Keys to Academic Success

1. Motivation
Motivation is the energy to study, achieve, and maintain a positive attitude and behaviors over time. Highly motivated students view their effort and ability as the most important factors of success.

  • Remind yourself that your success today will help you to be more successful tomorrow.
  • Make learning your number one priority.
  • Set realistic goals, within a specific time period such as a day, week, or term. Divide larger projects into smaller pieces you can easily accomplish.
  • Get in touch with other students. Students who already have successfully passed the class you are in can help give you an idea of what to expect.
  • Compete with yourself. Keep bettering your previous grades rather than focusing on the performance of others.

2. Time Management
Managing your time allows you to be more effective, efficient, and productive.

  • For the entire quarter, write down all important dates in your calendar.
  • Structure your out-of-class time with a daily planner so that you can plan ahead and avoid missing important dates.
  • Know your learning style and take this into account when developing a study schedule.
  • Use time in between classes to read, review notes, and prepare for your next lecture.
  • Conquer procrastination:
    a. Weigh the consequences. Procrastination might mean you are unable to finish an assignment before it’s due, receive the grade you desire, and potentially fail the course.
    b. Do a task analysis. Break down your task into smaller tasks and achieve them one by one.
    c. Create deadlines. Work with the deadline set by your instructor and create personal deadlines along the way.
  • Space out your study periods for one course over the entire week.
  • Allow for longer study periods when learning general concepts and material where your mind can make connections with other concepts in a meaningful way.
  • Reward yourself. Four hours of solid studying followed by a half-hour of an activity is more productive than four mediocre hours of study with many interruptions.
  • Memorize specific details and facts right before you go to bed.
  • Review for a class discussion right before the class meets.
  • Consider reviewing your methods with your instructor. Getting help on a troublesome topic may help you succeed in future courses.

Note: The quarter system courses move at a fast pace. A couple of days doing nothing may make it difficult to catch up.

3. Course Materials: Textbooks, Syllabus, and Readings
Effective use of course materials is essential for understanding and learning course content. Properly reading course materials can be challenging. You should read course materials multiple times to fully grasp the concepts covered.

  • Pre-read before a lecture to see what is covered in the course material and what you need to pay attention to during the lecture. Read with questions in your mind.
  • Scan the chapter titles.
  • Read after the lecture to form a complete understanding of the material covered in the lecture.
  • Read, think, and ask questions. Keep a balance of the three.
  • Check for comprehension. During your reading, pause periodically and use textbook questions to test your understanding.
  • Gain a further understanding by forming connections between the various topics within a chapter. Go a step further and connect ideas between chapters.
  • Read summary paragraphs or conclusions.
  • At the end of each chapter, create an outline of all you have learned.
  • Define key terms and phrases in your own words.
  • Get together with others in your class and ask each other questions on the reading.
  • Read before tests to have a complete review.

4. Lectures
Lectures are the main teaching methods used on our campus. During lectures, instructors convey critical information, history, background, theories, equations, and practical application.

  • Attend ALL class sessions.
  • Sit toward the center of the classroom close to the front.
  • Be an active, not a passive, listener; get involved, ask questions.
  • Make an effort to remember, “What were the important things we covered today?”
  • Learn to filter out “noise.” Don't be distracted by the conversations of others.

5. Notes
Taking good notes in class is crucial for learning and preparing for exams. Notes that are a complete record of course material learned are most effective.

  • Date all notes and number all pages.
  • Experiment with different formats (outline, tables, and notecards) and find what works best for you for each course.
  • Paraphrase information into your own words rather than writing verbatim.
  • Use abbreviations whenever possible, being consistent with your abbreviations and symbols.
  • Leave room in the margins so that you may add to your notes later.
  • Develop a system to give extra emphasis to key ideas, concepts, and definitions: underline, use different-colored ink, use asterisks, draw arrows, use a highlighter, etc.
  • Don’t be overly concerned with neatness and style, as you can revise your notes at a later time.
  • Give equal importance to all aspects of the lecture. Spoken words are just as important as what is written or projected on the board/screen. Listen carefully at the end of each class session before you wrap up.
  • Organize, review, and revise your notes.
  • Process the information you hear and test your understanding by writing summaries. If you have grasped the concept entirely, you will be able to produce detailed and comprehensive notes; if not, you will have a better idea of what to follow up on with the instructor or a teaching assistant.
  • At the end of the course, put a table of contents on the cover of your notes.

6. Outside of Class Study
To fully prepare for examinations outside of class, study is required. Finding an effective way to study outside of class is essential for academic success.

  • Find a good location to study (library, home, or a dedicated study room).
  • Work on assignments that are due the soonest so you do not fall behind.
  • Spread out work over the quarter. Studying in small amounts daily works better than “cramming.”
  • Vary the order of the subjects studied.
  • A study group and make sure members of your group keep focused and share equally in the responsibility of reviewing the course materials and notes.
  • Prepare for meetings with your instructor and teaching assistant (select instructors have office hours):
    a. Confirm where and when you are meeting
    b. Know the instructor’s academic background and current research
    c. Bring all the appropriate materials
    d. Write down questions and discussion points beforehand
    e. Obtain clarification on concepts, facts, and processes.
    f. Obtain clarification on formulas, applications, and specific problem areas.
    g. As needed and as permitted, coordinate to make up tests, quizzes, or other work
    h. Check in on how you are doing in class.

Note: Instructors teaching UCSB Professional and Continuing Education courses do not have office hours. You may arrange to talk with them before class, at break, or after class.

7. Summarization
What is learned needs to be digested, organized, and memorized for future use. Creating summaries will serve that purpose.

  • Do a summary for each chapter of your textbook and lecture.
  • At the end of the course, do an overall summary.
  • Include:
    a. Major topics covered (make a list of them).
    b. Important methods or techniques used in courses involving mathematics.
    c. Examples, homework, and quiz questions.

8. Tests
Examinations do not have to be feared. With the right preparation, you can feel confident about your ability to perform.

Test Taking Preparation

  • Begin test preparation activities as far in advance as you can.
  • Learn to anticipate what is going to be on the exam.
  • Simulate tests by completing assignments under the same conditions as the real test (no books or notes).
  • Work on practice problems until you are confident that you understand how the formula or principle works in all possible cases.
  • Organize your study materials.
  • Go over your texts, syllabus, notes, and homework. Make sure you understand every part.
  • Break your studying into small units and practice.
  • Participate in a study group (as both a learner and a teacher).
  • Don’t replace protein with caffeine.
  • Rewrite your notes by hand! The physical act of writing information helps you retain it in your mind.

Test Taking Strategies

  • View a test as a challenge or opportunity to perform, not as a punishment.
  • Get to the class early enough to get seated, settled, and relaxed, but not so early that you get caught up in the last-minute study panic.
  • Read all the directions.
  • Budget your time.
  • Read the test questions carefully. Highlight the important words or phrases.
  • Answer the easy portions first.
  • Connect concepts with pictures, symbols, formulas, and diagrams for problem-solving questions.
  • Slow down on tests as anxiety makes you skip over parts of questions.
  • Remember: it is the score that matters, not how early you turn in your test.
  • Review your answers after finishing your exam.

9. Anxiety
Anxiety is a normal response to high pressure situations. Managing your anxiety may help you succeed under pressure.

  • Try not to exaggerate the importance or significance of the test.
  • Avoid negative thoughts.
  • Take 30-60 seconds out to sit back and relax.
  • Try some relaxation techniques (breathe deeply, tense-relax your bicep).
  • Make sure you eat healthy, have adequate sleep, and exercise regularly.

This information was collected from a variety of sources on the internet from Cal State LA, Dartmouth, UPenn, Stanford, and Harvard.