Academic Performance

Our mental outlook affects our academic performance as well.


It is important to realize that you will need time to rest, eat well, and do other things for your mind and body to allow for your optimum mental performance, this includes quality time with friends and family.

Below we have gathered some resources for you that we think may help lead to your own academic success.  The topics include:

  • Time Management
  • My Learning Style
  • Study Skills & Note Taking Strategies
  • Memory Improvement
  • Stress Management
  • Effective Test Taking Skills

We also provide you with a comprehensive list of all available resources on-campus to improve your chances of academic success.

Good luck and study hard!

Time Management

5 Steps to Enhancing Effective Time Management

Academic success is closely connected to successful use of time. Everyone is given the same 24 hours to each day, but not everyone has the same attitude in making the most of the 24 hours. Here are 5 things you can do to enhance academic success through time management:

  1. Make the decision to manage your time by managing yourselfYou control your life. Choose your goals and make them happen. Check out some of the PDFs we have attached if you want to learn how to choose and manage goals.

  2. Pay attention to your time. Plan on what you can reasonably do now and what you will have to do later. But always make sure you do it!

  3. Make lists/goals and carry a calendar. Staying organized will maximize your time effectiveness. Check out some of the PDFs we have attached if you want some templates!

  4. Anticipate your life and be realistic. Consider the demands in your life and be forgiving when accommodating changing needs. Don't forget - everyone needs to sleep, eat, and take of themselves. 

  5. Learn when and how to say no. There is simply not enough time to do everything, so make sure to set your priorities, consider your options, and then organize your plans. Saying NO to competing demands, requests, or wishes can help ease your stress.

For more information on ways to better time manage - check out the links below!

Self-Help Apps

Creating a daily schedule is sometimes necessary to effectively make use of your time. Sometimes, it is difficult sticking to a schedule. Here are a few apps we really enjoy to make your schedule and time more effective.

My Class Schedule (Google Play):

My Class Schedule keeps your student life organized! This app will not only keep you informed about your upcoming classes, but also reminds you of exams and unfinished homework.

MyHomework Student Planner:

Beauty, simplicity and reliability - myHomework Student Planner has a simple, well-designed interface, making it easy for anyone to use.

Worksheets (Downloadable)

Creating a daily schedule is not always easy.  Here are some guided documents that you can download, print, and take with you to improve your time management.

  1. CheckList of Time Use Problems - a checklist of questions, facts, and suggestions about time use. This document will give you some leads, hints, and directions that really help you in carrying through your resolve to manage time better.
  2. Time Use Schedule - a document to use and refer to when constructing a "time use schedule". 
  3. One-Week Contract - a self-employed written contract that allows you to write your goals, incentives, and results.
  4. Learning Contract - a document to help you form specific study skills and/or behavioral objectives to assist you in planning ways to accomplish these objectives. "What do I want to do?" "How am I going to do it?" "How well have I done?"
  5. Study Schedule - a printable blank study schedule template.

 

My Learning Style

General Information

Students have different strengths and preferences in the way they take in and process information - meaning, individuals have different learning styles. Some of the common differences in learning include:

  • Visual, Aural, Read / Write, Kinaesthetic
  • Active vs Reactive (or Reflective)
  • Concrete vs Abstract
  • Sequential vs Global
Theory of Learning

Educational Theorist David Kolb offers a simple model of how people learn. There are 4 categories of learning, with the first two (CE and AC) being opposites and the last two (RO and AE) also being opposites:

  • Concrete Experience (CE): a student that likes examples and peer learning
  • Abstract Conceptualization (AC): a student that likes theory and learning from an authority figure
  • Reflective Observation (RO): a student that likes to think objectively and prefers impartiality
  • Active Experimentation (AE): a student that likes to employ trial-and-error as well as open discussions
Figuring Out Your Learning Style

Trying to decipher and interpret your own learning style may more difficult and stressful. Here are 2 questionnaires that can guide you to learning style:

  • the VARK Questionnaire: This self-administered questionnaire creates a "Personal Learning Profile" for you that provides you with more information about your learning preferences.
  • Index of Learning Styles: This self-administered questionnaire is a little bit longer (44 questions). The results are given a range on varying concepts, such as; active vs reflective learning, sensing vs intuitive learning, visual vs verbal learning, and sequential vs global learning. The profile also explains what your results mean.

 

Study Skills / Note-Taking Strategies

Basic Study Techniques
  1. Set your goals and priorities for the semester and then develop a plan for achieving each goal. Some goals may relate to your education, but others may be personal (e.g., personal growth, physical fitness, relationships, etc.).
  2. Gain control of your environment. Arrange to study regularly in a place that is free from your distractions. Study only in that place and do nothing else there but study.
  3. Learn to manage your time effectively. See the information above to learn how to manage your time more effectively!
  4. Encourage yourself to study through rationale thinking by:

      1. Recognizing your irrational ideas about studying and replace them with more helpful ideas.

      2. Eliminate thinking that results in procrastination
      3. Develop a positive attitude toward schoolwork
Study Techniques
  1. Read the assignment before class. Reading the text is important for comprehending the material. See below for information on suggestions for note-taking tips.
  2. Use 3" x 5" index cards. Write the questions on one side and the answers on the other - use them as flashcards. Take them with you to study if you are waiting in lines or on the shuttle.
  3. Work all assigned problems even if the assignment will not be collected because similar questions may be on a test, exam, or quiz. Small amounts of practice over time is more efficient than one long study session.
  4. Regularly review your material. Review class notes on a daily basis, and set aside review time for each course on a weekly basis.
  5. Start studying regularly on the first day. Staying ahead of your work is crucial and starting from the beginning can assure you won't fall behind.
Taking Lecture Notes

Preparation for Note-taking:

  1. Read the assignment before class
  2. Review your notes from the previous class
  3. Sit where you can hear the professor and see the overhead, whiteboard, or chalkboard

Signs that indicate main or important ideas:

  1. Enumerations - first, four parts/steps, two causes
  2. Summations - therefore or consequently
  3. Verbals cues - pauses, voice inflections, repetitions
  4. Anything the professor may write on the board or provide in a handout

Note-taking for lecture:

  1. Write your notes legibly the first time - you may not have time to rewrite them for clarity.
  2. Write on the right 3/4 of the page and use the left 1/4 of the page for your own questions, summaries, comments, or notes from outside readings.
  3. Write your notes using your own words and interpretations. Use abbreviations when possibly, but make sure you remember them.
  4. If you miss a point, skip some space and continue taking notes. Get the information later from the professor or a classmate.
  5. Pay attention the entire class period.
  6. Review your notes immediately after class.
  7. Remember, review your notes on a daily basis as well
Causes of poor concentration and some solutions

External Distractions

These could be the tv, music, your friends, neighbors, your roommate(s), doors slamming, etc.

Find a good study place - study only at this one place and only study in that place.

Make sure the space you chose is comfortable - good lighting, ventilation, comfortable chair, large surface space, etc. 

Internal Distractions

Internal distractions may be more difficult to eliminate than external ones. Planning and finding ways to free your mind for studying is essential.

If you find yourself distracted by personal problems then set aside time to deal with these problems, either by yourself or with the help of your friends or a counselor. Talking and developing a plan of action can help reduce your concern.

Tip to free-ing your mind: Keep a card or notepad in your study area and write down appointments, errands, or thoughts that come to your mind as they occur.

 Note-Taking Skills

Adequate notes are necessary to study efficiently and learn. Here are some suggestions to improve your note taking system:

  • Listen actively. Think before you write, but don't get behind!
  • Be open-minded on points you disagree with. Don't let arguing interfere with your note taking.
  • Raise questions if and when appropriate.
  • Develop and use your own standard method of note-taking. Create abbreviations, set margins, etc.
  • Take and keep your notes in a large notebook.
  • Leave a few spaces blank as you move from one point to the next for your own personal thoughts.
The Underlining Method
  1. Read a comprehensible chunk of material first. Only start underlining during a second reading to determine the important parts of what is read.
  2. Capture only the author's main points. Try to understand what the author is saying in a few words.
  3. Underline only a few words or phrases which hang together to form sentences which represent the author's key ideas. These can serve as review points later on.
  4. Edit your notes by organizing them systematically - add numbers or symbols to what you have underlined. Write key words or make questions, summarize at the top or bottom, use contrasting colors for different levels of "importance."
Printable / Downloadable Documents
  1. Variety of Note Forms - Download this PDF and print to learn different ways to take notes. Copy one as is or adapt it to your own unique style!

  2. Ridiculous Reminders for Note Taking - we get it, you've heard what should and shouldn't be done for note taking. But you can print this out or download it to your personal device to remind you!

 

Memory Improvement

Memorization

Many college courses have a vocabulary of special terms or theories a student must learn before they can communicate intelligently and academically about the subject. Thus, students may be required to memorize a large number of new words or concepts in a short-period of time. 

Here are some exercises to give you practice using a systematic approach to memorization.  Use this tool as is or adapt it your own unique learning style!

Part 1 - Initial Learning Process

In one sitting, go through all the terms listed below using the steps described next.

Step 1: Memory Search

Ask yourself if anything in your past experience or knowledge relates to the term or concept you want to learn. If you can remember / recall related information, you can probably remember the definition of the new term by connecting it to the already known information.

Step 2: Mnemonic Connection

If step 1 is insufficient to help you remember the term, try to make an "artificial" mnemonic connection. Ask yourself:

1. Does the term sound or look like any word I already know? Can I make up some sort of imaginary connection between the two?

2. If #1 doesn't work, does the first syllable of the new term match the first syllable of any words that I know? And can this be used as a connection?

3. If that does not work, is there any other way I can make a connection between the new word and one that I already know? (maybe something that rhymes!)

4. If all else fails, you will have to resort to simple rote memorization.

Part 2 - Review of Self-Test:

This step is very important to make the work of Part 1 worthwhile. 

About 3-6 hours after completing Part 1, review the terms in these ways:

1. While looking at each term (but without looking at its definition) try to recall the memory connection for that term.

If you remember the connection, try to recall the definition of the term or concept and then check yourself.

If you do not remember the connection, take another look at it and spend some time visualizing it in relation to the definition.

Review again the same way after a few hours if you feel the need to.

Part 3 - Practice Exam:

Give yourself a self-administered test or quiz to practice the terms or concepts. You might be able to find one online or ask a classmate, friend, or professor to quiz you.

Let a few hours pass between looking at the definitions and taking the practice exam - you want to make sure you are only testing your long-term memory!

When you are finished, rank the difficulty level of completing the exam on a 1-10 scale (1 = "this was the easiest thing I've done all year", 10 = "that was the hardest thing everrrrr"). Also highlight the terms that were the most difficult for you or any you were not able to get.

Memory Tips and Strategies

 

Stress Management

Why Do We Feel Stressed?

Stress is an inherent part of daily living. The need to keep current with e-mail messages and faster-paced computers, complete To Do lists, and do "more" with "less" renders a sense of being always on the go.

We feel stressed when the demands on our system are not met with equally effective coping strategies. We may have excellent coping skills for several areas and limited resources in a few. It is important to determine which areas are more challenging to make appropriate accommodations.

Three Reasons to Stress Out:

1. Changes in your life that leave an unsettling effect (moving to college)

2. You may feel challenged or threatened by an outside factor (exams, tests, classes, etc.)

3. Experiencing a loss of personal control

When experiencing any of these situations, a person can either resist it, avoid it, or adapt to it. Examine your pattern in the past when dealing with stressful experiences.

Signs You May be Over-Stressed

Physical

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Inability to focus / Lack of concentration
  • Sexual problems
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Sweating palms / Shaking hands
  • Anxiety
  • Heart problems

Behavioral

  • Irritability
  • Disruptive eating patterns
  • Harsh treatment of others
  • Increase smoking or alcohol consumption
  • Isolation
  • Compulsive shopping
  • Difficulty in communication
Ways to Respond to Stressful Conditions

Every individual has their own way of responding to stress and we often react without thinking. To determine your best strategy for a given situation, try the following:

  1. Assess Your Priorities: Know what is most important and not quite as important. Order your activities in light of your energy for any given day. 
  2. Stress Vulnerability: Understand and be forgiving of your stressors. If you know presentations or public speaking make you nervous, do not wait until you are standing at the front of the lecture hall to practice your "skills".
  3. Expectations: Expecting too much of yourself or others can be disappointing if those expectations are not realistic. Stress is highly anticipated if you feel a need to be "perfect" on a consistent basis, try to be someone you are not, or become inflexible with your priorities.
  4. Incorporate Healthy Practices: Make sure you take time every single day to incorporate some level of exercise, appropriate eating habits, and relaxation techniques.

These techniques are meant to help you manage your stress or prevent over-stressing. But if you feel that you need to speak with someone professionally, please make an appointment by calling the Counseling Center at (410) 704-2512.

 

Effective Test-Taking Skills

Test Taking General Information

Preparation:

RECITE! This method is more effective than simply re-reading the material. Speaking out loud, say aloud from memory the main concepts, support facts, etc. that you think are important.

Study as if you are taking an essay exam. Make sure you can discuss the main issues of the topic or concept (including the main ideas/general concepts, important facts or supporting evidence, etc.)

Taking Exams (In General)

Tests can be scary and stressful, but do not let it overwhelm you. Tests are just an evaluation of your work - so if you effectively study for your learning style, you should be able to handle a reasonable test.

Do easier questions or problems first and star any problems you have difficulty answering (it takes you longer than about 5 minutes) to remind yourself to come back to later.

Budget your time so you do not spend too much on any one question or section.

Objective Tests (Multiple Choice, True-False, etc.)

Answer all questions even when there is a guessing penalty. In the long run, you come out ahead.

Don't read too much into a question.

Most multiple choice exams have at least 1 or 2 answers that are blatantly wrong. Cross answers that you know for sure to be wrong out first and then chose from the remaining.

If you have good reason, change an answer. Research indicates that more answers are changed from wrong to right than from right to wrong.

Essay Exams:

Make sure you understand the full question that is being asked. For example, do you know the difference between "evaluating" and "describing"? Or between "comparing" and "contrasting"?

Always provide support for your general statements with facts, examples, or evidence. Convince the reader you know the subject.

Write neatly!

Easy Steps to Writing an Essay Exam

These are some ideas that may help you while you are taking an essay exam. But to be thoroughly prepared, you must study for the exam in advance using your notes (see above information for note-taking skills).

Before You Start:

  1. Set up a time schedule:

    If you have a time limit for the exam, then give each question a portion of the time.

    For example, if you have 6 questions to be answered in 60 minutes, allow yourself 7 minutes for each question. When the time is up, stop and begin the next question. There will be about 15 minutes at the end to answer any incomplete answers

  2. Read through all the questions once.

Answers will come to your mind immediately for some questions. Write down key words, listings, thoughts, etc. right away while they are fresh.

As you Answer Each Question:

  1. Re-think each question in your own words. Does your question match the one on the exam?
  2. Outline your answer before writing. It does not need to be detailed, but make sure your answer is organized and flows for clarity.
  3. Take the time to write an introduction or conclusion. A neat summary at the beginning or end is satisfying to your reader and can make your answer stand out.
  4. Qualify answers when in doubt. For example, it may be better to say "Toward the end of the 19th century" than to say "in 1884" when you cannot remember whether it is 1884 or 1894.
  5. Write neatly and legibly.

After you are Finished:

  1. Take the time to reread your answer. When we rush, we tend to:

      1. misspell words

      2. omit words or parts of words

      3. omit parts of questions

      4. miswrite dates and/or figures

Further Information
Printable PDFs
  1. Preparing for a Test - the following document should help you get going by knowing what and how you should study.

  2. Exams: Preparation and Taking

On Campus Resources

There are several on-campus resources that you can seek out in order to obtain help in any of the above areas.

Disability Support Services

Disability Support Services at Towson University provides accommodations and services to students with various disabilities and some temporary impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities.  The DSS staff is available to answer questions concerning accommodations and services as well as to provide information about other resources on and off campus.

The Writing Center

The Writing Center provides individual writing support to all members of the Towson community, including undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty and staff members. We work with writers at any stage of the writing process from brainstorming to polishing a final draft.

Virtual Tutoring

For distance and commuter students who cannot make it to Towson's main campus, we offer virtual writing assistance. These sessions are conducted much like a live session in the Writing Center, but they take place online using WebEx, Towson's video chat software.