Study Smart: Tips for Academic Success This Year
I hope you had a great summer, because it’s September: back-to-school season. Whether you’re just entering high school or brushing up your last year in post-secondary, you’ve probably got a whole lot of work ahead of you. You’re probably already familiar with 1000-word papers, 3-hour exams, and PowerPoint summative presentations, and no doubt you’ve spent (or should have spent) ages preparing for them. But how do you know if your study tactics are truly hitting the spot?
Everyone has a unique style of learning, and it’s important to establish this long before you hit the books. For instance, you’re writing that test and are stuck trying to remember a history date. Maybe you remember what the textbook page looked like, or what your instructor’s voice sounded like, or maybe you don’t remember any of that, but you definitely remember writing it down. Most people are primarily visual, auditory or hands-on learners (and many people are combinations of the three!). Whether you have to use colours and shapes, audio-record a lecture or write out all your notes by hand, your study habits should reflect your learning style.
How much work, exactly, should you put in to achieve maximum results? Oftentimes, when it comes to studying, it’s quality over quantity. You could do eight straight hours of polynomial factoring, but if you’re still getting incorrect answers after the umpteenth attempt, chances are your studying habits are not working. Mix it up a little—approach concepts from different angles, in different ways, in order to find out what works best for you. Use media, too (instructional videos, scholarly articles, or even good old flash cards can work wonders). Each field of study offers different ways to learn its material, and you ought to test-drive at least a couple of them before you devote your time to studying in a single way.
I am a student, and I’ve had my fair share of study experience. What I’ve discovered is that nothing helps me prepare for a test or exam more than explaining the material to someone else. Set up a study group for a class you’re having trouble with—or even a class you excel in, because others could use your help. If you’re stuck on a problem, chances are someone in your circle knows how to find the answer. Come test time, even if you don’t find the solution right away, you’ll remember how you helped (or were helped by) someone else, and the answers will come back to you in no time.
Best wishes for a productive semester. Study hard, and study smart.