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Study Strategies

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In this study strategies section, you’ll find research-based test prep. methods, intel on achieving flow states, ways reflection can fuel effective studying, and more.

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Tips from Our Learning Specialists

  • Most of us start forgetting new material right away.  Carve out 15-30 minutes after every lecture to process your lecture notes and mark areas that need clarification.
  • Create your own practice test based on questions presented in class. Use your lecture notes as your answer key.
  • Ask about test structure and how many points each section is worth.
  • Form a study group with classmates and quiz each other.
  • Verbally record or “brain dump” everything you know about key topics. Find the gaps in your knowledge and redo assignments pertaining to those topics.
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Additional Resources at Stanford

  • Sign up for a drop-in session with us! With a Learning Lab Learning Specialist, you can talk about these strategies in more depth, personalize the approaches to suit your needs, and be supported as you practice.
  • Academic Skills Coaching


  • Dunlosky, J., & Rawson, K. A. (2015). Practice tests, spaced practice, and successive relearning: Tips for classroom use and for guiding students’ learning. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 1(1), 72. Read the article here.
    • Study strategies that have a high utility are those that both improve memory retention and can be easily applied to any learning situation. Practice testing and distributed practice are the only two strategies deemed to have high utility. Study strategies that have a low utility are those that do not effectively improve memory and/or are difficult to implement. Rereading and highlighting text, two popular learning strategies, have low utility because they only encourage passive engagement with the material. Mnemonics also have low utility because students sometimes struggle to create them, and they are limited in the scope of what they cover. However, they can be useful in certain circumstances and may help with encoding if they are made available to students.
  • Karpicke, J. D., Butler, A. C., & Roediger III, H. L. (2009). Metacognitive strategies in student learning: Do students practice retrieval when they study on their own? Memory, 17(4), 471-479. Read the article here.
    • Research suggests that some students may rely on sub-optimal learning strategies. In this study, college students tended to rely on 3 or fewer study strategies. Of the strategies used, 84% of students reported rereading notes or textbooks as a study strategy, with 55% reporting it’s their primary strategy. Conversely, only 11% of students report self-testing as a study strategy with 1% ranking it as their primary strategy.
  • Roediger III, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17(3), 249-255. Read the article here
    • Two experiments allowed participants to read some material about reading comprehension. Then, participants either reread that material or tested themselves on that material. In both experiments, the participants who tested themselves, rather than those who reread the information, performed better on a test after 2 days and after 1 week compared to the rereading group.