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Youth in Transition Toolkit:


Postsecondary education and training

Skills for success

Practical learning strategies

Does the youth understand practical learning strategies for success in postsecondary education or training?

Postsecondary education can be challenging, especially for youth unprepared for the rigor of a postsecondary environment. Introducing youth to practical learning strategies will help them become more independent and active learners as they enter postsecondary education or training.

  • Awareness: Understand concepts related to learning strategies, such as study, organization, test-taking and time management skills.
  • Exploration: Identify personal strengths, preferences, interests and needs related to learning strategies.
  • Preparation: Practice using learning strategies at home, school and in the community.
  • Implementation: Use learning strategies at home, school and in the community to successfully transition to a postsecondary education or training program.

Postsecondary education counseling

LEARN: Develop your knowledge

Learn how to help youth in exploring practical learning strategies.

Practical learning strategies include knowing your preferred method of learning, memorization techniques, study skills, test-taking strategies, note taking, time management, and reading strategies.

Learn more about these strategies below and consider how you can help students develop strategies that will have a direct effect on their learning and success now and in postsecondary environments. You can also find this information in a resource guide for students in the DO section below.

Students who understand how they learn can adapt classroom material to a method that will help them more readily absorb and retain information.

Auditory learners can:

  • Record lectures.
  • Listen to audio textbooks.
  • Study aloud.

Visual learners can:

  • Review notes and presentations.
  • Highlight, color-code and rewrite notes into flashcards, charts, diagrams or mind maps.

Kinesthetic learners can:

  • Pace or take a walk while studying from index cards.
  • Read textbooks while pedaling a stationary bike, listening to music or holding a stress ball.
  • Study with others by reciting and discussing the content.
  • Take a 5-minute break for each 30 minutes of study.

Consider having students take a learning assessment to find out what their preferred mode of learning is. 

Strategies to help with memorization include:

  • Time management: Carve out quality study time that is free of distractions.
  • Order: Memorize information from general to specific.
  • Organization: Sort or arrange information in groups, such as how they are similar or different.
  • Visualization: Try techniques such as mind maps or pictures.
  • Relating: Teach associations between new ideas and things the youth already knows.
  • Repeating: Teach how to rephrase information in their own words and to use multiple senses to understand information — see it, say it, write it.

Effective study methods include:

  • Study in 1- to 3-hour shifts, taking a break every 30 minutes to stretch or have a drink.
  • Study when well rested and relaxed (or feeling most productive and alert).
  • Study the more difficult information first, saving for last the homework and projects that are less strenuous or more enjoyable.
  • Eat healthy foods to maintain energy for studying.
  • Read text assignments before class and review notes after class, while they're still fresh.
  • Expect to study for 2 to 3 hours for each hour of class you attend.
  • Join a study group.
  • Meet with instructors during office hours if you're having difficulty learning new material.
  • Consult a tutor on campus or online if you'd like one-on-one support.

Before the test

  • Review the material presented in class over time. Cramming is not an effective way to learn.
  • Find out the test format ahead of time, if possible. Options include multiple choice, short answer, true/false and essay.
  • Try stress-reducing techniques just before the test. Take a walk, listen to music, or write down specific worries.
  • Arrange for testing accommodations, if needed. These may include extra time, a quiet place, audio support or enlarged print.

During the test

  • Think positively! Remember that you studied for the test are prepared to do well. 
  • Read the directions carefully and look over each section of the test. Budget an appropriate amount of time for each section.
  • Start with the section of the test that you know best. 
  • Concentrate on your own test, not what others are doing.
  • Read each question carefully before answering to be sure you understand the question completely.
  • If you're stuck on a question, cross off the answers you know are wrong.
  • If you're not sure of an answer, move on to the next question. Come back to any questions you skipped if you're able.
  • Look over the test before handing it in to make sure you didn't miss anything.

After the test

  • Read any comments from the instructor to understand any mistakes you may have made.
  • Ask instructor for clarification on anything you still don't understand.
  • Look back at your notes and jot down any additional information you learned form the test.

There are many methods and systems for taking notes. It is a skill that can only be refined through practice. Youth should experience to find a system that works for them. Tips for taking notes include:

  • Take notes that are clear and concise. Short notes are more effective than long, complicated notes.
  • Organize notes by writing the name of the class, topic and date the notes were taken.
  • Leave space on the page to add keywords or other information. Try taking notes on one side of the paper and leaving a wide margin for notes on the other side.
  • Record the lecture so that you can listen to the material again.
  • Review your notes after class and rewrite sections that are unclear. Add missing information and highlight the most important details for later study. This will also help you know if you need to check the book, the lecture recording, or with your instructor for clarification.

An effective time management plan includes prioritizing tasks, implementing due dates, breaking down assignments, and scheduling times to be in class, study, work, do errands and attend appointments. 

  • Choose a time management system. This could be a planner, assignment log, paper calendar or app. 
  • Prioritize tasks and handle the top priorities first.
  • Set realistic goals. It's common to underestimate how long an assignment will take to complete, so start assignments well before the due date.
  • Use the planner to break down assignments. Write down the steps needed to complete an assignment.
  • Overcome stumbling blocks and procrastination. Evaluate the time spent on leisure activities such as video games, movies or texting. Be proactive in scheduling leisure activities so they don't take over the time needed for study.
  • Check your planner daily. Track progress and update what's been completed.

Reading strategies include:

Get comfortable

  • Read in a quiet, well-lit area with comfortable seating.
  • Take breaks to rest your eyes and mind.

Improve concentration

  • Read aloud or use audiobooks to improve concentration.
  • Take notes from the reading assignment and highlight important concepts.
  • Jot down unfamiliar vocabulary for easy studying.

Use SQ3R strategy to read with purpose

  • Survey: Scan the text quickly to discover the central concept. Then formulate an overall picture and purpose of what you're going to study.
  • Question: Ask what you need to learn in terms of what, why, how, who and where to support the central concept. Write these questions in the margins of your textbook or at the top of your notes.
  • Read: Read the material to answer the questions you noted above. Most paragraphs contain one or more main ideas in support of a concept. Highlight these ideas and make notes in the margins. Pay attention to bold or italicized type, graphs and illustrations.
  • Recall: Pause periodically to recall in important ideas in your own words.
  • Review: See if you answered all of the questions and understood the new material. Re-read difficult parts you may have missed in the recall. Answer any review questions in the material.

DO: Work with youth

Find resources to help youth explore practical learning strategies.

Share this Practical learning strategies (PDF) guide with students to help them become more independent and active learners and make a smooth transition to college.

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