Make the Most of Your Study Time with These Tips and Helpful Links

Two students studying together

It is quite common for students to experience academic concerns at some point during college. These concerns may involve:

  • Poor study habits
  • Difficulty grasping course material
  • Test anxiety that leads to poor performance on an exam
  • Procrastination on assignments
  • Difficultly planning and organizing to complete assignments or study tasks
  • Inconsistent class attendance
  • Academic probation or loss of scholarship

Having a learning disability makes it difficult to study, organize, and/or understand the course material. The above concerns may be due to various factors:

  • Increased workload of courses
  • Poor concentration, ADHD, which can interfere with learning and studying as well as with organizational tasks
  • Increased difficulty of coursework over time
  • Having a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, that reduces motivation and concentration
  • Having a learning style that is inconsistent with the format of course instruction

What is a Learning Disorder?

First of all, al learning disorder is not a problem with intelligence or motivation- they are many brilliant and successful people who have learning disorders (Keanu Reeves, Adam Levine, Justin Timberlake, Tom Cruise, and Cher, just to name a few). There are many types of learning disorders, all of which affect how people understand, remember, or respond to information. Each learning disorder is different, but all affect a person's ability to process information in some way, which can interfere with learning skills. Some possible signs of a learning disorder include:

  • Inaccurate or slow word reading
  • Difficulty with reading comprehension
  • Inaccurate spelling or grammar
  • Difficulty with basic math calculations
  • Poor organizational skills or time management
  • Difficulty with abstract reasoning
  • Difficulty retaining or organizing information poor writing skills

Coping Skills


  • Read before class
  • Briefly scan assigned reading, noting headings and main topic
  • Consider what you already know about topic, what questions you have
  • Don't overuse your highlighter!
  • May need to read once through without making notes, then read again
  • Notes (in your own words)
    • Questions
    • Reactions
    • Summaries
  • Visualize while you read
  • Talk aloud about what you have read, answer discussion questions
  • Connect your reading to topics that are interesting and relevant to you
  • Remember to review


  • Organize your ideas/make an outline (key ideas, thesis)
  • Gather evidence to support your points
  • Set it up with a logical progression of ideas
  • Use quotes from primary sources
  • Write a strong summary
  • Use a “formula” for strong essays (thesis, outline, transitions, quotes from sources, evidence - all organized in order before you write)


  • Choose study environment carefully
    • Free of distractions (noise, phone, social media)
    • Well lit, comfortable furniture and temperature
  • Know what times of day you are most productive
  • Take breaks
  • Study cues or symbols should be where you can see them (e.g., course materials, uncluttered desk)
  • Keep blank paper nearby to jot down thoughts you want to return to later
  • Sleep and exercise can help you feel more alert
  • If you are worried about personal or academic problems, talk to a counselor, professor, advisor, or friend
  • When taking exams or completing assignments, pay close attention to the instructions. Watch out for qualifier words in questions (e.g. always, never, none, etc.)


  • Acronyms
  • Rhymes
  • Find familiar words within or similar to technical terms
  • Chaining (story using words or concepts you want to remember)
  • Loci (location based memory, e.g., pair the names of famous people with names of campus buildings)
  • Study different subjects in different places, think of where you studied if stuck on an exam
  • Visual cues, symbols, or diagrams (e.g., timelines, compare/contrast)
  • Avoid rote memorization; remind yourself…
    • how the material fits into the big picture
    • why it is important
    • how it relates to what you already know
  • Test yourself
    • start well in advance and review often
    • answer questions in a different order each time
    • flashcards (paper, computer, apps)
    • have friends quiz you or discuss topic with you
    • practice tests (testing recall more effective than testing recognition)
  • Avoid cramming
  • Get plenty of sleep


  • Use a new page each day
  • Use key words/concepts, not verbatim quotes
  • Pay attention to a professor's “cues” about what is important
  • MAKE time after class to review notes, fill in, add things; don't wait for exam to review notes
  • Arrive ten minutes early to class and use that time to review your notes from the previous class. Then take ten minutes after class to review the notes you just took
  • Take notes or make an outline when completing reading assignments. Try to put the information in your own words or draw diagrams to increase comprehension of the material

Time Management

  • First priority: classes
  • Use syllabus to identify assignments, exams, papers
  • Plan a schedule of “balanced” activities (class, study, social, work, play)
  • Develop a study “routine,” with regular study times each day/week, a “study place“
  • Study soon after your lectures
  • Use odd hours or found time for studying, even if it is only 10–15 minutes
  • Limit your study time to manageable blocks (one to two hours at a time)
  • Take regular study breaks
  • “Trade” time when other things come up; if you lose study time one day, figure out how you can make it up the next day
  • Space out your studying for a given class over time; don't cram your studying into one or two days
  • Spread out your review of exam material over several days or weeks, rather than cramming right before
  • Try structuring your academic schedule as if it's a 40 hour work week to help manage your time. Include classes, study time, homework, and meeting with professors and these all down in a planner or calendar

Additional Helpful Tips

  • Before an exam or BIG assignment, discuss the content of the material and the expectations with your professor or TA's
  • Use several different types of study techniques-
    • Review notes,
    • Reach/watch lectures,
    • Create a study guide or outline,
    • Answer practice questions,
    • Review old homework problems,
    • Use flash cards,
    • Draw diagrams to improve understanding,
    • Create acronyms to memorize facts
  • If you become anxious during the exams, take a practice test prior under exam-like conditions
  • Get sufficient sleep, exercise, and nutrition throughout the semester as a proactive way to boost your brain

Campus Resources

Department of Undergraduate Studies and Student Success

Department of Disability Access and Advising

Stapleton Library

  • Satellite branch of Writing Center (behind reference desk on first floor)
  • Over 100 books on study skills
  • Reference librarians to help with research assignments
  • Reference Desk regular hours (may be different in finals week)
    • Monday–Thursday: 8:00 a.m.– 7:00 p.m.
    • Friday- 8:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
    • Saturday: Closed
    • Sunday: Noon – 8:00 p.m.
    • 724-357-3006 or 1-866-836-8815
  • LibAnswers reference service: send a question and get an answer within 24 hours (

Academic Success Center

  • The Academic Success Center (ASC) is the hub connecting students with services at IUP.
  • Faculty at ASC will link students with resources to help them succeed.
  • ASC is conveniently located at 202 Stabley Library
  • Email / for more information or to schedule a time to meet
  • Office Hours (Monday- Friday)
    • 9 :00 a.m.- Noon
    • 1:00- 4:30 p.m.

Office of the Student Advocate

Writing Center

  • Tutoring
    • Tutoring for spring 2021 will be by appointment for online sessions. Schedule an appointment through the link labeled “schedule an online writing tutorial” in the “Academic Support and Resources” section of the Academics page on MyIUP.
  • Workshops

Counseling Center