21 January 2015

Back to School | Study Tips

Hello everybody!

Going back to school unfortunately means lots of homework, assignments, and lots of exams to study for. For me, going into Year 10 and a different school was a difficult time, because I had gone from a school that wasn't challenging, and didn't give me much homework, to an extremely challenging, high-pressure school. Luckily for me, I have a compulsory class that is basically dedicated to teaching students study skills. Today I decided to share some of the tips I have learnt from this class, hopefully to make studying a tiny bit easier for you :)

The first thing I think is important is identifying what sort of learner you are. In my study class, we were given a test which helped us identify this (for those of you interested, the test can be found here). I believe it is important to identify which type of learner you are, so you can develop suitable studying techniques, improving your performance in class and in exams.

If you are a visual learner, like me, you may benefit from drawing diagrams, pictures, or using colour in your notes. If you are an auditory learner, you will probably understand things better if you listen to other people explaining the topic, and may find it beneficial to tape record classes to listen to them later on when studying. If you are a kinaesthetic learner, you will probably learn best if you are actually doing things, so should spend time writing notes, or connecting theory to an event you may have taken part in. There is more information about that here.

The next tip I have is to find a good study environment. A lot of places say that it is best to study at a table, but I feel it is best to just study wherever you feel the most comfortable. I personally like to study on my bed, so I have a lot of space to spread out (I can then have my school bag next to me on my floor, my binder at the end of the bed, my laptop in front of me, and my folder next to me). It is really important wherever you study has good lighting, because if the lighting is bad, after a while your eyes will start to hurt. In my bedroom, I like to listen to something in the background while I am studying. I will either listen to some music, or put on a movie like Ratatouille. I find that watching movies I have watched quite a few times will be easier to study with, as I tend to not pay much attention to what is happening on the screen. You also want to study in a room that's not too hot or too cold.

When you going to class or getting ready to study, I think it is really important you have everything you need with you. When you go into a class, you want to have a book, a pen, your textbook, and anything else you may need with you at the ready - the same goes for when you are getting ready to study! If you are constantly having to get up to get things, or having to ask a friend to borrow a friend, it will only cause a distraction and lower how efficient you are.

When studying, you should also try to avoid distractions, like Facebook notifications, or it being 7:00pm, time for the next episode of Home and Away (that's probably just me!). I am terrible at this, particularly because I always to justify all of my distractions, for example "Watching Home and Away is my study break." or "I need to check Facebook because someone might have posted in the study group". However, this is very bad and is a habit that needs to be broken!

My next tip is to get enough sleep. This is another thing that I am really bad at. I always find myself staying up until midnight on YouTube, and then I'm tired the next day. This means I cannot concentrate at school because I am tired, I probably haven't finished last night's homework, and I'm trying to finish it in another class. Getting enough sleep is really important, not just in relation to studying and homework, but for your personal wellbeing. If you have enough sleep, you will not feel as stressed, and you will just generally feel a lot better.

I think that keeping a diary keeps me super organised. I will be doing a seperate post about diary organisation, but I will give a few points here. It's good to get a diary you really like. I'm very specific about what sort of diary I have, and I am yet to find my perfect diary. This year I am trying out a Carnegie Student Diary, which is a weekly view (just enough space - I found that last year daily view was far too much space and the diary was too bulky). I find that using colours in a diary also helps, so perhaps using a different colour for each subject, highlighting due dates...It makes things clearer than a whole heap of plain text. There is a diary I really want to try and that is the Kikki.K Cute Student Diary. A friend of mine bought this and she is raving about how much she loves it. It is a diary I definitely want to try for next year, so I really hope Kikki.K release it again in 2016! If anyone wants to check that out, you can find it here!

Taking notes is also very important, but it is possible to take too many notes. If your teacher uses powerpoints, chances are there will be a copy of the powerpoint somewhere for download. I think it is best to only take down the most important information rather than everything the teacher says. I think of my class notes as a rough draft - Don't worry about how neat they are! Once I get home, I rewrite my notes neater and better formatted. I find it easier to write notes in different colours for different topics, because they are clearer for me (I am a visual learner, so colour helps me a lot!)

Taking breaks when I'm studying is a really hard thing for me to do, because I get so distracted in my breaks! I often find myself doing homework or studying, and then taking a "10 minute break", and half an hour later, I'm still on YouTube! Recently I have gotten into a routine of saying "20 minutes of studying, then one YouTube video". This works for me, as watching YouTube videos is very relaxing for me, so I feel very rewarded watching one once I have completed my 20 minutes of study. My advice is to find something you enjoy, and reward yourself with it once finishing a certain amounts worth of study. It is important that you take frequent breaks so you do not stress yourself out with a lot of work at one time.

My next tip is to start with your hardest homework. I know you probably want to start with the funnest, easiest homework, but if you start with your hardest homework, then it is done and out of the way. Then when your brain may be a bit tired, you can do the easier homework, because it will not require so much energy and effort.

It is also important to ask your teacher any questions as soon as you have them. If I am doing homework and I have issues, I will either email my teacher, or write down a list of questions and see the teacher before the next lesson. When I'm in class, I will write down all of my questions and ask for help at the end of the class (this usually happens in Math, when I have about fifty questions a lesson).

DO NOT LEAVE HOMEWORK UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. I do this all the time, and it is very bad and I am trying to stop. You might think, "Great! I'm not going to do my homework tonight, I'll just do it tomorrow and watch the entire first season of Degrassi tonight.". This works great...But when you do that with every homework, assignment, and exam revision, it all piles up, and before you know it, you are up at 2am, the morning everything is due, madly trying to finish everything. Possibly even trying to finish things in class the day it is due (Yes, that is me). The best thing you can do is to start homework/assignments/exam revision as soon as possible, so it will be finished as soon as possible.

Next tip is to not get distracted in class. It is easy to, in a boring class, check your emails, finish that piece of homework for the next class, or play a quick game of 2048, but if you are distracted in class, then you aren't taking in what the teacher is saying, and you will fall behind. If you miss a class because you are sick (or any other reason), what I like to do is email the teacher to find out what I will be missing, and then ask someone in the class to read over their notes.

Whenever I study, I like to eat snacks. Mainly Skittles. But eating healthy food when studying really does help, so foods like a few fruits, nuts, and cheese and crackers are some of my favourite snacks. I prefer to have foods that are easy to eat, and aren't messy, so you don't have to stop and eat, you can eat whilst you work.

Try to have breakfast every morning. I am the worst at this. I have to leave the house at 7am to catch a train at half past. I think it is just wrong to wake up before 6:30am, leaving me only half an hour to get ready, generally meaning I don't eat breakfast. This year, I am trying to make myself wake up earlier so I can eat before I leave, because I definitely do feel a lot better when I have eaten in the morning. I perform a lot better in my morning classes, and I can definitely concentrate a lot better.

My final tip is to find a study partner. This may not be for everyone, and it is not something I personally do. I am, however, part of a Facebook page my year at school has set up, and basically everyone in my year is a part of the group, and we just post on there and help each other, so we can ask questions like "For the Psychology assignment, do we reference", or "What is the formula for percentage error?". Having a Facebook group may not work for everyone, but for me it does, as my school is very small, and everyone is very close. If this is not your situation, having a study partner you meet with frequently may help you, and will give you a chance to compare notes and help each other with homework/assignments/revision.

I hope this has helped you with some study tips. Please let me know what helps you to study, because I would love to hear :)

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