Study Smart

There is only one way to get good grades, and that is by studying and applying yourself. Sincere motivation, along with some decent effort, will help you to do well in school. You can start developing good study habits by approaching your studies with a positive attitude and arranging your home environment to encourage learning. Here are some ideas that can help.

Have a specific area where you always study. Any good-sized desk or table will do as long as it is well-lit and has a comfortable chair. Your study space should be in a quiet spot that is shielded from the distractions of siblings, television, phone calls and other activity, but avoid sleep inducing places like beds. The kitchen table will work if family members agree to stay out of the room during study time. You might want to hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.

Store paper, pencils, pens, pencil sharpener, eraser, dictionary, and other necessities near your study area. You can get your homework done easier and faster when everything is close at hand. But keep your study surface clean and clear because a cluttered, messy area is mentally distracting. Supplies and completed schoolwork can be tucked neatly inside closed cabinets or drawers, in a plastic storage box, or on a shelf. A bookcase encourages reading and studious behavior, a globe or wall map is an excellent accessory, and a computer is useful for research and writing reports.

When registering for classes, clubs, or other activities, make sure that your goals and times are manageable so you can set up a realistic study schedule while balancing family, friends, and fun. Set aside a regular time for homework to be done each day and stick to it. Then when it’s out of the way, you can enjoy whatever free time you have left without having to think about getting started on your assignments.

To be efficient and effective in your studying, you need to know yourself and your style of learning. Some students prefer to tackle the hardest or least enjoyable task first. Others like to quickly get off to a good start with something simpler. Either way, having a routine will help you get your work done. A good rule of thumb is to plan on spending between 30-60 minutes per subject. Try to pace yourself to finish all of your work within that time period, keeping in mind that the subjects which come easy to you will take less time, leaving extra time for the more difficult ones.

Get your brain in gear by taking an active approach to studying. Take notes, highlight important points, write comments in the margins, make flashcards, draw diagrams, recite text aloud to yourself, rewrite lecture notes in your own words, look up difficult words in a dictionary, find places on a map, research additional information in reference books or on the internet, do the chapter review questions. Don’t just sit there passively reading while letting your mind wander and then forgetting everything you just read.

In general, you should concentrate on gathering meaning rather than merely memorizing facts. But it’s okay to use mnemonic tricks and techniques to help improve recall. One of the best ways to reinforce a concept in your own mind is to teach someone else. Start a study group. Choose friends that are motivated and interested in learning. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have trouble understanding a concept. If you are really having difficulty, consider getting additional help from a parent, teacher, or tutor.

Use an assignment book or calendar to keep track of deadlines for term papers, projects, exams, performances, etc. Don’t forget to provide time in your daily or weekly study plan for those special reports and projects that are due at different times. If you don’t stagger your work on the long-range projects over a period of time, you will suddenly find yourself facing not only their completion, but also your usual amount of daily assignments – and probably an important test besides.

Studies show that the more you review the material, the better it is remembered and the easier it is to retrieve. So you should also plan some systematic review work a few times a week. Then everything you’ve learned will remain fresh and vivid in your mind, and you won’t have to do any last-minute cramming.

On essay exams, jot down a quick outline before you start writing. Multiple-choice questions require choosing the best answer, so make sure you read them all first. If part of a true-false statement is false, then all of it is false. When you can’t think of the right answer, don’t waste time wracking your brain. Skip it and come back to that problem later. In the meantime, another question may help jog your memory.

By studying well and reviewing regularly, you will always be prepared for quizzes, tests, and exams. Relax and take them with confidence.

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