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Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist and founding partner with The Heller Psychology Group LLC, which is a small private practice located in Bethesda, Maryland near Montgomery Mall. He specializes in working with children, adolescents, and their families. Dr. Heller conducts play, individual, and family psychotherapy for a variety... Read more

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Improving Study Skills for Finals

Dr. Carey Heller; Clinical Psychologist in Bethesda, Maryland

Dr. Carey Heller; Clinical Psychologist in Bethesda, Maryland

With end of year finals just a few weeks away for many students, I thought sharing some information and thoughts on improving study skills might be helpful. In some schools, study skills are heavily focused on, whereas in others, children and teens are expected to develop their own skills in this domain with minimal assistance. For some students, they learn early on how to study well. For others, especially those that seem to get by when they were younger with barely studying and doing well, learning to study effectively is much harder.

Thus, here are some suggestions for improving study skills:

  1. Think about how you learn best: (i.e., hearing things presented, reading/seeing them presented, or hands-on activities). Gearing study methods to your strengths is important. However, at the same time, using multiple study methods that rely on auditory and visual learning is important.
  2. Write out a concrete plan of specific tasks you will do to study for an exam. For instance, for a history exam that will have multiple choice and essay questions, you might try the following:
    1. Reread notes
    2. Create study guide of information that will be covered on the exam
      1. Table with key terms and definitions
      2. Outlines of important chapters/materials covered
      3. Find or create essay questions and practice answering them with notes
      4. Have someone quiz you on key terms and definitions
    3. Re-review everything
    4. Remove some terms and definitions from study guide and practice filling them in using your notes
    5. Practice filling in terms and definitions without notes
    6. Practice writing essay questions without notes
    7. Have someone quiz you on key terms and definitions
    8. Final review of everything

The benefit of creating a plan such as the example above is that it provides a list of tasks that can be done in a specific order. Following a plan increases the likelihood of devoting adequate time to studying. In addition, this plan is setup in a way that provides a brief overview of material, opportunities to practice using material with notes, and then tasks that involve learning and practicing material without notes. Learning material with notes first is important to minimize encoding incorrect information into your brain when studying. Furthermore, as you may be able to see from the study strategies above, this plan relies on oral, visual, and tactile methods to increase retention of material. Finally, it relies on both oral and written production of material studied.

I hope that these suggestions are helpful. If you feel that you or your child/teen need assistance with learning study skills or developing a study plan that fits individual strengths and limitations in academic functioning and cognitive abilities (i.e., memory, verbal skills), there are lots of professionals who can assist. Tutors, psychologists, coaches, and other professionals can figure out your child or teen’s learning style and help tailor a plan that will ensure their academic success going into finals and beyond.

Copyright 2015 Carey A Heller, Psy.D.

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*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship, and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*

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Carey Heller, Psy.D.

About Carey Heller, Psy.D.

Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. He works with children, adolescents, and young adults, providing psychological/psychoeducational evaluations and individual psychotherapy. Dr. Heller specializes in ADHD, executive functioning issues, and Autism Spectrum Disorder and is happy to answer questions and provide consultations for individuals who are considering pursuing treatment or an evaluation for their child, adolescent, or themselves. Dr. Heller can be reached directly at 301.385.2610 or For appointments, please call the office at (301) 385-2610 or email The Heller Psychology Group at with your contact information and availability for appointment times.


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