The first time I studied properly was for a Year 12 for a Biology exam I wanted to get an A in. I re-read all of my notes for the whole unit, summarised the main ideas, condensed the main ideas into single words that ‘triggered’ other information, and tested myself using question/answer from that list of single words.

For two weeks, I tested myself until I could recite the information verbatim. The night before the test, I answered the panicked calls of my friends who were cramming and didn’t understand various concepts.

What happened?

I got a B+. Frustration plus!

frustrated teen getting a B+

But by the last year of high school I should have already developed effective study skills. I hadn’t – and I was a good student.

I turned up, I paid attention, and I knew that writing out definitions a million times wasn’t going to work. (Unlike some of my peers, whose hands ached for the entire of senior year).

If a good student doesn’t know how to study effectively, what chance does a mediocre student have unless teachers explicitly teach study skills?

But, I hear you ask, what study skills should I teach? Which skills are the most important? The curriculum is crowded, how can I do it quickly? Scroll down to find out 9 essential study skills that every student should know (and every teacher should teach).

Taking notes

Teaching how to take effective notes is one of the most important study skills to teach as it helps students avoid wasting time in class and at home. There are many different methods of note-taking, but some methods students may use include the Cornell method, mind-mapping, sketch or doodle notes, and the outline method.

Reading assignments

Many students feel overwhelmed when faced with a massive amount of reading to complete for class. Teaching students the skim, skip, and read strategy makes it easier for students to prioritize readings. Then they’ll do at least SOME of the readings!


Some people have excellent memories without effort – but most don’t. By teaching students that repetition of information helps them to remember it, students are more likely to actually do the work of re-reading notes, clarifying problem areas, practicing problems, and writing their own question/answer flash cards. And research shows that recalling information is one of the most effective ways to remember what you learn.

Planning and organisation

The study skill of planning and organization is one of the easiest to master and is important to teach. Being well organized will help students avoid unexpected tests or essay due dates. Show students how to plan ahead using a calendar and to-do list so they can organize their time effectively.

study schedule

Focus and concentration

Everyone struggles to focus and concentrate sometimes. Showing students techniques such as using a timer and working for a short set time (like half an hour) can help students get started – usually the hardest part!

Avoiding procrastination

Ignoring distractions can be difficult when a phone is within easy reach, facebook messenger is on in the background, and snapchat is pinging away. Show students that spending focused time concentrating on schoolwork can free up time to do REAL-LIFE fun stuff. (Instead of messaging their friends and wishing they could get out of the house!).

Studying for tests and exams

Many students think that studying for a test means re-reading notes the night before the exam and hoping that it all sticks. Show students how to create an effective study schedule, so they get repeated exposure to information, which is a study skill that will help it ACTUALLY stick.

Overcoming test and exam anxiety

Everyone gets nervous before a test – and that can be a good thing to help them focus and perform well. But for some students, nerves get in the way. By exploring the main reasons why they feel nervous, you can help students identify why they are nervous and come up with appropriate strategies to overcome anxiety.

Writing papers and essays

Writing a good paper or essay can be tough, especially when research is involved. By showing students how to research, write, and edit their work, you can help them not just at school but in their future careers.

Using exercise to improve results

Now, I know the title says 9 essential study skills, and this one isn’t really a study skill per se, but research shows that movement improves learning. So, stress the importance of exercise to not only a healthy lifestyle but also improving academic results by increasing learning.

How can I teach these study skills quickly?

I’ve already addressed that using videos isn’t lazy teaching – so use a video. My favorite videos for teaching study skills are the CrashCourse Study Skills videos (and those of you who have read previous posts like this one will know that I totally fan-girl over CrashCourse).

Other posts you may be interested in about study skills:

  • This post has three free study skills videos. They are aimed at different ages: college students and high school students.
  • You can find out more about the mind-mapping method of taking notes here. And this post has three free mind-mapping tools.
  • This post has more information about the Cornell method of note-taking.