Hi friends, hope we’re all keeping well.
I realised I’ve made a lot of posts covering how to study and what the correct methods are, but I haven’t done much to actually tackle the obstacles to study. Which, if you’re a student like me, will know come up way too often. We all have busy lives, sometimes have a short attention span, and often can’t be bothered to sit down and do some work.
So, here’s my advice on the different study obstacles and techniques I used to overcome them – to achieve maximum points in my university matriculation exams.
By far the most common obstacle we will usually face when trying to study-“Ah, sorry I just can’t be arsed right now”. Lack of motivation to study is usually the number one killer of grades, usually not because the material is difficult, but simply because not much study of it was done.
This is a problem I resonate with highly, so here is the tip I would give:
Set the Study Bar Low
Before you begin the day, make sure you plan out and decide exactly what topics you’re going to study. Once you’ve figured that out, it’s time to decide exactly how you’re going to study these topics, and how long you’re going to take.
Now, if I find my motivation is at rock-bottom levels and I really don’t feel like working, I usually set either one of these goals extremely low.
For example, I’ll decide to spend literally just 10 minutes on the topic. Or, I’ll only do 3 practice questions on it.
Some of you might find that ridiculous and possibly counter-intuitive, but the thing is once I set these ‘ridiculously’ easy goals, I of course go ‘Oh yeah, sure, easy enough I’m fine to do that’, and instantly get some motivation to get past 5 or 10 minutes of studying.
This is the bait.
What I find is once I begin to study, even for as short as 5 minutes, I’m instantly in the ‘study’ zone, and can thus extend the study session by another 20 or 30 minutes, or even longer. This has worked with many of my friends too, and I believe will work with most people. The trick is to just convince yourself to enter the ‘study’ zone, even if it’s as short as 10 minutes, and once you’re in it it becomes much easier to continue studying.
I also get this a lot from busy friends, who say they usually don’t have much time for studying, or that they work a lot and once they come home they’re too tired.
This is a fairly reasonable problem to have, but definitely still mitigable.
- Adopt a Habit. The easiest way is to have a habit set beforehand, where you routinely study at a certain time most days. Even if, like I mentioned above, the study time is 20-30 minutes of actual, focussed study, I believe it counts as a productive session. I am a huge advocate of quality of study over quantity of study. It doesn’t matter how long you’re studying for if you’re not absorbing anything in, so make sure to adopt a habit of doing some amount of concise and focussed studying everyday, even if the session isn’t very long.
- Flashcards. This will only really work for memory-focussed subjects like the sciences, but here my advice would be to make as many flashcards as you can of your topics during your free-time, with software like Anki, and review those whenever you’re in a pinch for time and can’t study much. Like I said before, it is the quality over quantity with revising things, and if you’re spending time actively testing yourself using flashcards, then you’re definitely still being productive, even if it’s just for a short amount of time!
Okay, now you finally have some free time to study, and have the motivation to do it. But what if you’re constantly being distracted?
This is a hard one since it is very dependent on environment, but here is what I did to minimise them in preparation for my most intense exams:
- Only Non-Lyrical Music. Songs and music with lyrics was by far the biggest distraction when I was studying for exams, so I always made sure to choose OSTs and non-lyrical music. I highly, highly encourage you all to make the switch, if you truly are looking to improve grades. It removed one of the biggest distractions when I was studying, and was a huge game changer in terms of making the environment more study-suited.
- Desk and Chair. I personally haven’t studied on my bed in years, and for good reason too. I usually don’t get far if I’m trying to work in my bed, and I believe most others won’t either. So please, get up 🙃
- Replicate Exam Conditions. This is pretty hardcore, but comes with the biggest rewards. No matter what grades you’re at, I can almost guarantee you replicating the exam environment when studying will boost your grade by at least one letter. Surround yourself in a library or study hall, or generally anywhere that’s usually quiet and filled with other people working/studying, ditch the music as best you can (unless you really need the motivation boost, then non-lyrical music is your friend), and begin solving exam-like questions. It completely changed my studying process when I started to study in my school’s study hall, rather than at home where an abundance of distractions were at. Even if there is no study hall, it’s definitely not difficult to find a room somewhere in your school or college, that won’t be very noisy. Definitely consider this advice if you’re looking to make proper, lasting changes to how you study, if you want to improve.
Thanks so much for reading this far if you did. This certainly took time to write, so any feedback or advice would be greatly appreciated. I’m also happy to say this post finally completes my 7 day blogging challenge, which I’m quite proud of not gonna lie😃
Regardless, have a good day and stay safe!