Stardew Valley: Skill XP
What Activities Do and Do Not Raise Skill Levels
Stardew Valley features five total skills, which cover a wide array of activities and offer tons of crafting recipes you can unlock. While the first levels come fairly quickly, later levels require you to invest quite heavily into each of the skills. Each night you have a chance to gain levels in Stardew's 5 skills, based upon your activities that day and if you crossed any of the set level up thresholds. Below is a list of the skills in the game, and what does and does not grant experience in order to help you level up your farmer's skills.
Skill Levels Raise Proficiency
Other than unlocks, skills increase proficiency with the various tools and players will inevitably wonder what this means. Skill proficiency in Stardew Valley is directly tied to the amount of energy consumed by using that tool. The axe can be especially draining, so it's more noticeable with that tool, while the hoe and fishing pole drain very little due to the frequency that you use them. All tools use the same amount of energy at level 1, you just swing an axe much more than you do a fishing pole, thus it's more draining and the experience with the tool helps your character to be more efficient.
Combat skill is raised by killing monsters. There's no benefit to swinging a weaker weapon at stronger monsters, because only the kill counts toward combat skill experience levels. This means once you have a better weapon and are able to kill stronger monsters faster, you'll level combat more efficiently. Raising combat grants you +5 HP per level, among other things. Swinging a sword doesn't drain energy, so this is the exception to the 'proficiency' thing.
You only get farming skill xp by harvesting fruits and vegetables or taking goods from your livestock. This means using the watering can over and over is a no-go. You will level this skill very quickly regardless of this. The skill xp gained is based upon the value of the harvestable, so you can go with either quick-growing vegetables for fast XP or slower produce for larger returns. There isn't a huge difference. Farming levels are primarily useful for the structures they unlock, like the Keg and Cheese Press, which will let you earn more money by producing goods out of your harvests.
Don't bother casting a line over and over, because fishing skill levels are based upon the value of fish you actually catch, which is perfectly sensible. Catching from a crab pot does count. While the energy used by the fishing pole will decrease, rare fish will also grow easier to catch as the fishing level causes the bar to be a big larger and the fish to not move around as quickly. Bait and Tackle can help with the more challenging fish types - the ones that move very erratically are the rarest types of fish, while more common fish are the type a beginner should be able to catch with a little practice. This skill, more than any other, relies on your input as a player and accepting that some fish just aren't meant to be caught until later.
Foraging encompasses two major things - collection of items either on or off the farm lot, and chopping down trees. The foraging skill XP gain is based on the value of fruits you harvest. You get a bit extra if it's off the farm. Chopping any fully-grown tree gives the same amount of experience, while logs lying around do not grant any XP. Any non-produce you gather should count toward foraging skill xp - including mushrooms in the mines and clams/coral on the beach. Chopping trees takes a lot of energy but it can be an efficient way to level if you have plenty of food. If you plant trees to chop down, space them every third square or they will not grow. Alternatively, you can set out exploring and pick berries and mushrooms and grab things while spelunking in the mines to let this skill level naturally.
Mining normal rocks seems to grant only a little skill experience. To get larger quantities of skill XP, you want to go after ore veins in the mines. The higher tier the vein, the more mining experience will be gained - you get xp for each of the mined items you collect. Mining XP is quite useful - similar to foraging - as you use the pickaxe quite frequently when spelunking. Other than time, energy is the limiting factor for a trip into the mines. When you're in the mines, look first for any ore veins you will want, then find the exit location. That way you'll have gathered everything useful, killed off enemies, and found the exit in the process. Later, you will gain substantially more mining experience when visiting the Skull Cavern.