FRezCa study tips

An always in-progress list of resources, guides and study tips from fellow learners and educators:

Study resources

PDF icon Study guide including general tips, common study techniques, and some memorization techniques. Prepared by Torsten Bernhardt, Department of Biology, 2015.

Study tips

(taken from T-PULSE Advanced Learning Workshop, 2016)

Useful to-do lists:

  • Write lists including everything you have accomplished.
  • Keep track of how many things you have done.
  • The little things count because they take time!

Organizing your schedule:

  • Organize your weekly schedule and include everything!
    • All your classes (lectures, labs, tutorials)
    • Volunteering, club activities, sports commitments
    • Food times (meals, cooking)
    • Homework and study times
    • Errands: grocery shopping, bank trip, commuting
  • Break down your schedule into big commitments (classes, sleeping and eating, homework, down time) and more flexible commitments (exercise, errands, social activities).

Taking notes:

  • Consider using the PDF icon Cornell Note-taking System.
  • The average speech rate is 2-3 words/second while the average handwriting rate is 0.2-0.3 words/second. Pick the 10% that matters most when taking notes during class!
  • Attention span in adults usually lasts about 20 minutes (McKeachie & Svinicki, 2011). Reset yourself by stretching, drinking water, or refocusing using a mental task.

Active learning:

  • After 2 weeks, we tend to remember 10% of what we read and 20% of what we hear, but we remember 70% of what we say and 90% of what we say and do (Edgar Dale, 1969).
  • Practice using peer instruction to ensure that you understand something well enough to explain it simply.
  • Engage in deep learning by making connections and relating the content you are learning.
    • “How do I feel about this?”
    • “This reminds me of…”
    • “This is similar to…”

Preparing for new content:

  • Familiarize yourself with the topic!
    • Wikipedia, Google Scholar, Youtube
    • Talk to your classmates and friends
  • Learn the more complex material.
    • Go over the slides
    • Access your book and reading material
    • Visit the McGill Library for peer-reviewed articles

Exam studying

Mix up your studying method!

  • Independently: review class notes, read supporting documents, do any homework or practice problems
  • With a partner: do short answer questions, peer-review assignments, discuss homework and practice problems
  • In groups: have discussions about lecture content, teach and share, play games or do practice tests

Should you pull an all-nighter?

  • After not sleeping for 24 hours, brain cognitive function is similar to having a blood alcohol level of 0.1% (International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health).
  • This leads to impairment of motor coordination, loss of good judgment and impaired reaction time – and can translate into more errors and lost marks.
  • Get a good night’s rest before exams!


  • Caffeine may increase alertness, but also increases anxiety by raising cortisol, the “stress hormone”.
  • Health Canada (2016) suggests that a moderate caffeine intake of 400 mg/day is okay for the average adult.
  • 400 mg of caffeine is about 3 cups of brewed coffee or 13 cups of green tea or 10 cans of Coca-Cola or 40 chocolate brownies.
  • Avoid consuming too much caffeine before an exam!

Keep a positive attitude!

  • Positivity, happiness and success are related – we can change our brains (Emmons & Cullough 2003).
  • Tell yourself that you can do it!

Re-focusing your studying

You were supposed to study and you didn’t because…

  • You weren’t feeling well
  • You won concert tickets
  • The Habs were playing
  • You watched a movie
  • It took a really long time to finish an assignment
  • You didn’t feel like it
  • Your friend visited for the weekend

Get back on track by…

  1. Make a new schedule/plan
  2. Start with simple and short tasks – break time periods into minutes or half-hours
  3. Keep track of your progress – use “To Do” and “Done” lists
  4. Take breaks, self-care and have fun
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