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Tips on Studying and Reading for College: Studying & Memorizing

Improve your techniques for listening and taking notes, reading on a college level, studying and memorizing, and prepping for exams.

Designate a study spot

Like we said in the Reading for College page, try setting aside a quiet corner where you can concentrate. If you can't get away from a noisy home environment, book a study room in the library. Play classical music or sounds that put you in the right mindset, if this doesn't distract you. Make sure the lighting is bright enough to see easily and not nod off.

Take control of your schedule

Choose a time that you can study without being interrupted. Once a week, determine how much time you have to study and complete your tasks, and plan accordingly. Pencil in your study time so it doesn't interfere with work, social commitments, and times you know distractions are inevitable. You can always adjust these study times as needed, but this ensures you're considering your time.

Try using an Assignment Calculator to give yourself enough time and get advice for each step along the way.

Don't get distracted

It's important to eliminate all distractions. Probably most importantly: silence your phone! Don't text, browse social media, or talk on the phone while studying. Also try not to multitask; this helps ensure that you concentrate on one subject or project at a time. If you're easily distracted, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or use a white-noise machine. (Or, like we said above, you can put on good studying music if this helps you concentrate.)

Try concept mapping and visuals

Concept maps ("mind maps"), flow charts, diagrams, and time lines are great visual ways to comprehend the material. If you're a visual learner, these organization and study techniques were made for you. Concept mapping helps you see the big picture and group information based on connections and hierarchical relationships. It's useful for subjects that are built on topics or concepts and for summarizing and reducing content. It's also useful for when you need to know a structure, sequence of events, or process.

Quiz yourself

Creating a quiz or using flashcards can help you memorize terms and concepts. This is a highly effective technique. Quizzing yourself on the information that you're struggling with is a great way to retain the information.

Use repetition

There's always the classic: read what you need to remember over and over until you have it memorized. Often, reading or reciting the information you need to retain out loud is an upgrade to the technique. This is best for memorizing definitions, dates, and things like atomic numbers and symbols. When you have to understand a concept or big picture, this technique won't help you.


Use your own words to rephrase a concept. Rewording to explain something ensures that you truly understand it, and that you're not just memorizing a definition without understanding it.

Try using the Dartmouth essentials

  1. RECORD the information
  2. REDUCE the ideas to key words or a phrase
  3. RECITE it without looking at it until you know it
  4. REVIEW to get a complete picture of the ideas and main points
  5. REFLECT by thinking about the significance of the facts and concepts

Taking Lecture Notes, "Notetaking", Dartmouth Academic Skills Center

Reward yourself

Same as rewarding yourself while reading, do the same when studying or doing an assignment. Have an M&M for every time you finish writing a definition down in a study guide or for every sentence in an essay. Give yourself a meditation break or listen to a fun song between studying and assignments. Find what works as a great motivator for yourself.

Assess your learning habits

Dartmouth's Learning Assessment page provides links to the Learning and Study Skills Inventory and Felder's Index. Felder's Index requires no username and password, and judges your study habits so you can make improvements.



Concept mapping: a visual

Concept map— Giulia Forsythe,

Click here (UNC) or here (Cornell) for an explanation on concept mapping.