Counseling Services

Developing College Study Skills

Research indicates that successful learners have developed several skills and attitudes to help them study more effectively. Western Nevada College and the WNC Counseling Department encourage all students to take CAPS 122, the college study skills course. However, students unable to take this course may find the following information helpful. Consider purchasing a study skills course textbook to learn these techniques in detail. The WNC library also has a study skills research guide link at to help students find information.

Successful Behaviors

Goal Setting

  • Set a goal.
  • Make a detailed plan.
  • Take specific action.

Time Management

  • Take advantage of small blocks of time. Studying is more effective in short, frequent sessions, and it's easier to find a small amount of time.
  • Respect schedules. Get up when the alarm clock goes off. Rest during breaks. Complete assignments on time. Listen to your biological clock.
  • Don't waste time. Study while waiting for an appointment. Start a task instead of thinking about doing it.


  • Procrastination causes stress and is usually caused by fear, fatigue, or poor organization.
  • Identify your reasons for procrastination and take action.
    • Start any task immediately. Don't wait to feel ready.
    • When it's time to study, start within five minutes. Don't let time slip away on other tasks.
    • Use an empty desk top to avoid distractions.
    • Recognize the need for more information. Sometimes procrastinating is a sign that you don't have enough information to begin the assignment.
    • Learn to identify the ways you avoid work.
    • Turn off the TV.
  • Identify and ignore any negative inner dialogue. Replace negativity and fear with concrete action and a positive mental attitude.
  • Be proactive rather than reactive.
  • Get enough rest. Don't rely on caffeine or sugar.
  • Learn to relax.


  • Take a placement test to determine the correct level of learning.
  • Keep up with the class assignments.
  • Read the text and other assigned materials carefully.
  • Read and listen actively.
  • Take notes.
  • Get help if necessary.
  • Improve concentration by eliminating distractions, developing good habits and strategies, keeping a positive attitude toward learning and teachers.
  • Become familiar with campus resources and assistance.

Academic Conduct

  • Attend regularly.
  • Be on time and stay for the entire class.
  • Pay attention, stay alert, and find a way to be interested.
  • Participate and ask questions.
  • Be polite and respectful to instructors, staff, and other students.
  • Take responsibility; avoid blaming others for your performance.
  • Learn from feedback and instructor comments.
  • Complete work carefully and on time.
  • Avoid talking when instructor or other students are speaking.
  • Maintain academic integrity. Don't cheat on exams or papers.

Successful Reading

Active Reading

  • Read with intent and purpose, not just to complete the assignment.
  • Preview the chapter or text.
  • Note the thesis statement and evidence.
  • Ask questions while reading.
  • Annotate and take notes.
  • Pause to observe comprehension.
  • Review the material.
  • Think about the material.
  • Study diagrams or draw diagrams to increase understanding.

Strategies to help with difficult reading (adapted from Successful College Writing, McWhorter)

  • To help concentration and interest: take limited breaks, work at peak periods of attention, complete assignment in sections, and choose a deadline.
  • To help with difficult sentences and ideas: read aloud, break sentences into parts, rephrase the material, make an outline of the material, reread sections of the assignment, discuss the material with the instructor or a classmate, explore the organization of the chapter, paying close attention to introductions, summaries, and headings.
  • To help with an unfamiliar subject: research information about the author and subject, find other sources that offer more explanation or review, understand any specialized vocabulary, look at another textbook for the course.


  • Recognize that more complex ideas require special words and learn these words.
  • Understand the relationship between successful learning and a large vocabulary.
  • Use a dictionary.
  • Learn to recognize word roots and prefixes.
  • Develop a system for vocabulary building.

Indicators of low reading comprehension

  • Nothing seems important or everything seems equally important.
  • Can't predict what's coming next.
  • Don't know why the material is important or was assigned.
  • Writing seems disjointed.
  • Vocabulary seems unfamiliar.
  • The topic is unfamiliar, but the author assumes the reader has knowledge.

Successful Listening

  • Listen actively.
  • Try to find something interesting in the topic.
  • Avoid responding emotionally to the material or speaker.
  • Judge the content instead of the speaker.
  • Listen for both ideas and facts.
  • Find an efficient and flexible note-taking technique.
  • Resist distractions.
  • Be open-minded.
  • Don't doodle, daydream, or read.
  • Try to understand the purpose, thesis, and evidence.
  • Use any time gaps to think about the material instead of wandering to other ideas.
  • Observe non-verbal cues like gestures and inflection that indicate major points.

Successful Testing

  • Maintain a positive attitude to learning and ability.
  • Keep up with course material.
  • Be organized and thoroughly prepared.
  • Become familiar with setting prior to the test.
  • Read questions carefully.
  • Be careful to answer all parts of multi-part questions.

Objective Tests:

  • Read carefully and examine language and grammar for clues.
  • Work systematically.
  • Read directions.
  • Avoid careless errors.

Essay Exams:

  • Start with the easiest questions.
  • Make notes while reading questions.
  • Write legibly.
  • Use basic expository writing skills:
    • Put the answer at the beginning and get to the point (in other words, have a thesis)
    • Have an introduction and a conclusion.
    • Use unified and coherent paragraphs.
    • Organize carefully.
    • Don't ramble.
    • Only include information that pertains to the answer.
    • Use evidence and reasoning instead of hyperbole and opinion.

Successful Remembering

  • Recognize that it's harder to remember what was heard than what was read.
  • Nothing can be remembered until it is actually learned.
  • According to studies, the most important factor in remembering is choosing to remember.

Strengthening Memory

  • Find a reason to remember.
  • Pay attention.
  • Get information correct.
  • Organize information in meaningful ways.
  • Make logical connections.
  • Visualize the information.
  • Use mnemonic devices.
  • Recite information.
  • Study for short periods.

Successful Thinking

  • Learn to use all levels of thinking: information, understanding, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The best way to access higher order thinking is to formulate questions about the material as you study.
  • Take one of the Learning Styles inventories available online and in books.
  • Use the whole brain to improve memory and understanding. Reading and writing are left brain functions while drawings, pictures, and graphs use the right brain.
    • Make graphic organizers and outlines.
    • Draw concept maps by drawing diagrams to express abstract processes and relationships.
    • Analyze and understand graphs and diagrams in texts and lectures.
    • Use illustrations in notes.

Start by replacing bad habits with a few good study skills and then build on your ability. Soon these skills will become automatic and the positive results you see will encourage you to continue to improve your learning ability.

© 2018 Western Nevada College
Privacy Policy | Important Notices | Title IX | WNC en Español | Home
Information: 775-445-3000
General Questions: