How International ESL Students Can Achieve Academic Success in the Ontario Education System

Academic success is the result of applying proven study skill strategies that can be learned. Some of these include Scanning, Skimming, and Note Taking Skills.

Skimming is the process of looking at a reading and noticing the title, sub-title, and any organizational system in the text. This process gives the student an overview of the text to alert the student to the content before the reading and permits the student to focus on the reading in advance of reading it. Studies tell us that when students skim that they can guess the content of the text in advance of reading. They are less distracted by outside influences while reading and they have an improved ability to absorb the details of the reading. They are better able to answer detailed questions about a text because they understand what part of the reading to look at to find answers.

Scanning is a general review of the text searching for key words. The process involves searching for proper nouns (i.e. words which are capitalized like ‘Monday’), numeric numbers (i.e. 5,497), and unusual words (i.e. words that include letters that are not commonly occurring in the English language like zebra). This process allows a student to quickly answer comprehension questions about a reading by locating data quickly.

Note Taking
Effective note taking is the process of organizing important information from lectures in a manner that will allow for easy recall of the data.
Regarding what you should make notes about, teachers are usually good at signaling when something is important in the lecture. Lecturers often make comments like “This will be on your examination.”, “I have concluded that……”, and “My first point is….”. You should listen for these comments and makes notes. When teachers use sequencing (i.e. firstly, secondly, then, next, finally), this should guide the internal organization of your notes.
Notes should be dated at the top of the page. They should be in sequentially numbered pages. There should be an internal organizational system that includes headings, with indentation from the left hand margin of the page for sub-topics within the lecture (i.e. 1., 1(a), 1(a)(i)). Notes can be colour coded, with highlighting, underlining, or capitalization and lower case letter systems being used to differentiate headings and sub-headings. Consistent abbreviations should be developed by a student to make note taking faster (i.e. w = with, * = conclusion). When appropriate, drawings should be used to describe processes.

When a student misses some critical information, the student should leave a blank space in the notes with sufficient space to add information later on. Notes should be augmented by additional note taking after the lecture with the student filling in any gaps of information by adding notes that the student recalls directly, or through consultation with other students in the class and by asking the teacher for clarification immediately after class.

Notes should be condensed to develop study notes for tests and examinations. These notes should be reviewed often. Studies tell us that the more a student reviews material, the likelihood of recall of the data increases. Review can take place on an individual basis or with their peers. There are many free online gaming platforms that allow students to input data and play games while they study the materials. One such program is known as Quizlet. Quizlet has many pre-populated study notes on a wide variety of topics. Programs like Quizlet allow students to understand that studying can be both easy and fun.

By using skimming, scanning, and effective note taking many students achieve their full potential and go on to enter prestigious schools, followed by admission to well respected professions.

This article is written by Tracey (Open Tutor Instructor).