Contributed by Dr. Cheryl Cisero Durwin

SCSU Department of Psychology

Studying Tips for Psychology

(and many other subjects

Tips for Reading Textbooks


Read Assigned Material Before Class

                    Reading assigned material before class will give you prior knowledge that is important as a foundation for understanding the lecture. The more prior knowledge one has, the more s/he can learn about the content and the easier it is to learn and remember the material.

                    It also allows you to determine what parts of the assigned reading may have been confusing or what questions you have based on the reading. These can be clarified in class.

                    Reading assigned material before class will also make you better prepared to participate in activities and discussions.

Use PQ4R

1.         Use the PQ4R method of reading which includes:

  1. Preview: Preview the material that will be read. Students should read chapter outlines, scan the chapter for general topics and identify major sections within the reading assignment.
  2. Question: Develop questions based on the outline or section headings. This allows students the opportunity to plan or identify the important information that will be obtained from the reading.
  3. Read: While reading, students should attempt to answer the questions developed from the outline or section headings or question prompts provided in the chapter by the author. Students should not skip over tables, figures, or other important visuals because these often support the main ideas in the narrative of the text.
  4. Reflect: Take breaks from the reading material to relate information to prior knowledge and create examples beyond those provided in the text. Reflection includes asking "Did I grasp the main points?" "Do I understand the content?" "How does this relate to other information in the text?" "Can I think of an example?"
  5. Recite: Reciting or rehearsing the information from the text includes attempting to store the information in one's long-term memory. One strategy is to answer the questions developed from the outline or section headings (step b) without looking back at the text material.
  6. Review: Although some might think that review implies re-read, it actually requires the student to mentally, rather than physically, think through the chapter contents in order to monitor how much of the material has been learned.



1.         Read an entiresection first before you highlight. Students often highlight too much information as they are reading because they do not yet know which information is and is not important.

2.         After reading a section, remind yourself what the section is about (refer to the section heading) and keep this in mind as you go back and highlight.

        Pay close attention to research studies discussed in the text, as these studies and their conclusions are often important in psychology

3.         Highlight only the important points in the section, typically about one sentence per paragraph.

Tips for Studying

1.         Studying DOES NOT mean re-reading your highlights! This is a passive learning strategy. In order to get information into your long-term memory for the exam and for later use in other subjects and in life, you must meaningfully and actively process the information.

2.         Condense the material that you need to study. Take important information from your notes and from the textbook (often this information overlaps) and write the information as study materials (outlines, flashcards, concept maps, etc.). You should then be able to put your book away because you have taken all relevant information from it (preventing you from engaging in the passive strategy of re-reading highlighted textbook material).

3.         When making study materials such as flashcards or outlines, be sure NOT to copy bolded terms word-for-word from the textbook. Write the definition in your own words and use an example that is familiar and relevant to you to help you remember the definition. Paraphrasing and using examples helps you process the information in a more meaningful way. This also prevents you from using rote memorization (memorizing without necessarily understanding) which is an inefficient learning strategy.

4.         Use mnemonic devices to help you remember information in a meaningful way.







A form of abbreviation, such as "ROY G BIV" for the colors of the rainbow.


Chain mnemonic

Connecting items to be memorized in a jingle, such as "i before e, except after c" for a common spelling rule.

Keyword method:

Associating sounds or images with concepts. An English student learning Spanish might imagine a cow on vacation to remember vaca, the Spanish word for cow.


Loci Method

Associating items that need to be memorized with locations in a familiar setting. For example, to memorize a grocery list, you might picture items on the list sitting around your house: milk in the refrigerator, cereal on the table, pretzels on a recliner, etc.

Verbal Mediation

Using a word or phrase to connect two pieces of information, such as "the principal is my pal" to remember the word for the school official ends in "-pal," not "-ple"

5.         Use organizational tools such as timelines, concept maps, bubble maps, flowcharts, compare/contrast charts, and diagrams. The better you organize the information, the more likely you will learn and remember it. Also, this technique involves active processing of information, which results in better learning.

6.         Allocate your study time first to information, concepts, and material that is close to being learned, but not yet mastered-stuff that you almost know. Then proceed to more difficult information, concepts, or material. This method results in improved performance, according to research.

7.         Do NOT study flashcards or outlined material in a fixed order. Once you think you are sure of all the material, mix up the flashcards and test yourself to be sure you know the material in any order.

8.         Try NOT to rely on rote memorization. This technique will only work if multiple-choice items or true-false items are worded in the exact way you studied it (which is usually the way you copied it directly from the textbook). This rarely is the case. Rote memorization also will not work for essay exams.

9.         DO NOT cram the night before an exam. This is an inefficient strategy because it involves only your working memory. You might remember information for the exam (or might not), but chances are you will not remember it afterward.

10.       Instead, use distributed practice. Start studying a week or more ahead of time. Break up the material into small, manageable parts and study one part each night. The night before the exam should be used for review and quizzing yourself.