Improving Your Study Skills

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Studying is an enriching and rewarding experience, despite being a rather tasking and demanding activity. It is a valuable and worthwhile engagement with copious benefits. It is also vital to your very existence in this world, and helps foster positive transformation and personal growth, enhances satisfaction in life, and increases the quality of your life.

The habit of studying allows for intellectual growth, knowledge and skill acquisition, broader reasoning, and heightened intelligence.​ Studying is also quite essential to your academic life. Getting good grades at school is important to many of us, but having poor studying habits can hinder us from acing our tests.

In my article, ‘The value of learning’, I stated that learning is vital to quality living and consists of three stages, which are being able to read, comprehend, and re-produce in our own words. Reproduction in this context is different from our common understanding of reproduction in biology (which is procreation). Reproduction in this context means writing comprehensive and quality essays.

The hardest and perhaps most unpleasant stage of learning is the re-production stage. At this stage, you are expected to re-produce what you have learnt in your own words. This process involves combining the ideas and knowledge you have acquired through the perusal of other people’s works with the product of your analytical and critical reasoning of the subject matter. Due to the originality and authorship involved, it can be a time-consuming process, especially if you are new to the technique. For those who are already familiar with the technique, it may not be so time-consuming, but remains nonetheless demanding.

While reproduction can be quite uninviting and exhausting, there are numerous benefits in doing so. Re-producing what you have learnt in your own words enhances your creative and cognitive skills, makes you a better thinker, helps you to meditate on what you know, and helps you gain ownership of your work. When you gain ownership of your work, you are able to tutor other students, and engage in debates with other professionals in the field. Being able to achieve all of these means that you have studied effectively.

Re-production is a process whereby you combine what you have learnt from numerous works with your pre-existing knowledge, in order to produce a personal, original work. Your re-production becomes more comprehensive and distinctive if it is produced from the perusal of many works. The more works you peruse, the higher the benefits you obtain from them, the better will be your re-production. For this reason, it is advised that you cultivate the habit of reading as many materials on the same subject as possible, to broaden your view and improve your ownership of such subject.

Many students desire to excel in their academic pursuit, but fail to do so due to the inability to seek help and support when faced with the challenges of studying, the fear of being referred to as slow learners or dull students, procrastination (thinking there’s plenty of time to get back to studying), overwhelming workload for what seems like a short semester, lack of the ability to study independently, and low self-efficacy (believing that one lacks the ability to excel in their academic work).

A serious student must therefore be willing to seek help and support when faced with the challenges of studying, ignore the unpleasant name-calling and negative labelling against him and ask questions if he/she doesn’t understand, develop a habitual study pattern (study every day with a significant chunk of time), plan how he/she studies each course and just follow through, and of course, develop the ability to study on his/her own.​

While many excellent students do not do this, one effective way of gaining a lot from studying is by making a To-Do list. A To-Do list is a list of what you want to do each day; your objectives for each day. It helps break down a large task into smaller manageable tasks, and spreads them over a period of time. The psychological benefit of this act is that it helps you manage time far more effectively. You know what to do and when to do it. You also know what targets to meet. A good example of a To-Do list is shown below

As you complete each task on your To-Do list, mark them (or cross them off). The night before the next day, create another To-Do list. Another way to go about this is to create a To-Do list for a whole month, and then follow through. Either of the methods you employ is fine. 

A student who is making an effort to make the most of his study time may encounter other problems. For example, he may get distracted in the course of studying. A reason most people get distracted when studying could be that they don’t enjoy studying (as they are not aware of its numerous benefits), they do not want to think about the uncertainties of life, and are not prepared to take responsibilities for their lives, they prefer to leave matters to chance and hope for the best, they procrastinate because learning is not exactly the most pleasurable activity for them, or they love other activities more. 

To overcome these distractions, people must appreciate the benefits of studying and develop the passion for it, be the architects of their lives, the sailors of their ships, and the pilots of their aeroplanes. They must know that a problem will not be solved if they do not attend to it, must avoid procrastination at all costs because the best time to act is always now, and must love studying above all other activities. 

In my article, ‘Causes of Academic failure’, I stated the common reasons many people perform woefully in their tests. To learn more about study techniques, you may read that article, as it will prove very useful.