How To Succeed in College/Studying

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A notable difference between college and high school is that college professors don't simply provide answers and they seldom provide study guides. All the information needed for success in college is available to students, but one of a student's many responsibilities is to utilize all available resources to learn the information. That means studying. If you didn't have to study to do well in high school, you are likely in for a surprise in college.

Effective Studying Methods[edit]

A growing body of research examines effective study methods. Two common approaches are practicing retrieval and concept mapping. In retrieval practice, students read the study material and then recall the information. This is an active cue driven form of studying. Concept mapping, which is an elaborative study method, involves students enriching material they are studying by creating associations between the concepts within an organized structure. At least one study suggests that retrieval practice results in better long-term retention, an improvement of over 50% over concept mapping.[1] Interestingly, students were under the impression that they would retain more through concept mapping. This research supports the idea that retrieval practice promotes meaningful learning of complex concepts commonly seen in the sciences. Concept maps could be made in the absence of learning materials, making it a function of retrieval rather than elaborative studying, and the nature of an activity determines the extent of the learning; this needs to be taken into consideration when educational activities are devised. According to the article, “During elaboration, subjects attain detailed representations of encoded knowledge by enriching or increasing the number of encoded features. But during retrieval, subjects use retrieval cues to reconstruct what happened… in free recall, subjects must establish an organizational retrieval structure and then discriminate and recover individual concepts within that structure… the act of reconstructing knowledge itself enhances learning.”


  1. Karpicke, Jeffrey D., and Janell R. Blunt. 2011. “Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping.” Science 331(6018):772 -775.