Chatham Views

Hack Your Study Skills

PACE Center staff
Education & Writing Specialist Nick Maydak, Shannon Brenner, Cindy Kerr, and Academic Counselor Barb Sahlaney

We sat down with Cindy Kerr and Shannon Brenner, respectively director and coordinator of the PACE Center for Academic Support and Disability Support Services, to learn how students can get the most out of their time hitting the books. Here’s what we found out:

Hack textbook reading.
This works well for science books. Before you read a chapter, go through and look at all the headings. Note any terms that are bolded, any sidebars, and look at the pictures, graphs, and charts.

Then read the chapter. “It’s a ‘pre-reading strategy’ that helps your brain,” says Brenner. “It makes connections more easily because you have an idea of what to expect.”

But don’t stop there. After you finish the chapter, close the book and write down (or audio record) everything you can remember from what you just read.

“Go back and try to recall the info every couple of days,” says Brenner. “Whatever you can’t comfortably recall and explain, reread that section and try it again. It’s more work, but it’s unbelievably effective.”

Hack your to-do list.
Does it look something like this?

  • Write psychology paper
  • Study for chemistry test

Kerr and Brennan suggest that you break those tasks up into smaller, goal-oriented tasks, like this:

  • Write psychology outline
  • Find three sources for psychology paper
  • Re-write chemistry notes from last week
  • Write down everything I remember from Chapter 3 of chemistry text

“Because they’re smaller, you’re much less likely to procrastinate starting them,” says Brenner. “Also, a longer list of easier-to-manage tasks leads to crossing more off that list, which leads to a greater feeling of accomplishment and productivity!”

Hack the methods of information delivery.
Say you’re in a lecture class, but you’re a visual learner. “Go to YouTube and find some videos,” says Kerr, who recommends Khan Academy’s YouTube videos. “They’re available 24/7, and if you watch them and then look at your lecture notes or textbook, they’ll supplement each other.”

Kerr notes that many students are used to having whatever learning resources they need given to them in high school. “Once they come to college,” she says, “they might not know what’s out there to help. That’s one of the places where we can come in.”

The PACE Center comprises the writing center, academic coaching, tutoring, and disability support services. Find it on the third floor of the Jenny Mellon King library, or access their online scheduling system here.