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Unit Title: Study Skills in English
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2  Introduction
2.1  Why have a study strategy?
2.2  Studying and learning
2.3  Making a plan
2.4  Making productive use of your time
2.5  Having the right tools
2 Summary
Department of Computing, Goldsmiths College
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Chapter 2 - Study strategies for effective learning

Essential reading

Cottrell, Stella (1999) The Study Skills Handbook. Chapters 3 and 4.

Northedge, Andrew (2000) The Good Study Guide.


This chapter looks at the general strategies you will need to adopt in order to study successfully (as opposed to the more specific ones of reading, writing and revision which we shall discuss in subsequent chapters). By general strategies we mean the sorts of things you need to think about before you start studying. These can be divided into two groups: internal and external.

By external we mean issues such as:

  • a suitable study area
  • access to the right kind of computer
  • allocation of the right amount of time to study (carved out from what is probably already a busy week).

By internal we mean issues such as

  • the mental skills to study and learn effectively.

The chapter contains the following sections:

  • Why have a study strategy, and What are study skills?
  • Preparing yourself for higher education
  • Learning and studying
  • Particular challenges of distance learning
  • Making a plan
  • Making productive use of your time
  • Making sure you have the right tools and environment.

This chapter also has a number of exercises, many of which are reflective and are designed to help you explore your attitude towards study. Many of them could usefully be done in your class, so that you have the benefit of the opinions of others.

To make the best use of this chapter's interactive exercises, you will be required to develop a portfolio, which is a file in which you put in relevant information about yourself, such as your CV, courses you have attended, certificates you have obtained, as well as information from your college, useful resources from classes, the self evaluation exercises from this chapter, etc. There are a number of ways of organising this information and below is just one suggestion:

(Accessible version)

You will also be advised to consult the London External programme's guide to studying at a distance, written by Rosie Gosling, Director of External Study at the London School of Economics:


Learning outcomes

By the end of this chapter and the relevant reading, you should be able to:

  • understand the critical requirements of studying, and why it is important to have a strategy
  • reflect on how your previous experience has prepared you for higher education
  • understand what is involved in learning and different learning styles
  • be aware of the specific requirements of distance education for discipline and planning
  • find a study pattern that is best suited to your needs
  • ensure that you have the right tools and environment for study.