What we know about the relationship between study skills and school success is based in part on Harvard University’s approach to the problem. In the 1940’s Harvard realized that it’s foolish to flunk promising undergraduates. If youngsters had performed well on the SAT’s, had solid GPA’s and strong recommendations, and were accepted to Harvard, then it made no sense at all to flunk them out once they were there. Harvard saw that it was important to retain those students and to support them if they ran into difficulty academically by helping them develop the skills necessary to do well in school. They started the Bureau of Study Counsel and appointed the exceedingly capable Bill Perry to head it. Perry contributed many of the essential thoughts to the study of school performance; he became a giant in the field. Perry’s idea was-and it turned out to be quite right- that school success was largely a matter of management: School success did not depend so much on intellectual force and ability; it depended upon the ability to manage oneself. This central insight has helped us greatly because we can teach students to manage themselves better. So the ultimate answer is to learn how to use one’s existing skills so effectively that one solves the problems of study for school in productive ways.
Two study skills articles – one on Study Reading and one on Test Taking – are available in this section. Our more comprehensive approach to study skills – Study Power – is available through Amazon.com. Study Power also has a workbook with practice exercises that may be purchased through Amazon as well.