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6 Study Tips for Adult Learners

  • April 15, 2010|
  • Posted in: Adult Education|

It is that time of the semester - the time where looming final tests and projects become reality for students eager to finish their classes and become that much closer to earning their degree. When you are faced with a number of priorities, how do you even begin to prepare for exams? Here are six study tips to help you make the best of your study time.

Study Tips

  1. Set aside time. This one's a given, but it is important to determine how you will fit all of your studying in and schedule it in a planner. If you work 8 hours a day, you know what hours those are. If you have class or a seminar, you know not to schedule other meetings or activities at that time. Do the same by scheduling your study time into your day. If you are an adult learner, it is even more important to set these schedules and expectations with your friends and family. You've taken the step to back to school and improve your life - be sure to keep others in the loop on your progress and success, and they should be able to understand your need for uninterrupted study time. The good thing to know is that a series of shorter study sessions distributed over several days is preferable to fewer but longer study sessions. This is especially important for those students who juggle work, family, and school. Adult  Student Study Group
  2. Don't try to learn it all. Select a reasonable chunk of material to study. Make a list of topics that are likely to be on the exam and prioritize these subjects based on how important they are and how much more you need to learn about them. Spend the majority of your time familiarizing yourself with the subjects you are less confident about, and do it at the beginning of your study session, when you have more energy and are ready to dive in.
  3. Dress uncomfortably and sit at a desk. This one was offered to me by my 11th grade chemistry teacher. If you dress comfortably and set up your study session on the couch, you're apt to lose focus, be interrupted and be less productive. Sit upright at a desk and avoid dressing casually so that you can remain awake and attentive.
  4. Put it in your own words. Don't just memorize the information and move on. You should be able to explain the main ideas in your own words. By putting it in a context that you understand, you will have an easier time recalling it than if you simply repeated a concept over and over without really connecting to it.
  5. Seek support. Check with the other students in the class to get their perspectives on what important information will be on the exam. Suggest a group session where you share study guides and talk about the material out loud. Verbalizing the information is the key to storing the material in your long-term memory
  6. Chew gum. Though not a fool-proof plan if you haven't truly studied the material, an informal study by a Cornell University marketing professor has shown that chewing gum offers improved memory and concentration which may improve your test-taking abilities.

What are some of study tips you would recommend for other adult students?


I think that chewing gum creates movement that rids of some stress and anxiety when taking a test and therefore, you are more focused and able to concentrate. There is some truth to this informal study.

  • Posted by: Tony Rankin|
  • April 19, 2010|
  • 02:49 PM

I'm having a hard time reading all of this material for my class. I don't know if chewing gum will help but it's worth a try. I'm confused on what to do first of all for my "class" but i think it's important. I think i'm going to have someone read me my material because it would be easier than me reading it right now.

  • Posted by: Ashley Terrell|
  • April 19, 2010|
  • 05:56 PM

My best study tip was to sit in front of the class. No disruptions between you and the teacher. If you have a hearing loss you may also be able to read the teachers lips. This way taking when taking notes one doesn't get distracted. You study the material and remember more.

  • Posted by: Elinor Boddie|
  • April 19, 2010|
  • 07:56 PM

Have enough light in the room so you can still see the keyboard after you have put on cheap pair of sunglasses (not too dark) to tone down the glare from the monitor. I also keep eye drops for dry eyes handy. Sometimes I think I am getting so tired but I just need the eye drops which help immensely.

  • Posted by: Pam Vail|
  • April 19, 2010|
  • 09:42 PM

Thanks all for your great comments!

@Tony - you have a solid point! I can imagine that by chewing gum, you're less likely to clench your jaw as a reaction to stress. However, just be aware of chewing gum during the test. I once had a final exam and the woman sitting next to me was chewing her gum so loudly that I couldn't concentrate on my own test! :o)

@Ashley - that's a great idea! By having somebody read you the material, it's similar to how a teacher would discuss the material in a live classroom.

@Elinor - great insight! Half the battle of studying effectively is being familiar with the material to begin with. By sitting in the front of the class, you are less likely to be distracted and can possibly cut your study time significantly since you have been paying close attention from the start!

@Pam - I almost included that advice in the blog post! Even if you take a 5 minute study break to shift your eyes away from your textbook or computer screen, your giving your brain and eyes a "breather". I've heard many times that you should look at something from a far distance for a full minute at least once ever hour to give your eyes a break.

Keep the ideas coming everyone!

Sandra, Community Manager for CourseAdvisor

  • Posted by: Sandra at CourseAdvisor|
  • April 20, 2010|
  • 01:27 PM

Hi, Im all the way from South Africa, and completing my last 4 subjects to my Associates Degree back at home, long distance. I appreciate the advice and in my own years of studying, Ive found that changing my location I study at, helps me stay excited about getting to the books. I know its recommended to have a consistent work place, but i get bored easily and will eventually just walk pass my book table. However, with sometimes studying at home, then at Barnes& Noble and when really pressed...sometimes even in the car....amazing how nobody bothers you in the garage:-) Those are my crazy methods, but they have worked for me so far...Thanks

  • Posted by: Anthonia Peacock-Harris|
  • April 20, 2010|
  • 11:23 PM

I have one problem with the gum chewing idea. The last exam I took, I was sitting next to a classmate who was chewing gum with her mouth open. I was so distracted I could hardly think. If you do chew gum, please do it as quietly as possible if you are around others.

  • Posted by: Des|
  • April 20, 2010|
  • 11:56 PM

I like playing soft instrumental music as I study math. However, NOT word problems.

  • Posted by: Michael |
  • April 21, 2010|
  • 12:57 AM

I'm a law student with a law school background from another country, 36 y/o I'm having. Hard time retaining all the information 4 tests, finals,and asigments, besides english is no my native language. I would like to your point of view of what can I do in order to inprove my learnig skills

  • Posted by: Leonardo Mancheno|
  • April 21, 2010|
  • 04:14 AM

That chewing gum idea has to be so because the "wrigley Company paid for the research Study. They want to sell more gums.

  • Posted by: Ken Campbell|
  • April 21, 2010|
  • 11:32 AM

These are great ideas! For me, I ALWAYS sit in fromt of the class and when studying, every 15 minutes I go outside and breath, look across the lake and relax. I review what I just read or wrote and then go back for me. It is getting away from it that makes it all work for me! Good luck in class and with your semester finals!

  • Posted by: Patty Mayer|
  • April 21, 2010|
  • 01:16 PM

I am ready for school and can't wait to begin a new career in the Business Industries and full fill my dreams.

  • Posted by: Fabian Houston|
  • April 21, 2010|
  • 01:47 PM

In a couple months I will return to school to study Photgraphy. Before my class start, I have begn to do some self studies on the subject. I am sure it will be different but it gives me some insight on my class which I have decided to take Online to began with. It will make me a good study and learn what the concepts are.

  • Posted by: Beverly|
  • April 21, 2010|
  • 02:33 PM

If you put lemon juice on your fingers and smell as you study, you improve your retention. Use it as well when you take a test. You are more likely to remember the first and last things you study, so schedule short sessions repeatedly rather than one long session. Eight half hour sessions=16, one four hour session=2. If you find you are reading the same paragraph or page, over and over, take a break. you are not learning anything.

  • Posted by: Beth Roraback|
  • April 21, 2010|
  • 04:29 PM

chewing gum really works it relax you. It would be better if it is a mint gum.Be sure to chew with your mouth closed and not distract others.

  • Posted by: Avril Samuel|
  • April 21, 2010|
  • 05:11 PM

Anthonia has a great point about how studying in the car provides uninterrupted study time. Here’s what really helps; type or write yourself a study packet and then carry it with you especially right before an exam. Use the packet to reference key concepts. When you're in your car alone, repeat the material out loud to yourself over and over again. Do this as many times as needed to remember it. If you forget something look it up in your handy study guide when you come to a stop or as soon as you arrive at your destination and park your car. I always arrive at a destination early so I have a few minutes of extra study time.

  • Posted by: Jennifer |
  • April 21, 2010|
  • 06:50 PM

I am seriously thinkingaboubout returning to school to earn an a mathematics degree in this way I can be an actuary. I am forty seven years old. I should have accomplished this goal years ago. Due in small part to my medical condition and a big part to my being lazy an not listening to my mother, I now have a job that is well below my potential. I could have achieved a higher goal than an actuary, but that is the highest that I see myself accomplishing after all my failures and lack of ability of doing the right thing. If anyone is reading this, please do not make the same mistakes that I did. Listen to your mother, and go to college and earn a degree to secure a promising future.

  • Posted by: Alix P. Roy|
  • April 21, 2010|
  • 08:33 PM

I'm a computer scientist student .besides english is no my native language. I would like to your point of view of what can I do in order to inprove my learnig skills My telephone number is : 509-3454-8312

  • Posted by: Acelhomme Sadrac|
  • April 21, 2010|
  • 10:03 PM

If you are going to chew gum, please do it quietly! I once was in the LSAT which takes several hours and there was a gum chewer popping and smacking her gum the whole time! Rude! At least the proctor let me move far, far away from this woman!

  • Posted by: Donna K|
  • April 22, 2010|
  • 01:56 AM

Dress uncomfortable, yes this is very true! I find that if I try to get comfortable while studying on the couch, I will fall asleep-every time.

  • Posted by: Carmen Flores|
  • April 22, 2010|
  • 02:48 AM

I appreciate your 6 Study Tips for Adult Learners! I am a senior in Pastoral Studies and Christian Education! Recently, I have hit a wall in my study-time! These tips gave me a new lease on my study time! I think I have been sitting too long in front of the computer, and not taking breaks! My back and legs have really shown noticeable tension and pain! My best to all of the Adult Learners, making these years Fantastic Memories!

  • Posted by: C. Arenella|
  • April 22, 2010|
  • 04:05 AM

Thanks for all the help I hope this works. After 10 years of graduating from H.S I decided to go back to school as a R.N. It is very hard to study with an 11 month old.. Any suggestions help!

  • Posted by: Jazmin California|
  • April 22, 2010|
  • 06:17 AM

I try to have some study material with me wherever I might have free time- even if it's ten minutes (car, work break, breakfast/lunch).

  • Posted by: tom walter|
  • April 22, 2010|
  • 11:00 AM

Wow, all of this feedback is great!

@Beth Roraback - I had never heard of the lemon juice trick; I will have to try it out next time I have a test. I bet it would even work if you have an important meeting at work that you need to be alert for too!

I'll be sharing some of your tips on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/courseadvisor. If you are not yet a fan, come join us!

Sandra, Community Manager for CourseAdvisor

  • Posted by: Sandra at CourseAdvisor|
  • April 22, 2010|
  • 01:17 PM

Schedule time for a workout before study time. Studying can really take a toll on your body. Even a brisk walk between studing will refresh your brain to help you keep going.

  • Posted by: lori|
  • April 22, 2010|
  • 02:02 PM

I find that studying at public places help to focus more. I know it sounds false, but you will take little breaks to release the stress from the fact that you have a test coming up soon. besides some of us are social learners and we don't even know it, try it. I work at the Galleria Mall and instead of going home for 2 hours I stay there and review material for test or for next class.

  • Posted by: MGD|
  • April 22, 2010|
  • 02:15 PM

All of these are greatsuggestions. My biology teacher printed a whole booklet on the subjest and it really works. What you are doing is building protein molecules. He calls them marble memories. He suggestes reading over material several times fast instead of one or two times very slow. Of course putting the material in your own words and recording that in your own voice. Listen to that several times as well. For some reason the human psychy likes to hear its own voice, therefore you will be more attentive to the recording. Have group study sessions and read aloud whenver possible. This advice has helped me tremendously. I hope it helps you. God bless you all.

  • Posted by: Shelley|
  • April 22, 2010|
  • 05:29 PM

I found that If I read into a tape recorder, or ask the questions with answers, and listen to it as I go to sleep it helps me remember. Somehow the information goes to my subconsicience, and in the test, or paper, I remember more.

  • Posted by: Susan|
  • April 22, 2010|
  • 07:24 PM

Pray before you sturdy!God will grant you clarity of mind,understanding, wisdom and sound mind to be able to sturdy and pass your exams!

  • Posted by: emelia o. Lindsay|
  • April 22, 2010|
  • 09:56 PM

After graduating from high school I went to college for a degree in Network Systems Administration. I love learning about pcs and networks but its the other classes that you have to complete as well. Like english and Psyc. classes. For some reason I cant concentrate on the materials. For the most part I need to find the time because I work and have a family. At times I begin to do my work on my bed and the next thing I know im waking up. After reading the six steps I really need to put things in order so I can have a better point of my classes.

  • Posted by: Kia|
  • April 22, 2010|
  • 11:46 PM

i think there should start study at the time when you feel better or comfort with your mind otherwise it'll be waste of time and chewing gum is a truth deed of getting increase in your ability of concentration because i have done it some time before....

  • Posted by: Abdul Rahman|
  • April 23, 2010|
  • 05:01 AM

I have found if I follow the Instrutures, Guidance, or the T A,s 1 assignment at a time , a one and taking a break every 30-45 minutes is very helpfull for me. If at 51 I can hang in there every one can. Good Luck to all.

  • Posted by: Melanie |
  • April 23, 2010|
  • 11:18 AM

i never knew these tips would help people study. i certainly didn't know that chewing gum would increase people's test scores by 3%. I don't really understand how some of these tips would help someone concentrate on studying more. I might consider trying these tips when I start college this summer.

  • Posted by: sara deaton|
  • April 23, 2010|
  • 12:02 PM

chewing gum also helps me calm down while taking a test, others test takers who chew gum need also be aware and not chew outloud to disturbed others while taking a test.

  • Posted by: venus|
  • April 23, 2010|
  • 12:19 PM

Just an add-on to Tip #4 that helps me - I write the idea/information down on paper as well as say it out loud - again as mentioned above - in my own words. Even if I never see the actual paper again, I can recall the information better if I've heard myself say it out loud and can in my mind see the information written down. I wouldn't recommend doing the 'out loud' part in public though!

  • Posted by: CB|
  • April 23, 2010|
  • 02:48 PM

I am going back to school after being out of High School for 7 years. It's amazing how much you forget during the years and now I am on a crash course study program I created for myself. It's amazing how the High School basics relearned, help with the college classes and understanding the material. One of my obsticles was wanting to go to school and trying to find time to balance my family. I dealt with this problem by talking my significant other into also starting school and pursuing his dreams as well. Now rather than one person feeling left out and ignored, we sit together and study side by side. It's great to be able to feed off eachother and still spend quality time together while improving our future. And the bonus part is that the classes and study time will have an equal toll on both parties so, rather than you having to feel guilty due to the study time required to succeed. There's a likely chance that they are just as busy as you are. ( A relationship miracle in my book!)

  • Posted by: Sky lee|
  • April 23, 2010|
  • 03:29 PM

I am 48 years old and have gone back to school. What I find helpful is to disect the chapter I am reading. I write down the important facts in each paragraph, or page. At the end of the chapter I read the summary, and look up all the vocabulary words. It sounds time consuming and it is, but when you get to an online test and they mention what does ? mean, you can look at your list and it helps trigger memory, or study the vocabulary list before the test. Oh and sometimes I drink a coke before a test.

  • Posted by: Jackie Skellenger|
  • April 23, 2010|
  • 04:08 PM

I will try chewing gum on my next exam and see if it works! These are great tips...Thank you!!!

  • Posted by: Suzanne Hanna|
  • April 23, 2010|
  • 04:49 PM

I don't like to chew gum really...but the idea makes perfect sense to me! This is because I typically get up and pace around while I study...it keeps me moving, and the material really seems to sink in and stick. I also like to talk aloud...that really helps too. I use flash cards for EVERYTHING....so flashcards make it possible to do this. Also, I don't have the time to write flashcards anymore so I typically print out the power points and cut up and paste the test reviews and stuff onto Flashcards!! It does take some time, but the information really sticks once I know the cards : ) I am 28 years old, and I have 2 children, a 6 year old, and a 16 month old, and I get pretty good grades like this.

  • Posted by: Rachel|
  • April 23, 2010|
  • 05:51 PM

chewing gum gives me a headache

  • Posted by: Dawn S|
  • April 23, 2010|
  • 06:09 PM

Hang in there future RN, cause its truly worth it and you'll be able to utilize your profession anywhere in the world. I'd heard that drinking lemonade for some odd reason helps one retain information as well. So, I guess the lemon juice on fingertips would also. As for the gum, I did that years ago while taking my boards and here I am. But the greatest of these is: PRAYER & PREPARATION. Jackie

  • Posted by: Jackie|
  • April 23, 2010|
  • 08:24 PM

Because studying is associated with the intellect as opposed to intuition, it may keep us within a time frame. This time frame which is similar to the one that people occupy when they are at work for 8 hours a day. It is a tiime frame that exists outside of the natural cycles of activity and inactivity. As opposed to the intellect which represents a separation from natural cycles of activity and inactivity, intuition is the information we receive from our connection to and alignment with the earth and its cycles of activity and non-activity. Since studying keeps us rooted in the intellect for long periods of time, intuition tells use that it is time to move and be active. Since we cannot obey nature because we are stuck in one place, our intellect, chewing gum serves the purpose of avtivty.

  • Posted by: gary baechle|
  • April 23, 2010|
  • 11:08 PM

I can testify to that fact! When I was in the 8th grade, taking my Geometry FINAL in an advanced class with only 7 other accelerated students, I was terrified. I knew Miss McCool just hated me, although I never could figure out why. Nobody can ever tell me that it doesn't make a difference whether the teacher likes you or not, when it comes to learning. These were in the days when gum was forbidden, but I kept chawing at my Dentyne and came out with a 99%! She just had to pull a point away from me somewhere, Boy, would she'd have loved to 'chewed me out' for that, had she known! I was good, sitting right in the front row spack dab in front of her desk. I was desperate and Dentye came through for me!

  • Posted by: brenda carol|
  • April 24, 2010|
  • 04:26 AM

This is very important information and I thank you for helping me understand how to better my grades. I do believe that chewing gum helps you concentrate.

  • Posted by: Karrah Stuart|
  • April 24, 2010|
  • 04:56 AM

Yesterday, i took an exam in our biochemistry summer class. unfortunately, i was not able to answer well with those bone wrecking questions. but above all, I blame myself for studying 1 just day before the exam and sleeping late before the exam day. Unhealthy study habits can also affect to our learning. Thus, making a review( just read in your leisure time) more or less 1 week ahead can expand our retention during the exam! Caution: DO NOT MEMORIZE BUT UNDERSTAND.

  • Posted by: edgar delgado|
  • April 24, 2010|
  • 10:34 AM

Take advantage of technology! Many textbooks now come with CDs and links to websites. The websites usually have the entire book available, and I use my computer's read function to read the assignment to me while I'm preparing dinner, doing housework, exercising or crocheting. Hearing the text as well as reading it helps me remember the information. I also audiotape classes (with the professor's permission) and listen to the lecture while doing yard work, driving, etc. The more ways I get the info the better I do!

  • Posted by: NativeMainer|
  • April 24, 2010|
  • 10:49 AM

I use a voice recorder for every class. Some people frown upon it, because they say it prevents a person from taking good notes, and focusing. I disagree. The voice recorder captures the entire lecture, and when I study for exams, I go over my notes, as I listen to the lecture, and put in anything I may have missed.

  • Posted by: Brenda|
  • April 24, 2010|
  • 01:06 PM

i found gum & im trying this out :)

  • Posted by: Lora LaRochelle|
  • April 24, 2010|
  • 03:37 PM

I heard of a study where students rubbed cholate on there wrist and frequently smelled it while studying. then when taking the test they would also use the choclate. The half that used the choclate did better on the test than the half that didnt. basically your sense of smell is a powerfull stimulater for the mind. have you ever smelled somthing that brought back an old memory, and you remember every little detail? the gum thing might be a simalar idea.

  • Posted by: ken|
  • April 25, 2010|
  • 01:45 AM

I am a 50 year old student finishing a masters in Music Ed and my best trick is to study early in the morning. I have found that by the end of the day I am too worn out to sit up late and try to absorb material. But if I go to sleep earlier and wake up while everything is quiet and my brain is fresh, I am able to study more efficiently, write reports quicker and do better overall on tests and projects.

  • Posted by: djh|
  • April 25, 2010|
  • 10:08 AM

thanks for the tips i'm going on 61 and changing direction.i can no longer do " floor work"as a L.P.N. ,do to health problems,so i intend to retrain in medical billing and coding. the idea of retiring is not for me ,yet.

  • Posted by: sarah davis|
  • April 25, 2010|
  • 10:16 AM

I have been trying to get an idea of what I want to do for the rest of my life and going back to school seems like the right thing for me. I know these study tips will come in handy.

  • Posted by: Wendy Brown|
  • April 25, 2010|
  • 08:15 PM

Thnx for your advices. they are great. Specially for me because I'm studying 4 a very big test . but I'm really hopeful yoooohooooo

  • Posted by: Romina|
  • April 26, 2010|
  • 09:12 AM

Stand, stretch, and move every hour. Drink water at these intervals.

  • Posted by: Aimee Timmins|
  • May 02, 2010|
  • 03:43 PM

After graduating from HS 20 years ago and then receiving an Associates degree 16 years ago, I am going back to school starting this July. I am going to medical school to get my degree as a Medical Laboratory Technician. I am excited, but nervous about the classroom learning process all over again, along with the daily studying requirements and test taking. I consider myself a smart person, but often struggled in school to learn and retain what I have read and studied because of difficulty focusing on what I am reading. I appreciate the article, and the input and tips/comments from others here. I will employ the tips and tricks that some of these folks mentioned here, especially changing my study environment and taking breaks once an hour to stay refreshed and focused. Good luck to you all.

  • Posted by: Jer|
  • May 03, 2010|
  • 08:13 PM

i think the chewing of gums tip works koz i tried it when i wrote my last exam en it made a big difference compared to my previous assesments.thnx!

  • Posted by: chipego|
  • May 10, 2010|
  • 11:43 AM

I believe that chewing gum helps. Apart from being a form of exercise for the facial muscles, it keeps one awake and gives a false sence of energy boost from sugary taste and freshness.

  • Posted by: Nnenna|
  • May 18, 2010|
  • 03:03 PM

Thanks for the advice of letting family know when I have study time. Someone always calls when it is that time and that does take away from studing. I have heard of keeping a time to study and stay with it, I haven't tried that yet, but I will because I find myself not studing like I should for the pre nursing test. I want to be prepared and pass this test so I can get my name on the list and start my clinicals for RN Thanks again,

  • Posted by: Wanda Dorsey|
  • May 18, 2010|
  • 05:35 PM

Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

  • Posted by: CNA jobs|
  • July 21, 2010|
  • 02:38 AM

it was very interesting to read. I want to quote your post in my blog. It can? And you et an account on Twitter?

  • Posted by: xpycko|
  • July 24, 2010|
  • 02:55 PM

Sit at the front of the class. If you sit at the back, there are 20 - 30 people between you and the teacher and that's 20 - 30 distractions, constantly. You walk out of class not remembering anything. Your time was wasted.

  • Posted by: Larry|
  • July 25, 2010|
  • 07:28 PM

Xpycko- Yes! Follow us @courseadvisor

  • Posted by: Carly|
  • July 26, 2010|
  • 01:15 PM

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