How can I get better grades?

Students who have recently started university may be surprised by the amount of reading they are expected to do. Some students handle the work well, but others wonder what happened to the good grades they got in high school. If you are like many students, you can read a chapter in your text book, but when you try to recall the material, you cannot remember very much about it.

So, educational experts have developed strategies to help you read more effectively. They offer some excellent tips to help you improve your memory for what you’ve read. I’ll summarize them here for you. Use them, as well as your own unique learning methods, to help you be successful in university.

There are six steps to take to help you learn and remember unit material more effectively:

Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Reflect, and Review (Coon et al., 2014).

1. Survey. First, get an overview of what the chapter is all about. Doing it before class will help you understand the lectures better, and you’ll get more out of them.
Ways to survey:
o Check the headings and subheadings in the chapter.
o Look over the figures, boxes, and section summaries. If the topic is important enough to rate its own figure or box, then that gives you a clue about the importance of the topic.

2. Question. Create questions out of the headings to help you focus as you read.
Ways to question:
o Answer your own questions.
o For example, when you read about critical thinking and decision making, ask yourself questions such as:
    • What is critical thinking?
    • How can I learn to think critically?
    • When is it useful to think critically?
o By the end of the section, you should be able to answer your questions and others as well.

3. Read. Read to understand.
Ways to read:
o Space out your reading into short sessions. Learn small amounts every day. Cramming places too big a burden on your memory!
o Make special note of definitions and boldfaced type.
o Pause and recap after each section you read, either out loud or in your mind.

4. Recite. Repeat the material in whatever ways work best for you.
Ways to recite:
o Repeat out loud the gist of what you just read. If you cannot quite do that, reread the section and try again

o Make your own set of notes.

o Go back and forth between the text and your lecture notes when there is corresponding content. This back and forth process and repetition between the two sources will help you remember and understand the course material better.

5. Reflect. Think about what you just read and make it meaningful to you.
Ways to reflect:
o Pause after every section you read and think about the content. Use questions like these to keep you focused.
   • What is the main point?
   • How can I relate this to my own experiences?
   • What is surprising?
   • What is confusing?
   • What possible test questions are there here?
o When you think you understand the material, stop and try to put what you just read into your own words.
o Connect the new information you read to something you already know. Consider how the new facts integrate into your system or network of understanding. Meaning making is a highly effective study technique.

6. Review. Summarize the main points and test your memory.
Ways to review:
o Answer the questions you asked yourself about the content. This technique will help you integrate the new information and make it easier to recall.
o Test yourself by answering the questions at the end of the chapter. They are designed to help you with the course material.
o If you have access to the text book publisher’s online materials, go to the text website and try the unit activities.

[Reference: Coon, D., Mitterer, J.O., Brown, P., Malik, R., & McKenzie, S. (2014). The psychology of studying. Enrichment module. Nelson, Toronto.]