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home > services > study skills resources > lectures and readings


My classes are really challenging and so different from high school.  What are strategies for college learning?

In college, faculty assume that students study course material before and after each class. Strategies described here for writing lecture notes, reading for class, reviewing material daily, completing homework, and studying for exams can all be part of your effective study time.

Study Skills

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lectures and readings
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  • Listen actively and take lecture notes to improve your concentration and comprehension during class. The key is to capture the main ideas in a format that helps you remember the content. Colors, indentations, and abbreviations can all help you create notes you’ll want to read again. Here are several different formats you may want to try.

    • Cornell notes create a structure for students to review lecture content before (the book and syllabus), during (lecture notes), and after class (write a summary, clarify and organize notes).

    • An outline is a structured format that can help you recognize hierarchical relationships among ideas. You may be able to make an outline during the lecture or convert your notes into an outline form after class when you can more clearly see the relationships among ideas.

    • During or after class, lecture notes can be formatted into concept cards or flash cards. These cards, with definition/picture on one side and key terms on the other, are a great tool for hands-on learners.

    • Concept maps, which use images, color, and layout to depict relationships among ideas, can be a great tool for visual learners.

  • Review your lecture notes after each class. Research demonstrates that students are best able to retain material over the long-term if they do a daily review. Set aside 15 minutes after each class to review and clarify lecture notes.

  • Read actively to help with comprehension and retention.

    • It’s difficult to jump right into a class reading assignment without first understanding the context.  The SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review) method helps you see what the reading is about before diving into the content.

    • Read in layers and ask the questions: “What does this text say?” “What does it do?” and “What does it mean?”  Another way to phrase this is to read for the “statement,” “author’s purpose,” and “your interpretation of the text.”
    • Reading in the sciences requires special attention to the content and vocabulary for comprehension of the material.

    • Write in your books.  Writing annotations in the margins allows you to note the important aspects of a text.  Annotations should include not only a restatement of the author’s words but also your thoughts or opinions about the text.

    • When you cannot write on your texts use double entry notes.  Like annotation this allows you to restate the author’s words and include your own ideas.

    • Write a three-sentence summary of what you have read.  This review helps you decide what is important and remember the information long-term.

  • Need more help? Visit drop-in study skills support, make an appointment with TLC faculty, take a credit course, visit the TLC math and writing labs, or attend one of our workshop.


Listen Actively

The Oregon State University Academic Success Center describes poor listening skills and good listening habits and how these can positively impact your academic experience.


Daily review

Getting Ready for Exams
The video from the McMaster University Academic Skills Online Resources illustrates how reviewing material throughout the term (especially each day after class) can help increase knowledge on the subject. This process allows you to more effectively store the information in short- and long-term memory, which makes studying for an exam more productive. A transcript and a summary of the video are also available.


Lecture Notes

Note-taking is an individual process; however, there are several formats that work well for creating a logical and accessible record of the material presented in class.


Cornell Notes

Cornell Diagram [pdf]
Cornell notes provide a structure for reviewing course material before and after class and take lecture notes during class time.  This sample handout describes how to create Before, During, and After sections in lecture notes.

Blank Cornell sheet [pdf]
Formatted (but blank) sheet for taking Cornell Style notes.

Cornell Notes Generator
Using this website, you can generate a formatted page to use for taking Cornell notes in class.



Though it’s focused on outlining as a pre-writing activity, the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) provides outline criteria and examples that will help organize notes from readings/lectures as well.


Concept Cards

Look at an example of concept cards from Indiana University including descriptions of what to write on concept cards and how to use them for study.


Concept Maps

View an introduction to concept maps from the University of Illinois including how-to's and examples of many different types of concept maps.

This University of Virginia website has several Concept Map Examples including ways to use and format concept maps for a variety of classes.



Active Reading


The Cook Counseling Center at Virginia Tech explains each step in the Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review (SQ3R) method.

The University of Wisconsin has a nice tutorial about the SQ3R method.

This Reading Improvement Video from Dartmouth College describes preparing to read, increasing reading speed, and the SQ3R process in detail.


Read in layers

What is Critical Reading? [pdf]
Reading in layers means going beyond simply comprehending the words and delving deeper to analyze and interpret the text. This handout includes a description of both critical reading and critical thinking.


Reading in the Sciences

Learn How to Read a Science Textbook on this Wittenberg University site. It was written specifically for an introductory Chemistry class, but has applications to other science courses. 

The Cuesta College Academic Support Center describes a step-by-step process for reading and comprehending scientific texts.



Annotating is underlining important ideas in your text and using the margin to write notes that summarize and expand on the text. Writing down information can improve your recall, and already having important information selected helps when you review for exams or prepare to write an essay.

This Bucks Community College site provides suggestions for effective annotations as well as an example.

How to Mark a Section of a Textbook Chapter
This sample from Cuesta College illustrates annotations for a chapter of reading entitled Newton’s Third Law of Motion.


Double entry notes

Double-Entry Notes [pdf]
Double-entry notes use a table format. In one column you can paraphrase or quote the author and, in the next column, write personal ideas about the text. A sample of double–entry notes is included.

Double-Entry Notes Template [pdf]
This is a blank template for taking double entry notes.



The Colorado State University Writing Studio describes different methods for writing a summary depending on how you want to use it.

The Drew University website describes how to write a meaningful and effective summary.



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