Getting into a study routine is a tricky business. There’s plenty of other things to entertain you on an evening after a hard day at school. But somewhere in your mind is that voice telling you that you should be studying because you’ve so much to study. Fear not, because the chances of you studying can be increased by a slight adjustment to your thought process. Yes, a change of attitude can help lift you off the couch and into the world of study. While studying does involve a certain amount of effort on your part as a student, there is no reason for this effort to be a constant struggle to open up a book and look over some notes! The key to success lies in you first of all developing a very clear understanding of what you need to do. If you have that clarity, it will be a lot easier to begin your study process! Approaching study with a clear mind is an idea I have recently developed having worked with students on study skills over a number of years with The Super Generation. Responses from a survey conducted by students in examination years in 2013/14 have yielded some interesting results and I’d like to share with you some advice that developed from my research. Take note first of all that nobody can promise you automatic success in your examinations, you’ve got to make it happen yourself.
Think Happy Thoughts
Students surveyed demonstrated interesting relationships between thinking positively and feeling confident about their ability to study. Those students who were more positive about learning and studying generally tended to have more belief in themselves too. Fill your mind with positive thoughts and think about your potential success in your exams, and this will help you grow in confidence. No matter what happens over the year, your experiences can always be looked at in a positive way!
Get control – Set a Goal
Goal setting has long been a successful tool for many students. Goal setting will help you grow in confidence too. Students surveyed in 2013/14 who were setting goals and dividing up subjects into topics were more confident about their examinations. Set yourself clear, specific goals for your examinations and begin to work backwards from those goals by finding possible solutions to achieving them. Throughout the year, remind yourself regularly of your goals: put them up on your wall; make them your desktop background or screen saver; let your parents or teachers know what they are. Constantly remind yourself of these goals, because they can work as an adrenalin shot for your motivation!
Test Your Memory
Most students find writing out a few key words and phrases from a book will be enough to ensure they can put the books away and have a guilt free evening watching TV. Wrongo! While note-taking is an important process of studying (it helps whittle down the important information you’ll need for the exam), a crucial step in securing the information is to double-check you can actually recall (remember) it. Finish every study session with a quick memory test, either by scribbling down the information from your memory or physically saying the words out loud. This exercise will ensure you are practising exactly what you need to do for your exam, and will help build your confidence by showing you can actually remember stuff! You may not get every bit of information out of your head on the first attempt, but the more you practise recalling the information, the easier it gets.
Monitor your progress
One excellent strategy for keeping yourself on a clear path to success is to ensure you record what parts of each subject you have studied. This will show that you’re in control of your learning and that you know either what you have already studied or what you would like to go back over. It is recommended that you revise each topic for your subjects around 5 times throughout the year, so don’t lose focus on how many times you need to look at something. Create a chart for each of your subjects, write down when you have viewed a topic and tick off how many times you have practiced recalling the information for that topic. Keep yourself in control all the time, and record all the great work you do!
Remember Exam Formats
My final piece advice to help you stay clear-headed throughout the year is to ensure you know what is required in each of your examinations. Students can be put off studying because of an overwhelming feeling of not knowing what to study or how much to study for each subject. If you have a clear idea of what each examination entails (the number of questions required to answer, how much choice you have, the amount of time it will take, how many marks for each question) then you will have a better understanding of how much time you will need to spend on the subjects and its topics. Some students will put study off because they have not a clue what is going to be asked in their exams or how it will be asked. As a result, the automatic assumption is ‘I must study everything because they’ll ask me everything’. Again, be smart and remind yourself of how each examination will look, and this will help clear your mind.
Unfortunately, studying for the Leaving Certificate does require a certain amount of effort on your part, that’s just the nature of the beast. I do not promise all A grades in your examinations by using this advice – nobody can promise that – but what I can promise is that following these steps will give you a better chance of studying like an A grade student. You’ve got to take control of your chances. In the words of Pádraig Harrington, who, when asked was his success in professional golf down to luck replied “the harder I train the luckier I seem to get”. I will leave you with these parting sentiments: you will not always see hard work as ‘hard work’ if you attempt it on a regular basis – it will simply become ‘work’. Secondly, if you sit down, have a good think about your strengths and what you want to achieve, clear your mind and follow the steps outlined above, you’ll have a better chance of knuckling down with the study, which will only leave you with a greater chance of success. Best of luck in the exams and keep your mind clear and focused.
Aidan a former Super Generation trainer investiaged the effectiveness of the study skills delivered by The Super Generation as part of this MSc in Education from Trinity College Dublin in early 2014. He is now teaching history in a secondary school in the UK.