Mason Family Flash

Creating good academic habits

Student studying at Fenwick Library
Whether your student is beginning their first or last semester of college, Learning Services wants to share some tips for creating good academic habits! The study strategies needed in college change by semester depending on the level of difficulty in each class. At Mason, our professors empower students to take responsibility for their own learning. Students can take charge of their learning by following the four phases of the Study Cycle.

The Study Cycle

Phase 1: The first phase is to encourage your student to preview the material to be covered in class, before class. The professor will provide students with a syllabus which will include a course schedule with the reading assignments for each week. Students should read these chapters or articles prior to class to get a preview of what is going to be covered during the lectures. The reading will provide structure and help students understand the context of the information they will be learning about that week.

Phase 2: The second phase is to attend class. Class attendance may not be required or monitored, but your student should still go to class, take notes, and participate in discussions. Electronic devices should be silenced and put away to reduce distractions. Professors will often explain complicated concepts, clarify upcoming assignments, and facilitate group activities during class. Students who skip class will miss out on important information.

Phase 3: Phase three is to encourage your student to review notes as soon as possible after class. This is important because the material is still fresh in your student’s mind which will allow them to fill in any gaps, write out abbreviations, and flag any information that may be confusing. It is important to review notes regularly because there are fewer tests in college and they cover many chapters. If your student waits 4-5 weeks to review their notes before a test, they will have forgotten most of the information.

Phase 4: The final phase is to use intentional study sessions. In college, your student will be expected to “recall” the best answers. Self-testing is the most effective strategy to prepare for college exams because it provides an accurate assessment of recall. When re-reading, students tend to think that they remember the material because it looks familiar, but by self-quizzing, your student will have a better gauge of information learned. There are a number of ways your student can self-test including using flash cards, completing end of the chapter questions, recalling the main points of a lecture, and completing problem sets.

The study cycle is a weekly cycle. If students keep up with the reading, attend class regularly, review their notes, and study the material each week, preparation for exams will be manageable.

If your student needs assistance with any of these strategies, Learning Services can help. We offer academic success workshops, one-on-one peer academic coaching, and academic success videos. Your student can also find a list of campus tutoring resources on our website. Check out for more information.

Vicki Dominick, MSEd
Associate Director
Learning Services