Academic Skills for Graduate Program Success

As students approach graduate and post-graduate studies, their success can often be predicted based on their grasp of specific academic skills. These are the skills that help them learn efficiently while also giving them the confidence to fully participate in their education.


Communication within the academic setting goes beyond expressing ideas verbally and in writing. Students must also express ideas through debates, presentations, and discussions. Parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and others can strengthen students’ communication skills by targeting several facets: verbal, nonverbal, visual, and written. Several strategies that are effective at strengthening these skills include:

  • Character analysis from films and literature
  • Group games requiring collaboration and persuasion
  • Introspective activities, such as journaling, list-making, and responding to prompts
  • Modeling and role-play
  • Question and answer


In the classroom setting, comprehension means understanding what has been lectured, written, and presented and then integrating that information with existing knowledge. Strong comprehension skills include understanding the meaning of words, inferring meaning from written content and discourse, following the organization of writing, determining the author’s purpose, as well as several other skills.


Effective notetaking is a critical part of academic success. At its simplest, taking notes keeps students alert and helps them avoid becoming distracted. It keeps the mind focused on and involved in the material being presented. Effective notetaking organizes information in a way that students can refer back, making connections between the information presented in class and in readings. Well-organized notes help students identify the most important information for retention and further study. Note-taking skills can be developed as teachers provide an outline of the information presented during lectures, model note-taking, and lead discussions on note-taking strategies, such as the Cornell System.

Text Analysis

By the time students complete high school and their first few years of college, they have read hundreds of pages of text. However, many students who have successfully pulled out facts and the basic meaning of the text still struggle to understand inferred meaning. The ability to come to an accurate conclusion based on evidence (in this case, written evidence), experience, and previous knowledge is crucial to success in further learning. Teachers can help students come to logical conclusions based on clues, previous knowledge, and past experiences with a variety of exercises:

  • Character descriptions without adjectives
  • Riddle-solving
  • Storytelling based on pictures (Students present what is happening in the picture as a story.)
  • Written descriptions of emotion without naming the emotion

Written Argument Development

Students in  must be skilled at making written arguments. Clearly expressing a point of view and supporting that view with compelling evidence is a valuable skill that individuals will use long after their school years are behind them. Teachers can help students make an interpretation of material and gather evidence for that point of view. This begins in the early school years with research, evidence collection, and writing out the explicit and inferred information. Secondary school teachers may then help students identify “moves” in argument writing: use of examples, verifying or challenging the credibility of sources, borrowing terminology from experts, extending commentary, and addressing opponents’ views.

Adequate preparation for higher learning begins several years before the end of high school and must address many skills . However, as teachers focus on these five academic skills, students’ chances of success are significantly increased.