The ‘s’ word is often on the minds of high school students, especially those undertaking Preliminary and HSC courses. It is arguably the most dreaded ‘s’ word in the English language.
“I must study… I must study… I must study… I need a nap… I’m hungry… I’m going to procrastibake… *posts on Instagram* Ohhh five likes! Okay, now I MUST study.”
The idea of studying is often quite hard to prepare yourself for. During my time at university, I too succumbed to procrasti-baking and watching a movie before I started to study. In order to overcome these obstacles, we must ask ourselves the following questions: What is ‘studying’? How do I prepare and motivate myself to actually get started? Here are my top tips to motivate yourself or your child to conquer Mount Everest (a.k.a. that pile of work in the back of your head or scrawled on those post-it notes you wrote last week… You know what I’m talking about!)
The Oxford dictionary defines ‘study’ as:
“The time devoted by a particular person to gaining knowledge of an academic subject.”
Time devoted. This idea of devotion is where we, as individuals, give as much time as our busy days can spare to one particular thing. There are always days when I need to flop on the couch and watch Netflix, and I’m sure you do too. But how can we remove ourselves from such distractions? How can I allocate time to completely focus on what needs to be achieved in such a small time frame? I offer my best suggestions below.
1. Find a study space.
To be able to completely remove yourself from all possible distractions is the most critical component of successful studying. Yes, that means that you need to turn off your mobile phone, give your Facebook password to a friend or move away from the kitchen (and yes, those radio advertisements are true. 50% of the time you are thirsty, not hungry, so try not to graze).
Your study space may be your room. If this is the case, clean your room. Put those dirty dishes in the dishwasher, hang up your towel and make your bed. You need to place yourself in a positive and bright area. Open the blinds and windows. Otherwise, you are not going to be able to keep your paperwork and study folders organised if you cannot find your notes underneath a pile of clothes. Fresh air is good for the working mind.
Some students prefer to study in a public or school library. Some students prefer the dining room table. Having an area that is clean, organised and bright is the best thing to turn your study frown upside down!
2. Know how you learn.
This is often hard to define as many of you may have been taught different study methods or unconsciously fallen into a pattern of study. For example, you may have an older sibling with a particular study pattern whose habits rubbed off on you. Or, your teacher may have told you that the best memorising strategy is to hand write your notes. It doesn’t matter which way you study, only if it’s the best method that works for you.
Everyone is different. Everyone learns differently and everyone interacts and reacts differently to new knowledge. The ways in which individuals characteristically acquire, retain, and retrieve information are collectively termed as the individual’s learning style – the most commonly known being auditory, visual, literal and kinesthetic. Below are some strategies that I have personally used and found effective for working minds.
Auditory learning is a learning style in which a person learns through listening, hearing and speaking. A common study technique for auditory learners is to record information and play it back through earphones. Students can also work in pairs or groups to recite information, discuss ideas and brainstorm content together. Aural learners can use repetition as a study technique.
This is often referred to as spatial learning. Visual learners must see or visualise what it is that they need to learn. This is the most common form of learning, especially amongst Generation Y and Z. Some great ways to enhance memory retention for visual learners is to use highlighters, colour code study notes, use different coloured papers and create your own flashcards using pictures and words to be placed around your home. Interactive sound queues, role-play and reasoning logically and intuitively can help you retain information in a new and fun way. I also suggest finding videos or documentaries that help summarise a particular text or topic. ‘Crash Course’, a series of YouTube videos by John Green, is a great place to start!
Students with a strong preference for reading and writing learn best through words on a page. Those who spend their own time writing notes or reading are most likely to fit into this category. I suggest that you write your own notes, rather than “borrowing” from previously graduated students. Yes, they are helpful to guide you, but their notes may be summarised or organised to their own preference and not yours. Write and rewrite your notes. Time yourself over and over again. Reword main ideas such as syllabus dot points. Organise data, charts and factual records into statements.
Students who are kinesthetic learners often enjoy hands-on activities, finding solutions strategically and figuring things out by hand. A way of helping kinesthetic learners is to connect information to real-life examples, such as case studies and newspaper articles. For example, repeating scientific methods or steps to a woodwork project can help with memory.
3. Be healthy.
You need to feed your mind with the right fuel to keep you focused during study. This means you need to try your hardest to keep your diet balanced. A large mix of veggies, fruit and complex carbs will help your mind stay focused. I personally believe in added supplements such as multivitamins, fish oil and gingko balboa for focus. Research indicates that women are more likely than men to be iron deficient, so girls, make sure that your iron is stable. Check with your local GP if you are feeling tired and lethargic. Those bad foods are a sometimes food for a reason. Be sure you are not living off energy drinks or coffee!
4. Set a study timetable.
Organisation is crucial for success. As the holidays approach, it is easy to let time slip away. Get yourself a planner, or use a whiteboard or paper. Draw up columns for each day and pen in your extra-curricular activities, work and family commitments. You can also leave time for your favourite television show, as a way to reward yourself and take a break. It’s important for you to balance your study against the rest of your commitments. Make sure you have time for yourself, your family and your friends. When organising your study days, break up your subjects into period/lesson lengths. This will help your mind follow school routine and keep you focused. Make it work for you! Finally, DO NOT leave your study to the night or week before. Start a minimum of one month before your exams and break down your weeks into achievable goals.
5. Believe in yourself.
This is definitely the most important. Try not to be influenced by negative people around you. If you can envisage yourself achieving, then you will! All of the tutors at Hoxton Tutoring believe in you. Your school teachers believe in you. Your parents believe in you. The more effort you inject into your work, the more you will get out of it! Imagine yourself at the end of your schooling career, being able to reflect and think ‘I made it!’ You can do it!
Written by Claire M