Illustration by Ahmed Amin
IT’S school and study time again and the sooner you come to terms with it the better it is for you — that is if you want to get good grades and not struggle when exams arrive.
We all make very lofty resolutions and ambitious plans at the beginning of each academic year to give our studies all that we’ve got and more. And, like all resolutions and plans, these too are forgotten and they fail in no time. So this time let’s not make any plans — let’s get into action! Let’s do some things from the very beginning of the term so that they become a habit and let’s call this our ‘Seven habits of highly effective students’!
Let’s get straight to them and I assure you that you will see your grades improve if you promise me that you will make at least a few of these, if not all the seven, your habit after reading this.
Habit one: Begin with the end in mind
For the first habit of effective students, we will borrow directly from Stephen Covey’s Seven habits of effective people, where the second habit he advocates is ‘Begin with the end in mind’.
If you don’t know what you aim to achieve, how will you achieve it? So plan and set goals. And always aim high, because only if you aim high will you be able to achieve it, or at least get close to it, otherwise if you aim for just average or passing marks, these are what you will achieve.
Habit two: Study a little each day
Review what you have been taught in the class each day. If you didn’t study much at school that day, go through the chapters/topics being done in the class and study the rest of the chapter so that when the teacher reaches that part in the next class, you will find it easy to understand, and thus remember it well.
Besides, you must try to learn something new each day, whether it is directly related to your academics or just something to improve your general knowledge. Gaining a new information will make you a more enlightened person.
Habit three: Put first things first
Again we will borrow from Stephen Covey’s Seven habits of effective people, which he says is to ‘Put first things first’.
This simply means setting your priorities — what is most important for you to do first and what can be done later. But here you need to be able to differentiate between the important and the urgent.
Something urgent is what cannot wait or be left to be done later on. For example you have to complete and submit an assignment or homework tomorrow and you have a major test after two days. You have to do your assignment/homework first because its deadline for submission is earlier but you must make sure that you do have enough time left to do some preparation for the forthcoming test too.
For this you must make a schedule and stick to it firmly. And you need to be disciplined and organised.
Habit four: Take notes and …
… make notes. Get into the habit of taking notes in the class. It can be in the form of jotting down points, words or short sentences. But it should not be everything that the teacher speaks in the class because you will never be able keep pace with the speed of the teacher’s speech. Moreover, not everything that the teacher says is important and worth taking note of.
So learn to filter the lecture for key concepts, points, words and phrases, and note them down in a notebook. Later on, preferably that very day or latest by the time the chapter is finished in the class, sit down to make proper notes, referring to your class notes, those that the teacher may have given, the class and homework exercises and your textbook.
These notes should be such that they cover the key concepts of the chapter and help you in learning for your tests and the exam. If you prepare notes of each chapter, of each subject soon after it ends in the class, you would have learnt it to a great extent and it would just need revision when you have a test and it will make it very easy for you to cover the exam syllabus for your mid-term or final examination.
This really is an ideal way to be a top grader in your class and may seem a little tough for you to follow in the beginning but when you get into the habit of it, it would not be such a huge task and you will find that you will be soon spending less time making notes because you would have the practice to identify key points and arrange it in the right way.
But those of you who are in lower classes and don’t have to make notes, you can keep your book open in the class, underline or mark the important sentences and words that your teacher points out or explains in the class so that learning it later becomes easy. Students of senior classes can also underline words and sentences in the text book, jot down additional points around the margins in the textbook rather than writing in a separate notebook.
Habit five: Redo missed or wrong problems/questions
Whenever you get an answer wrong in your homework, assignment or test, always go through it again, figure out your mistake and do it again in the correct way.
If you can’t do it correctly still or don’t understand something, ask your teacher, a classmate, elder sibling or your parents to help you understand it and do it right. An incorrect answer means you don’t know something or are missing a key point and will make the same mistake again.
Don’t ignore your teacher’s ‘Do your corrections’ remarks in your classwork notebooks, especially in maths. Good students, like all successful people, learn from their mistakes and avoid committing it again.
Habit six: Check your work before submitting
Always check, better recheck, your work before submitting your class and homework to the teacher, and most importantly, your answer sheets/notebooks of tests and exams.
Even the most careful and well-prepared of students can commit silly or serious mistakes and a review of your work and answer will help you in noticing and so correcting the mistake. Checking your work on regular bases, especially during classwork will help you in getting into the habit of doing it always.
Habit seven: Find a study buddy
Choose a friend you get along with and who is good at studies, as concerned about his or her grades as you are or more than you, and study with him/her.
Studying with someone else makes studying seem easier and more interesting. And it also allows you to learn the information by explaining it or you will benefit when a fellow student explains something in a different way that you may not have considered.
Having a study buddy also means that during school time, you must associate more with classmates who get good grades as they will not be too involved in activities that tend to distract during a class or a free period, and their serious attitude towards studies will rub off on you too.
We all get very influenced by the company we keep, so keep a good company and you will become like them.
If you decide from now to do these seven things, you will soon see a marked improvement in your marks. Good luck!