Top 10 Get studying tips

Treat an online course like a “real” course.

When it comes to online classes, you need to have the discipline to sit down and say, “I am going to work on this,” as well as the dedication to actually follow through. Though you can be flexible as to when you choose to complete your work during the week, you can’t put it off indefinitely. One of the easiest ways to ensure follow through is to remember that you are paying to take this online course, just as you would for a traditional, in-person class. You must “show up” if you’re going to get real value out of your class. Treat your online classes the same way you would a face-to-face class—or, better yet, a job—and you’ll be off to the right start.

Hold yourself accountable

Set goals at the beginning of the semester, and check in with yourself weekly. In a traditional classroom setting, you’ll often receive verbal or visual reminders of an assignment’s upcoming due date. But without a professor actively reminding you, it’s up to you to make sure you’ve allotted enough time to complete the work so you’re not starting an assignment the day before it’s due. If you’re having trouble holding yourself responsible, pair up with a fellow classmate, or enlist the help of a spouse or friend to check in as an accountability partner. By being organized, proactive, and self-aware, you can get the most from your online class even when life outside of school becomes chaotic.

Work questions out of order.

Spending too much time on the hardest problems means you may rush through the easiest. Instead of working questions in order, ask yourself whether a question is a Do Now, Later, or Never. No need to agonize—this decision can be made very quickly:

  • NOW: Does a question look okay? Do you know how to do it? Do it now.
  • LATER: Will this question take a long time to work? Leave it and come back to it later. Circle the question number for easy reference.
  • NEVER: Know the topics that are your worst, and learn the signs that flash danger. Don’t waste time on questions you should never do. Instead, use more time to answer the Now and Later questions accurately.

Choose a “Letter of the Day.

Just because you don’t work a question doesn’t mean you don’t answer it. There is no penalty for wrong answers on the ACT, so you should never leave any blanks on your answer sheet. When you guess on Never questions, pick your favorite two-letter combo of answers and stick with it. For example, always choose A/F or C/H. If you’re consistent, you’re more likely to pick up points.

Practice time management.

The flexibility to create your own schedule is often one of the biggest appeals of taking online classes. But that freedom can also be detrimental if you do not have solid time management skills. Without them, you might easily to find yourself cramming before classes or handing in subpar assignments. Though how you manage your time will depend on your schedule, learning style, and personality, here are some universally valuable tips to help you practice and improve your time management skills:

  • Look at the syllabus at the start of the semester and make note of major assignments. Mark them on a calendar you check regularly so you know what workload is coming in the weeks ahead. Don’t forget to factor in prior commitments that may interfere with your regular study schedule, such as weddings or vacations, so you can give yourself enough extra time to complete assignments.
  • Create a weekly schedule that you follow, designating certain hours each week to reading, watching lectures, completing assignments, studying, and participating in forums. Commit to making your online coursework part of your weekly routine, and set reminders for yourself to complete these tasks.
  • When working on your assignments, try time-blocking, allotting yourself a certain amount of time for each task before moving on to the next one and setting a timer to keep you accountable.
  • Check in periodically throughout the term, and look at how you’re spending your time. Ask yourself: How much time am I dedicating to course reading and assignments? Am I regularly underestimating the time it’s taking me to get things done, forcing me to cram the nights before the exams? A little self-reflection and adjustment can go a long way.

Forget the right answer—find the wrong ones.

Multiple-choice tests offer one great advantage: They provide the correct answer right there on the page. ACT hides the correct answer behind wrong ones, but when you cross off just one or two wrong answers, the correct answer can become more obvious.

Know the best way to bubble in.

If you’re worried about accidentally filling in the wrong bubble on your answer sheet, this tip will save your score. Work a page at a time on English and Math and a passage at a time on Reading and Science. Circle your answers right on the booklet. Then, transfer a page’s worth of answers to the answer sheet at one time. It’s better to stay focused on working questions rather than disrupt your concentration to find where you left off on the scantron.

Tailor your strategy to each section of the ACT.

Check out our test-taking tips for each section of the ACT:

  • English
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Essay

Create a regular study space and stay organized.

Set up a dedicated learning environment for studying. By completing your work there repeatedly, you’ll begin to establish a routine. Whether your workspace is your kitchen table, a library, or the corner booth in a local coffee shop, it’s important to determine what type of environment will work best for you. Experiment to discover which type of setting boosts your productivity. Wherever you choose, make sure there’s high-speed internet access so you’re not trying to take an online course over a lagging connection.

Setting up a regular workspace or office will also help you to stay organized. Knowing exactly where important dates, files, forms, syllabi, books, and assignments live will help keep you on track towards hitting your goals. When setting up your study space, make sure you:

  • Have a high-speed internet connection
  • Have the required books, materials, and software for the course
  • Have headphones for listening to lectures or discussions (especially important in shared spaces)

Eliminate distractions.

From Netflix to social media to dishes piling up in the skink, you’ll be faced with many distractions that can easily derail your studies. The best online students know how to lessen these distractions and set aside time to focus. Exactly how much of a challenge these distractions will prove to be will depend on your own unique personality and situation. Some might find that they can tune out a noisy home by listening to music. Others might choose to work from a local coffee shop or library to eliminate their urge to multitask at home. Ultimately, you will need to find a strategy that works best for you. Regardless of where you choose to work, consider turning your cell phone off to avoid losing focus every time a text message or notification pops up. And if you’re still having trouble resisting the temptation to check your email or surf the web, try downloading a website blocker. Using applications like Cold Turkey and Freedom can help eliminate distractions by blocking the apps or websites that tend to compete for your attention, such as Facebook and Twitter.

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