No matter how good a student’s grades are in high school, no one is ever fully prepared for the academic challenges that university has in store. We’ve all heard the generic advice: get a planner, don’t procrastinate, study way before the exam.

But in reality, effective studying looks different depending on what field you’re part of. Below are three writers’ study tips, specific to three distinct academic fields at U of T. Good luck in the upcoming academic year!

Studying for humanities, by Simran Kaur

As a humanities student, I believe that the most important key to success is to understand the course expectations by familiarizing yourself with the course syllabus and the grading criteria. This will not only help you understand what’s needed to excel in the course but also give you an idea of what your professor may expect from you throughout the semester. In many of my courses, I found that, since the syllabi were written in great detail, professors didn’t take much lecture time to explain an assignment. Instead, they expected us to get the work done based on the syllabus descriptions.

Another tip — important in all courses but especially in the humanities — is to read actively. With many courses providing extensive readings, it can be time-consuming to read and memorize everything. Thus, it is essential to develop active reading techniques, such as focusing on chapter summaries and using review questions and keywords, to develop a stronger understanding of the content.

On the same note, using effective note-taking strategies are equally important when doing readings and listening to lectures. Some students prefer to take notes on their readings and add to them during the lecture, while others prefer to take separate notes. Regardless of how you study, ultimately, you need to ensure that your notes include key concepts, real-life examples of those concepts, and how that content can be assessed on tests or exams. This way, you’ll always be able to rely on your notes to revise efficiently when the time comes.

My final tip would be to actively participate in class discussions. When you’re not participating, you’re more likely to be distracted and not pay attention. But when you do participate, you’re aware of the discussions taking place and can pay attention to the small but crucial details.

Although I cannot guarantee that all these tips will work for you, they’ve helped me succeed over the last three years. I am sure when adapted to your preferences, they will also be able to help you excel!

Studying for social science, by Maggie Wang

For many students, the transition from high school to university can be daunting. But the adjustment doesn’t always have to be hard! Here are some tips to give you a running start straight into your first semester of social science.

  1. Read for themes, not for details

The sheer number of readings you have to get through on a weekly basis can seem overwhelming. The good news is that professors don’t expect you to read the whole thing! Most courses will only test you on the main concepts, so don’t get bogged down trying to understand minute details in the text. Read the material to get a general understanding of its concepts and broader themes, and skim the text when necessary.

  1. Engage in active studying

When approaching readings, students often fall into the habit of reading for facts instead of actually engaging with the material. But there is a reason why your professor has assigned a reading to you; the reading either connects to the lecture or deepens your understanding of the topic. While reading, try to connect what you’re learning in the text to what you already know. In the long term, this will be especially helpful for writing an exam or essay, which relies on understanding the significance of the material.

  1. Extend your knowledge outside the lecture

Lectures are important in creating a base for your knowledge, but chances are you’ll stumble upon something that isn’t covered in class. In that case, don’t hesitate to bring your questions to tutorials and your professor’s office hours! Receiving outside input on a text will help you gain a better understanding of the topic, and asking questions is a great way to get those tutorial participation marks. Debating content with friends is also useful to deepen your understanding and hear different perspectives on the material.

Studying for STEM, by Manya Lamba

While many study techniques exist, you will need to invest time and energy to find what works for you. Ideal study techniques will vary with the requirements of the course, so you have to be adaptable.

Anki is a software that allows you to create flashcards and review them to recall material. This program is used religiously in life sciences and other courses that are memorization-heavy. Anki allows users to embed audio, images, and scientific markups into their flashcards, allowing for more customizable and informative cards.

For open-book assessments, it is easier to get down to the basics and create your own notes. Use different colors and tabs so you are able to find the topic you are looking for with ease. More importantly, writing down concepts helps make your knowledge of them concrete to the point you rarely need your notes during those tests.

If you have ever taken an exam that allows you to bring a cheat sheet, take notice of how often you have actually used it. Condensing information to a single page allows you to focus more on concepts you need to solidify, and when the time comes for the exam, you will rarely need to refer to it. Even if you cannot bring a cheat sheet to the exam, make one anyway to see how much of what you can remember from the course can fit onto a single sheet. The missing concepts are the areas you need to work on.

Probably the biggest challenge you will encounter is distraction and procrastination. By changing your study location often, you can maximize your productivity and also discover new places on campus! I also find it easier to stay focused while listening to music. Playing the same track on repeat helps me lose focus on the song and its lyrics and focus on my work, with the sound remaining as a constant, background variable. You can also listen to instrumental music if the lyrics distract you.