Student-Led Advice on How to Study

Female college student studying

Most of the advice students hear on how to study comes from teachers. We offer it verbally in class before and after exams, in online communications, and on the syllabus. We talk about study strategies during office hours, especially when we meet with students who aren’t doing well in the course. The problem is students don’t always follow our wise advice.

I was once observing a physics class and, at the end of the session, the teacher reminded students that there was a test next week. Students went about packing up and preparing to leave, but then he said he had a handout with some advice on how to study for the exam. As he began distributing it, the packing up stopped. Book bags were put down; students began reading the handout.

When a copy of the handout came to me, I saw why students were so interested. The handout contained study recommendations from students who had taken the class previously. They were identified by name and beside their name was the grade they’d received in the class (not something to be done without student permission, which this professor did get).

Besides being surprised by the attention students gave the handout, especially at the end of class when they are ready to bolt, I was even more taken back by the insightful advice former students offered.

“Come to class regularly. He goes over problems in class very much like ones that show up on the exam.”

“Don’t wait until the night before the exam to start doing the homework problems. Do the problems every week.”

“If you don’t understand something, ask about it. Chances are good you aren’t the only one who doesn’t understand.”

“It helps to check homework with somebody else in class, not to copy answers, but to see how they did the problem.”

Students gave the very same advice I’d heard countless professors offer, but I never saw students taking our study advice this seriously.

Sometime later, the professor told me that he started including advice from students who had struggled in the class. Many of them wrote candidly about things they’d done that didn’t work and things they’d do differently if they were taking the course again.

Now, this doesn’t mean that teachers shouldn’t give students advice. We know how to study, and we’re usually aware of those course concepts that students often find most difficult. Our advice is sound. But what we don’t have is the credibility of a student who’s just taken the course.

Alternatively, in addition to advice from past students, you also could ask current students to help you generate a list of recommended study strategies; soliciting suggestions during the exam debrief or asking students to submit them electronically. The list could be posted on the course website or class discussion board where others could respond to them. You could include some of your suggestions as well. The goal is to challenge students to consider the strategies they’re using. If they aren’t doing as well on the exams as they’d like, maybe it’s time to consider some different approaches. A list of strategies can give them some different options to try.


Leave a Reply

Logged in as Julie Evener. Edit your profile. Log out? Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Articles

Love ’em or hate ’em, student evaluations of teaching (SETs) are here to stay. Parts <a href="" target="_blank"...

Since January, I have led multiple faculty development sessions on generative AI for faculty at my university. Attitudes...
Does your class end with a bang or a whimper? Many of us spend a lot of time crafting...

Faculty have recently been bombarded with a dizzying array of apps, platforms, and other widgets that...

The rapid rise of livestream content development and consumption has been nothing short of remarkable. According to Ceci...

Feedback on performance has proven to be one of the most important influences on learning, but students consistently...