If you could only work on one study skill as a high school student, which would be the most important?
This is a tricky question we were asked recently. It’s a big question, but it’s one we’ll answer… cautiously.
First, a word of caution on finding one study skill for high school students:
Study skills aren’t really a set of individual skills you can take off of a shelf and individually insert into your life. Study skills are highly connected and interdependent.
Great students don’t have one key academic skill that sets them up for success. Rather, they have a complex mess of learning processes that they’ve simplified into habits. These habits make the complicated process of learning really easy.
So, which is more important: staying focused, or staying active? Well, you can’t really have one without the other. If you’re active but not focused, you won’t get where you want to go. It’d be like driving 75 mph without directions. At the same time, if you’re highly focused but totally passive, you’re not going to get anywhere either.
In this sense, high school students don’t need one study skill. They need a comprehensive academic approach. They always need to be able to identify the next right step in any learning environment. They need to be confident in their skills, have high expectations of success, and consistently apply a long-term learning approach to all their studies.
This sounds complicated, I know.
But it’s easier than it sounds. We teach students an effective approach in 5 sessions, and nearly every student leaves with a solid grasp of the framework. You can check out our study skills courses for more info.
So… which study skill is most important for high school students?
If you locked us in a cage and made us watch Honey Boo Boo until we caved — which I believe the UN recently outlawed as a crime against humanity — we’d say developing a system for reviewing everything.
This depends on students already having an organization system down pat (which we wrote is the most important middle school skill, but one which high school students can always use more of). Organization has to be there for any effective studying to take place.
But after organization and productivity, reviewing becomes vital. A great system for reviewing material allows students to spend far less time and get far more out of their study time. It employs the “distributed practice effect.” It also promotes long-term retention, lower stress levels, and just generally a better life.
Have a last-minute opportunity come up right before a test? No problem… if you’ve been reviewing. So high school students, invest in your study skills generally, and especially focus on long-term review schedules as a key.
That’s what you should learn — we know the bigger question is how to do this. Now please put away the Honey Boo Boo, and let us know how you think students can implement a review schedule in the comments below.