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Effective Study Strategies for Science Students

Posted by Lolita Wood-Hill, M.S. on December 21, 2015

Often, long before a student has entered college, he or she has mastered studying consistently and effectively. However, college classes are a step above high school, so the amount of time you need to devote to studying changes in college—along with the balancing act of managing your time. Procrastinating or using time unwisely can cause stress, loss of sleep and scholarship money, and even possibly impact your chances of getting into dental school. Do not let this happen to you! Below, please find some guidelines to master the art of efficient studying, particularly within the sciences.

effectiveMANAGE YOUR TIME. Keep track of your time for a week to determine how much time you need to sleep, to eat, to relax, to become organized each the day, etc. Be prudent and honest with yourself by documenting every minute. When you wake up, do you stay in bed for 15 minutes before you can get going? Record that time. Do you find that you have to eat a snack at 11:00 p.m. every night? Record it. Making sense of how you spend your time will help you figure out where you are not using your time wisely. Wasting time in college can ultimately negatively impact your grades, as well as your ability to accomplish many of your goals. 

MAKE A SCHEDULE. Now that you have identified where you can make better use of your time, make a schedule for yourself. Do you want to start your morning with a review of your classes for the day, or would you rather rewrite your notes from the previous day’s classes? Whatever you decide, creating a routine at the same time every day during the semester will help with remembering tasks, and allow you to avoid scheduling conflicts or backsliding into poor time management habits.

ALLOW ENOUGH TIME FOR YOUR SCIENCES. Keep in mind your science classes will likely require much more study time than you think. First year chemistry usually requires about three hours of independent study for each hour of lecture class. Biology and mathematics may require a little more or less depending on the level. Bottom line, science courses generally require 15 to 16 hours a week of study time outside of class.

Consider dividing your studying into to specific tasks. How much time do you need to complete all the problems at the end of the chemistry chapter? How many times do you need to review your biology definitions before they are memorized? How many math problems do you need to practice in order to completely master a new concept? The more specific you are in determining where to put studying efforts, the better prepared you will be for earning that “A” grade at the end of the term.

WHERE YOU STUDY IS ALMOST AS IMPORTANT AS HOW MUCH TIME YOU SPEND STUDYING. While not everyone likes studying in the library, it is the one place where complete quiet is assured. However, you can setup a study area anywhere as long as it is free of distractions and has an abundant supply of the resources necessary to complete your work. Make sure wherever you study has pencils, paper, your textbooks, a computer and anything else essential for a successful study session. Having to stop periodically to collect these types of things is… guess what? Yes, wasting precious time! The other great thing about creating your own study space is that when you enter this hallowed area, you will automatically go into study mode; hopefully, your friends and family will learn to respect these boundaries as well. Differentiate this area from the rest of your living space, and soon you will find that your study sessions will become more efficient and possibly take less time.

WHAT ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO STUDY? For starters, use your textbook. Read the summary at the beginning of the chapter and answer all the questions and problems at the end of the chapter. If possible, stay ahead of your professor. Read the chapter he or she will be lecturing on before coming to class and prepare any questions you may have. You will find that your understanding of the material will be greater because you have already familiarized yourself with it.

TAKE NOTES. Effective notetaking will save you a lot of time and trouble. If you are not sure of an effective notetaking strategy, visit your campus tutoring center. They can guide you and help you learn what is important to document while you are in class. You might also organize a study group. Avoid studying with friends unless they are as serious as you are about the subject.


  • Know when your quizzes, exams and papers are due and incorporate them into your schedule.
  • Review your notes and text materials at least once a week. 
  • Before exams, review with others and test each other on key concepts. 
  • Pace yourself during the exam. 
  • Don’t panic!  If you can’t remember something, move to the next question. Hopefully, you will have time to come back and often you will find that the other questions will prompt you to think about the concept you are having trouble recalling. 
  • Lastly, review your test at least once before handing it in.

For more detailed or personalized assistance on efficient study strategies, speak with your professors, visit your tutoring center, make an appointment to meet with your advisors, and consider lightening up your other responsibilities if you find them interfering with your studies. 

Good luck and enjoy college! 

About Lolita Wood-Hill, M.S.:

Lolita Wood-Hill

L.A. Wood-Hill, M.S.
Director, Prehealth Advisement
Yeshiva University

Ms. Lolita Wood-Hill has been a Prehealth Advisor for over 20 years. She was the premed advisor at City College of City University of New York (CUNY) for many years and retired from Hunter College of CUNY in 2010. She has been Director of Prehealth Advising at Yeshiva University (YU) since that time. Ms. Wood-Hill received her B.A. in History from Boston College, and her most recent graduate degree in Urban Affairs was earned at Hunter College of CUNY in 2010. 

Special recognition for her work has come from several organizations, including the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the Associated Medical Schools of NY (AMSNY) and the National Association of Medical Minority Educators, Inc. (NAMME). She has also served on the governing board of several local and national prehealth advising organizations, including the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP), the Northeast Association for Advisors for the Health Professions (NEAAHP) and NAMME. Additionally, she has served as consultant to several non-profit organizations dedicated to making health professions careers more accessible to disadvantaged students. She often collaborates with her husband (a financial aid officer), providing workshops around the country regarding medical school admission, financial aid and debt management.

Ms. Wood-Hill’s most recent endeavor has been to help facilitate a college fair, College Edge, for young people in Washington Heights, NY with students at Yeshiva University (YU) organizing and running the entire event. The event is in its third year and has hosted over 300 students from some of the neediest high schools in New York City, offering workshops on financial aid, interviewing, career choices and career training pathways.