How to succeed at school: It's not how much you study but how you study that can make the difference

By Andrea Woo

The Vancouver Province, Thursday, August 25, 2005

Terry Small, a skills specialist from the Terry Small Learning Corporation, shares strategies that can help students excel, whether they're in their first few years of school or beginning the final year before graduation.


- Eat breakfast every morning. "Students who go to school without a good breakfast are at a major disadvantage," says Small. "Research shows that they perform less well academically." - Spend time reading at home. Small says that reading can improve daily speech and writing skills. "It's also a wonderful way to stimulate their imagination and creativity," says Small. - Limit television to half an hour a day. "I think there's a real negative correlation between television watched and academic achievement," says Small. - Make sure you understand accumulative subjects like math. "Math really builds on the previous day's work," says Small. "Missing a lot of stuff makes next year even harder. You start to spiral in the wrong direction."


- Schedule study time. "In our society, things that are important are scheduled," says Small. "If you kind of fit homework in wherever, it becomes a B-priority." - Take notes. "Studies indicate that when you write something down, you remember 50 per cent more after 30 days," says Small. - Study out loud. "Retention goes up 400 per cent when you study out loud as opposed to just saying it in your head," said Small. - Take breaks. "Kids remember the first and last things they learned," says Small, who suggests that kids should study in short bursts. "It's like the woodcutter who wouldn't stop chopping wood to sharpen the axe. You end up working harder." - Use a four-coloured pen for notes. "The brain thinks in colour," says Small. "A study determined that when you use a second colour for your notes, you learn 13 per cent more."


- Write your goals down. "If you've got your goals posted, and you see it enough, your behaviour starts to direct and orient itself to that of being a better student," says Small. - Preview the next day's work. "Rather than saying 'no homework,' maybe spend 15 minutes working on next day's math," suggests Small. "At the very minimum, they may realize that it's hard and pay more attention the next day." - Skip the soda. "The brain is 75 per cent water and students don't drink enough water," says Small, who suggests 50 ml of water for every 50 pounds of body weight. "That can make a huge difference in a student's ability to perform well." - Review notes within 48 hours to aid retention. "If you wait more than 48 hours, it's like learning it all over again," says Small.

GRADES 11-12

- Always start studying the hardest subject first. "If you really like English, it'll be easier to do at nine o'clock when you're tired than math." - Always study for recall, not recognition. Though recognition is effective for multiple choice tests, recall is what's needed for short answers or essays. "If you can recall something, you'll always be able to recognize it," says Small. - Use study cards --index cards with questions on one side and answers on the other. "A lot of teenagers have a pretty hectic schedule," says Small. "Being able to study anywhere, any time, any place is great."

To register for Terry's Study Skills or Speed Reading Seminars go to