A Guide to Studying, From A Graduating Senior

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It’s late April, acceptance letters have come in, people have made decisions. I have made my decision. Only a year ago, I had some doubts that I would get into UBC, and three years ago I wouldn’t have even considered the possibility. And yet when I sent in my application I knew for sure I was getting in. A lot changed during my three years at Vancouver College, particularly my approach to learning and my study habits. It is likely that my grades, of which even the sciences do not fall below 95%, are the biggest boost to my confidence. Only three years ago, I was struggling to gets B’s. This article hopes to serve as motivation for those seeking to better themselves, particularly academically. You don’t have to be a genius, or even super smart. You just have to be a little smart. Smart enough to know how to study.

Before discussing what I do to study, a brief history of my worst years are in order. In my grade 9 year I arrived at VC for the first time. At the time, I wanted to get better grades, but I lacked motivation to do so. I didn’t pay attention in class, barely did any homework, and never studied. This continued until halfway through grade 10, at which I began to pay attention and study a little, but mostly only in Science 10. With Science being interesting to me, I decided to take Chemistry 11 honors and Physics 11. The key here is that I took Chemistry 11 honors.

To tell the truth, I didn’t even meet the minimum Science 10 grade to enrol, I had to get special permission from the school. The main reason I enrolled in the honors stream was in order to challenge myself; I believed I could do it. I also believed I could do it when I wrote my first Chemistry quiz. I failed it. It was a big wake up call. It soon dawned on me that I didn’t just have to study for tests and quizzes, I had to study regularly.

To break away from my story, here are some benefits to studying regularly that I can think of:
– Allows content to digest
– Lets you understand what is going on in class (studying the next lesson before class helps tremendously, especially in Chemistry)
– Studying won’t become a chore
– You can ask questions to your teacher more often (If you study the day before, you can only ask questions on the day of the test!)

Some explanation may be required: If you study twenty minutes a day, every day, that’s an hour and twenty minutes over the course of the week. When you’re not studying, you can do other things, such as games, sports, or homework. Now compare that to studying the same amount of time right before the test, maybe over two days. Over an hour of studying can become boring, very quickly. During exams, when you have other courses you need to study for, doing everything in one day is a surefire way to do poorly. I used twenty minutes a day of studying chemistry as an example. Individual studying times may vary, but if you aren’t used to studying daily then twenty minutes is a great starting point.

However, studying regularly is not the only thing necessary for true success in academics. Yes, it will increase your grade dramatically, but there is a large difference from an A and 100% when it comes to tests and exams. In order to get such high grades, a combination of regular studying and good studying is required. Unfortunately, I myself am still refining my own studying skills, as I have only been practicing them for two years. However, this next piece of advice should suffice, as it got me to where I am now.

Try to learn. Strive to understand.

This is the difference that separates many excellent students. Many of my friends focus primarily on achieving high grades. It is not unreasonable to think so, as I myself still think so to some degree. Returning to the topic, many students focus on memorizing formulas and events without trying to understand them. When the test or exam passes, the information is forgotten until the next exam. The periodic trends in chemistry 11 are logical, primarily relating to the distance of the electrons from the nucleus, and yet most do not attempt to see that. Time is spent memorizing “diagonal trends” when that time could be allocated to more challenging material. Even to this day, I can understand how the trends function, and all it took was a little thinking.

Study regularly, and study smart. I have often heard this, but I have never received any actual advice that has helped me. As far as I can tell, the only reason I was able to develop my study skills is by being put in a harsh environment, that of Chemistry Honors 11. Yes, that place is a living hell sometimes, but it was definitely worth it. I highly recommend to any incoming grade 11s to take the course, even if they don’t think they will do well.

There are many circumstances and individuals in the world, and this guide only takes into account the perspective of one author. There may be a lack of information, or it may be entirely incorrect to some individuals. I apologize if this guide came off as elitist, and I also suspect I did rant a little. However, I truly believe that this guide can at the very least serve as motivation for students. As there is bias in this guide, there may be a lack of or mistelling of some information. Additionally, it is written from the perspective of a student versed mostly in the sciences rather than the arts, and thus might not cater to them (though everyone should study regularly).

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