Effective Studying Techniques | English/Language Arts

Research has shown that cramming is not an effective study strategy.  It can lead to irritability, high levels of anxiety, and increased levels of stress.  Cramming can even lead to a loss of memory — which is probably the reason you decided to cram in the first place!

With all of this research out there about cramming, why are so many students still turning to their textbooks so late?  There are many factors, such as laziness, lack of time, and nerves.

But have we considered the possibility that students defer to cramming because they do not know how to study effectively?

Many families who call our office for private in-home tutoring admit that their students do not how to properly study.  Yes, they can do their worksheets and write an essay.  But they do not know the best way to study for a class or an upcoming test.

If you’re searching for a study plan, you have come to the right place!  Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing some specific techniques to help you study for English, Math, Science, History, and Foreign Language.  We hope these tips and strategies help you in your journey to becoming a stronger student!


English & Language Arts

There is a reason I chose this picture for this post.  When I was in middle school, I was assigned to read “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”  I was a kid who loved to read, but hated assigned reading.  Nothing was more frustrating to me than being forced to read books I did not choose myself.

My mother has always been a huge influence on my education.  She made the task of reading that book less daunting by breaking it up.  Every night, I had to read so many pages.  She broke this up so that I would still have enough time to write the assigned book report.  Even so, reading this was torture to a much younger me.

Then my mother sat down and read the book aloud to me.  All of a sudden, there was action and suspense and drive.  This book was actually exciting?  I was so engaged!  After dinner each night, I would plead with her to read the book to me.  She made the story come alive to me.  Sometimes, I would take over and read to her.

My mother knew that I would not read the book if I wasn’t interested in it.  So she found a way to make it interesting.  The goal was no longer to finish an assigned book for school.  It was to enjoy a clever story…and then write a book report.

When it comes to studying, it’s all a matter of perspective.  Ask yourself, “What is my goal?  What do I want to get out of this?”  If your answer is “to get an A on this assignment”, you may need to think a little harder.  Give yourself some purpose and a clear goal.  You’ll be surprised how it will drive you to succeed!

Here are a few more specific strategies that will help you study English and Language Arts:

  1. READ!

    Yes, it seems silly to have to say this, but so many students don’t do their assigned reading.  Then, they fail their exam and wonder where they went wrong.

    Contrary to popular belief, reading does not mean “wait until the night before and pick up the Cliff’s Notes”.  Reading means dedicating time to actually reading the story.  Break up the book into chapters and read one or two chapters a night.  This way, you are only responsible for a few pages at a time.  Less daunting, right?

  2. Take notes and write a summary.

    After you read each chapter, go back and look for specific details that may appear on the test.  Look for advances in the plot, introductions of new characters or elements, changes in a character’s personality, and what caused them to make certain decisions.  Write these notes down on a separate piece of paper.

    Then write a chapter summary.  The summary shouldn’t be more than a paragraph or two.  The goal is not to rewrite the book.  Rather, you want a quick way to recall the details when you review before the exam.

  3. Review your notes weekly.

    At the end of each week, reread all of your chapter summaries to keep the content fresh in your head.  Try to give yourself a quick quiz (eg. “What was Edmund’s turning point?”).

  4. Save vocabulary words.

    If you come across a word you don’t know, don’t simply pass over it.  Take the time to grab a dictionary and look up the word.  Vocabulary words may show up on your exam.  Help yourself remember the word by creating a flashcard.  You may even want to write down the book or lesson where you first read the word.  That way, you can easily relate something to the word.

  5. Take practice quizzes online.

    If your class is preparing for a quiz on “The Great Gatsby” (another book I did not like reading), consider taking a practice test online.  You’ll want to be sure the test is from a reputable source.  Also, make sure the test is covering the book and not the movie.  Test your knowledge to see what facts you can recall.  You may be surprised!


The key to studying for any subject is to space out your study session.  Remember, cramming is not an effective way to study.  The best way to retain information is to review it consistently.  Three one-hour sessions each week will help you more than staying up until 2:00 am the night before the quiz.


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Photo copyright: [Untitled].  Retrieved February 10, 2016 from http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/2013/05/classics-reading-order-for-the-chronicles-of-narnia-suggestions/.

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About the Author

Dave Hoffman