Academic Problems and Skills

Adjusting to college life can be difficult. In addition to new social challenges, college studies often require a different skill set for those transitioning from high school. Time management and test anxiety often impact new students. Students also benefit from learning new study techniques and how to maximize their strengths. If you or someone you know would benefit from learning new academic skills or reducing the impact of a specific academic problem, then please contact the SDSM&T counseling staff.


Study Skills | Test Anxiety | Time Management

Study Skills

Learning how to effectively study can be one of the most difficult skills to learn when a student first goes to college.  Study habits learned while in high school don't always translate well into a college setting.  The counseling department at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is ready to help.  For more information please contact the counseling staff.  

Test Anxiety

Test anxiety is something that students can overcome with a little time, patience, and persistence. Most students experience a little anxiety before a test and it is healthy to do so. A little stress motivates people to adequately prepare for an exam. There are students who become mentally paralyzed by tests and who are unable to perform at their best when they get to a test. These students suffer from test anxiety.

The good news is that there are a number of things that you can do to reduce test anxiety. These simple strategies can help alleviate a lot of the stress that a student feels. If these strategies are not enough, then the counseling staff at the School of Mines is available to help students who need additional help in combating their test anxiety.

Here are some suggestions to help alleviate test anxiety:

  1. Adequately prepare for tests. You need to put in the time that is necessary to get ready for each exam: attend classes, review your notes, do all of your homework, and keep up on your reading. Avoid "all-nighters." Cramming for tests is not a recipe for success. Students learn best when they take in information gradually and not during marathon study sessions.
  2. Eat a good breakfast. Don't skip the most important meal of the day. Eat some whole grains and some protein. The whole grains will digest slowly giving you more sustained levels of energy and protein is good for the brain. Caffeine should be used sparingly. A little caffeine is OK and has been shown to improve some testing, but too much can leave you feeling anxious (which is what you are trying to avoid).
  3. Take a little walk before the exam or exercise the morning of the exam. Taking care of your body will pay dividends in all areas of your life. A little fresh air in the morning will help calm your spirit and the exercise will get your blood flowing.
  4. Get plenty of sleep. This goes with avoiding the all night study sessions. You want to be resourceful and alert.
  5. Take some deep breaths if you need to calm yourself before the exam. The increased oxygen intake will have a calming effect on your body.
  6. Think about the test and why you are anxious. A lot of people are anxious because of what the test means to them: "This test will determine if I pass or fail this course. If I fail this test, then I will not get into that class. If I do poorly on this exam, then I will lose my financial aid." While many of the concerns are valid, they don't put you in the position to perform at your best. Try to make positive statements: "I am going to do well in the test because I am excited about getting a B in this course. This is an opportunity for me to demonstrate all of the new knowledge that I've gained in this class. I prepared well for this exam and it is just one class that contributes to my GPA." If you are experiencing any negative self talk, find an immediate counter and focus on it.
  7. If you do poorly on an exam, use it as a learning opportunity. Failures are only failures if you don't learn from them. Use a poor testing experience as a learning tool to adjust habits that were creating problems in the past.
  8. Seek help. There are counselors, tutors, other students, online materials, and other resources available to you. Take advantage of those resources. Counseling Home Page

    Overcoming Test Anxiety

Time Management

College students transition to a life that can be very busy. Managing class schedules, work, homework, extracurricular activities, and a social life can be a daunting job for a lot of students. The important thing to remember is to take notice, but not get overwhelmed. Resources are available on campus to help students. The counseling department at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is happy to assist students with developing time management strategies.  Try a few steps listed below.  Please contact counseling staff for more viable solutions to your specific struggle.

  1. Get a calendar and use it. Look at syllabi that you've received from your professors and mark each assignment, project and exam down for the entire semester.
  2. Plan out your weeks. Schedule in times to study and/or work on class tasks on a weekly basis. (Time amount suggested:  1 to 1 ratio per credit hour of the class; that means 3 credit hour class, then 3 hours work time per week for that class.)
  3. Schedule in time to do your own thing. You cannot study and work 24/7. Make sure that you are being good to yourself. Scheduling time where you can take a walk, read a fun book, see a movie, or play some games with friends.  Relax and unwind a bit.  This will maximize your study ability by providing a necessary recharge!
  4. Write everything down. Don't assume you will remember.  Especially during your first semester, the learning curve of acquiring new information is high - from where you live, to meeting new faces, academic content and a plethora of other new logistics, so write it down. Record it in a place where you will look again.  Preferably have only one consistent place.
  5. If it's broken, then fix it. (The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.) Contact the counseling staff for an objective look and collaborate on a plan that works!  Trouble studying in your room, then another place is needed - we have ideas. Failed that first test, a new plan is needed - we can help. Learning effective study habits is a process and the process takes time. You'll need to tweak your study habits for each class. It is wise to do this throughout the semester.
  6. Maximize your time. Work on the task that you are working on and only that task. Turn off the cell phone and tune out all the other distractions. It is also important to take periodic breaks. One ten-minute break an hour is a good rule. If you try to work for hours at a time, then you won't retain as much information.
  7. Give yourself healthy rewards. You want to make a positive association with the work that you are doing. If you like coffee, then give yourself a much deserved coffee break after an exam. Associate that reward with your effort and hard work.
  8. Avoid the pitfalls. The number one pitfall is feeling bad about poor performance.  You will likely encounter setbacks during your college career. Those setbacks are better viewed as opportunity to improve your skill set. A poor grade on an exam, don't dwell on the grade, but look at where you might have done better in studying and preparing.  Let us help you analyze the situation objectively and correct, troubleshoot and resolve the situation!  Contact our office now.
  9. Seek help early. There are counseling services available on campus to help you troubleshoot any dilemma and can provide numerous resources. There are groups for studying. There are tutors and a multitude of other resources waiting to assist you. There is someone who can help you.
  10. Plan ahead and expect the unexpected. You want your schedule to be flexible enough for you to have extra time if you need it. Build in extra 'cushions' of time. Plan that tasks will take longer than you think. Time saved or extra time will seem like a reward, if you finish early.

Web Resources:

Dartmouth Time Management Video

Need Help?

We have a staff of counselors available to help you, anytime.


Megan Reder-Schopp
Director of Counseling and ADA Services

Jeremy Kendall

Nancy Sprynczynatyk


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