal to satisfy.

  • Read

    Now you are ready to read. This part includes answering your purpose-setting questions, looking for main ideas, highlighting, and labeling text. This is when you get your information.

  • Recite

    This step is where you take what you know and recite the important parts to fix them in your memory. This also includes summarizing. Good things to recite are answers to your purpose-setting questions. You can recite to yourself or with a study partner.

  • Review

    Perfect practice make perfect. The more you look over something you have learned the longer it will stay in your mind. Short, frequent periods of study usually work best.

For some students, or with some content, a more intensive effort may be required. In addition to the steps listed above, some instructors may encourage the three extra steps involved in SQ6R, which are as follows:

  • Reflect

    Some content is so complex, it is incredibly difficult to truly understand it after briefly reading, reciting, and reviewing it. Reflection involves taking a temporary break from the content, then coming back for more at a later time.

  • Rehash

    This process involves bringing in additional minds to wrestle with the reading. By communicating your thoughts and understandings with others and vice versa, understanding may be deepened and new insights may be gained.

  • Rethink

    After all previous steps have been taken, it is wise to take time to assess whether or not you understand what you read. Did talking it out with others improve your understanding or complicate things further? How will you use the information moving forward? Do you feel confident passing your understanding on to others? Evaluate all of these things.

Study Aids

Learning is thinking about content and process. Knowing how to create and use study aids can increase meaningful learning and retention.


  1. To learn general guidelines to effective study habits.
  2. To improve memory.
  3. To learn to organize information for study.

The Effective Study Environment

  1. Find a place that can maximize your study time.
  2. Make sure it is free from distractions (TV, hustle and bustle of roommates or family).
  3. Make sure it is well-lighted and comfortable--but not too comfortable!
  4. Use white noise (a humming fan or soft instrumental background music) to help you concentrate.
  5. Start early in the semester, as good study habits need to be practiced as soon as possible for maximum benefit.
  6. Make sure you have all the tools necessary to study.
  7. Always study in the same place if possible on a regular basis. Using a desk may work best, as learning tends to transfer most effectively in like environments.
  8. Avoid cramming, review on a daily basis.
  9. Study for short periods of time and take breaks. This will keep your brain at optimum learning capacity.

Study Actively

  • Effective study involves active participation in your own learning.
  • An active learner:
    • Decides what he wants to learn
    • Compares new information with old
    • Monitors comprehension
    • Sets goals
    • Considers what works and what does not work
    • Evaluates progress
    • Monitors retention--self-tests and reviews

FYI: For more information on Study Aids & Effective Environments, contact the Academic Resource Center at or call 501-279-4531.

* Visit the Academic Resource Center to take the LEARNING AND STUDY STRATEGIES INVENTORY (LASSI) to assess your study effectiveness.

Techniques for Review

(self-testing for comprehension)

Monitoring one's own level of understanding is essential to knowledge acquisition and retention. Reviewing and self-testing are important techniques for checking comprehension.


  1. To improve comprehension monitoring
  2. To improve review techniques

Comprehension Monitoring

Checking whether or not you understand the material.

Before Reading Ask yourself these Questions

  1. What is my purpose for reading this?
  2. What do I already know about this subject?
  3. What do I need to find out about this subject?
  4. What should I know when I finish reading?
  5. What strategies will I use to test myself?

While Reading

  1. Periodically check your understanding of what you have read. (paraphrase, question, summarize in your own words)
  2. Highlight or underline important ideas.
  3. Think out loud while working through a problem.
  4. Transform the material - make it visual (diagrams, drawings, maps)
  5. Organize the material - outline, classify
  6. Make notes in the margin of the text.
  7. Teach the material to someone else.

When Problems Occur

  1. Re-read passage or skip it and see if the following passage adds to understanding.
  2. Read more slowly and take time to think about the information.
  3. Guess at meaning and read further. Additional information may clarify meaning.
  4. Ask someone else - teacher, classmate, Academic Resources Center tutor.

Tips For Reviewing

  1. Effective review occurs within 24 hours of the presentation of the material. (The sooner, the better)
  2. Spend 3-5 minutes reviewing main point of lecture right after class.
  3. Several spaced reviews are more effective than one marathon session.
  4. Schedule your reviews so that you don't let reviewing slide until the night before exams.
  5. Schedule specific times to review.
  6. Each review session should be limited to one hour or less.
  7. Reviewing for longer periods of time is unlikely to increase what you remember.
  8. Schedule a specific subject to be covered at each review. If possible, specify a specific topic as well.
  9. You should review selectively. An SQ3R type of review is most effective, especially when time is at a premium.
  10. An important reviewing aid is the prediction of test questions. Ask yourself "short answer" questions and try to answer them.
  11. Teach someone else. Take turns asking and answering questions with a friend.
  12. If your class has been targeted for Supplemental Instruction (SI), meet regularly with that study group.

Exercise in Anticipating Test Questions

  1. Turn headings from textbook into potential questions.
  2. Turn headings from your lecture notes into possible questions.
  3. Write some questions based on things your professor wrote on the chalkboard or overhead.
  4. Write some questions based on things your professor emphasized in class.
  5. As you read the textbook and review your notes ask yourself:
    • What is this going to be about?
    • What's the point?
    • Why is this likely to be important?
    • How does this fit the big picture?
    • How does it fit my life?
  6. Use all these questions to test yourself before exams.

FYI: For more information on Self-testing/Reviewing, contact the Academic Resource Center at or call 501-279-4531.

Test Anxiety

Anxiety is a learned response. Some students experience uneasiness or apprehension before taking a test. A little anxiety is good. However, extreme persistent tension can cause fear, dread, nervousness, loss of sleep or appetite, and problems with thinking and memory. Knowing how to reduce anxiety enables the student to take tests more confidently.


  1. To recognize the causes of test anxiety
  2. To learn positive techniques to reduce or eliminate test anxiety

Causes of Test Anxiety

  1. Concerns about how others will view you if you do poorly
  2. Concerns arising from threats to your own self-image
  3. Concerns about your future security
  4. Concerns about not being prepared for test
  5. The more difficult the test, the more intense the anxiety

Results of Anxiety

  1. Anxiety produces negative results.
  2. Emotions clutter thought processes.
  3. Worry scatters attention process.
  4. Situation becomes intimidating and can cause immobility or desire to flee.

Coping Strategies for Test Anxiety

Learn to r-e-e-l-a-x-x.

  1. Choose a time when you can be undisturbed.
  2. Find a comfortable, quiet place.
  3. Lie flat on your back.
  4. Put pillow under head if needed.
  5. Place arms at sides on floor with palms up.
  6. Breathe slowly and deeply through your nostrils; exhale through your mouth.
  7. Try to feel any tension in body and try to release it.
  8. Concentrate on becoming calm and relaxed. Empty your mind of other thoughts.
  9. Speak positively to yourself using your inner voice. Encourage yourself to do your best.
  10. Open your eyes. Remain still for a while.

Techniques for Reducing Test Anxiety

  1. Try to pinpoint sources of anxiety.
  2. Set realistic time, task, and grade goals.
  3. Distribute study over a predetermined time period that allows for sufficient break time. (Time Management techniques)
  4. Practice behavior modification techniques. (The Counseling Center is a good resource for dealing with anxiety.)
  5. Exercise at least 20 minutes three times weekly.
  6. Get adequate rest and nutrition.
  7. Practice relaxation and/or visualization techniques.

A Student's Guide to Managing Stress 

FYI: For more information on coping with Test Anxiety, contact the Academic Resource Center at or call 501-279-4531.

Test-Taking Strategies

Students can maximize their performance on tests by using effective methods for preparation and test-taking.


  1. To improve preparation strategies
  2. To improve test-taking strategies

Before Tests

  • Avoid cramming, be prepared.
  • Make a semester study plan.
  • Find a good quiet place to concentrate.
  • Join a study group or find a study buddy.
  • See the difference between study and review.
  • Predict test questions.
  • Talk to your professor.
  • Get a good night's sleep.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast.

During Tests

  • Breathe and focus.
  • Write down information you may forget-formulas, dates, etc.
  • Write your name on the test and review the entire test.
  • Write down additional information you may forget.
  • Decide how to get the most points in the least time.
  • First answer the easiest questions with the most points.
  • Read the question twice and set time limits for answers.
  • Review skipped questions.
  • Recall related information about each question.
  • Guess all remaining questions - Do not leave a question blank.
  • Review the entire test again.
  • Look for misunderstood items and careless errors.
  • USE ALL OF YOUR TEST TIME - To stop early can mean lost points on your tests!

After Tests

  • Assess your results.
  • Look for patterns in the questions.
  • Talk to your professor about your exam.
  • Go On!

FYI: For more information on Test-taking skills, contact the Academic Resource Center at or call 501-279-4531.

Time Management

Managing time is one of the keys to success. Students need to be confident in using time effectively to schedule classes and activities in such a way as to meet appropriate goals.


  1. To learn the principles of scheduling.
  2. To learn effective time management skills.

Tips for Scheduling Your Time

  1. Make a master schedule for the term and fill in your fixed activities--rising, retiring, meals, classes, and weekend time. The empty spaces will represent hours which you schedule for study.
  2. Consider your weekly assignments, estimated study time for each subject, and the due dates for your assignments.
  3. Use time between classes for studying. For courses in which you recite and discuss, it is an advantage to study just before class so the material will be fresh in your mind.
  4. When making a schedule, do not study similar courses right behind one another.
  5. Your schedule should be flexible. However, when possible study the same thing at the same hour. This will become habit.
  6. Be sure to schedule recreational time.
  7. Take a break if you feel the need.
  8. Fit your schedule to your needs and don't be afraid to change it as emergencies arise.
  9. Post your schedule in your study headquarters.
  10. Distribute material to be learned over a period of time.

Most Common Time Management Problems

  1. Getting started
  2. Using your time ineffectively
  3. Not studying enough

Reasons for Procrastination

  1. Fear of failure (or fear of success)
  2. Being overwhelmed by details
  3. Striving for perfection
  4. Feeling you don't have enough time
  5. Not seeing the benefit of the project
  6. Doing fun or less important things first
  7. Not knowing how to look to the future to determine what to do today (goal setting skills)

FYI: For more information on Time Management, contact the Academic Resource Center at or call 501-279-4531.

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