Navigating the Classroom and Being a Smart Student

The key to college is to study smarter, not study harder. Studying harder doesn't always mean that you are studying better.

©2016 Louisiana State University, Center for Academic Success

Study Cycle

The Study Cycle is a model for optimal college studying.


  • 5-15 minutes
  • Before class, skim new material.
  • Note big ideas.


  • Go to class!
  • Take notes.
  • Ask questions.


  • 10-15 minutes
  • Reread notes.
  • Fill in gaps.
  • Develop questions.


  • 30-50 minutes
  • Schedule several focused study sessions per class each week.


  • Can I teach this material to someone?
  • Are my study methods effective?

Adapted from Frank Christ’s PLRS system.
©2015 Louisiana State University, Center for Academic Success

Using Study Groups

Increase the power of your studying by using study groups. The trick to study groups is getting the right balance and people to participate.

Study groups work because you share ideas, collaborate and learn from each other. Below are tips on how to create a study group and tips on what to do once you are in your study group. Use these 5 tips to make sure that your study group is beneficial and 4 more tips to make sure you are productive during your study meetings.

Beneficial Study Groups:

  1. Keep your group small, 4 to 6 people. This size group should stay on task and allow each person to contribute.
  2. Study with good students who are alert, take notes and ask questions in class. They may or may not be your friends, but they will be a good study partners. Students who are all confused by the material won’t make as much progress as groups of students that include students with understanding of the material who can contribute knowledge and ability to the group.
  3. Pick your study location carefully. Look for a distraction free zone! You don’t want to be interrupted by friends or students walking past you. Limit the technology to only what is needed; close unnecessary computer programs and turn off phones. Remember you will need a lot of space to spread out your books.
  4. Work for 2 to 3 hours; shorter periods of time will force you to be more productive and stay focused.
  5. Plan to meet regularly. Think of your study group as an extension of your class. Pick a day and time to meet weekly and stick to it.

Productive Study Meetings

Studying in a group will require that you do things differently than what you do when you study alone.

  1. Make a plan for the study time and stick to it.
  2. Show up to your study group prepared. You will have to study outside of your study group; some of this will be time spent preparing for study group.
  3. Give assignments to the study group members. Here are a few ideas for assignments:
    1. Divide the week’s class material among the group and have each person write 10 to 20 questions about their section. You can then quiz each other and use the questions to review the week’s material.
    2. Have each member of the group pinpoint the main ideas of the week’s units. You can compare and discuss where you have agreement and disagreement.
    3. Summarize the material, breaking it down to the simplest ideas and then as a group flush out the details.
    4. Create an together in proper order.
  4. Take turns teaching and speaking so that everyone has the opportunity to reinforce his or her knowledge.

Follow these tips for your study groups and you will multiply your studying power and your learning!

SLANT - a classroom strategy for success.

Watch this video about the SLANT method; a unique and helpful set of behaviors to help you get the most out of the classroom.​​​​​​​SLANT Method Video Frame graphic image​​​​​​​

What it takes to be successful: Tips from faculty

Working with your faculty is key to working smarter in college.

Here are some tips for working with faculty:

  1. Don't wait until after you have received a grade on your first class exam to meet with your instructors. The best time to visit is actually at the beginning of the semester, before the exams get started. When you visit with your instructor early you can discuss how you are reading the text, studying the material, and get test taking tips or strategies.
  2. When you do your class reading is especially important. Read your assigned chapter first, then go to class and take notes on the material. Now read the chapter again. Most instructors expect students to read the assigned material before class to set a basic foundation of knowledge so the class can expand on this foundation during lecture.
  3. Memorization may be the foundation of learning, but it isn't the goal in college. True learning builds on memorization to reach application. Learning means that you are able to apply the concepts and explain them to others.

Cornell Note Taking Method

Have you ever sat down to study your notes and they didn't make sense, they were disorganized, they didn't include enough detail, or were otherwise unhelpful? Taking good notes in class is essential to being successful. If you don't have good notes from class, how can you study what you covered in class?

Take a look at this file to see the Cornell method of note taking and give it a try in your next class!

Increase Your Study Power-Cornell.pdf (223.933 KB)
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