HOW YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR GRADES
I wish to sincerely appreciate the good works of Martin Kinoti in his book, ‘Exploring Career Options: An Essential Guide for Student on Career Planning and Choice.’ This booklet borrowed a lot from the manuscript. Martin you are such an inspiration. Thanks a lot.
Thanks a lot to the great team of Royal Minds Educational and Counselling Consultancy. Your input to this booklet is greatly valued. You are such a great team to work with.
There is more to exam success than just being smart and working hard. Developing the right study skills can make the difference between success and failure.
With good study habits, good revision strategies and good examination techniques, you can maximize your results and improve your exam performance.
This will enable you to obtain grades that are required to join a university or any other college to study for a course leading to your career of choice.
This booklet covers:
- Effective study hints and techniques
- Making use of study groups
- Revision tips
- Improving your memory
EFFECTIVE STUDY HINTS AND TECHNIQUES
Study is a habit, and just like any other habit, it requires repetition and time to perfect. It is never too late to develop great study habits which should help to improve your grades as well as help you to pass exams.
The simple plan is:
- Test yourself with a practice questions
- Discover your weak areas
- Study again
- Test yourself again
As a student, effective study is a major undertaking that will require proper planning and significant investment in your time and energy.
If you are just beginning to develop a study habit, your concentration span may be short and your study sessions should ideally be short with breaks in between.
If you find it hard to study, you are not alone, but you will have to do it anyway. If you want to possible. The following are hints and techniques that should help improve your study habits, study methods for great results.
Listen, ask and answer questions
A major secret to your success in learning is to be a good listener in class and to ask what you have not understood on the spot. Remain focused and pay full attention in class.
Ensure you answer as many questions as you can and most importantly, never be afraid to ask questions in class. There is no such a thing as a bad question.
Your undoing is remaining silent even after failing to understand what you have been taught in class. Asking for clarification from a teacher is not does not mean you are a fool.
Teachers are there to help you understand subjects with ease so that you can improve your performance. Your determination will make the teachers go that extra mile and take their own time to guide and help you.
To quickly improve your performance, listen to your teacher and remain active in class by asking and answering questions.
Study in short but frequent sessions
You can only concentrate for limited periods of time. Therefore, don’t try to study constantly for hours on end because things won’t simply go in. it is useful to have real breaks where you go and do something completely different.
Also, use your spare time, especially when your concentration is high, to study a little more on subjects that are more challenging or difficult.
Take guilt-free time of rest
When you are not in the mood of studying do not feel guilty or bad about taking a break or rest. The reason for resting is to refresh oneself.
Honour Your Emotional State
Forcing yourself to sit and study when your mind is on other things is a complete waste of time. If you are emotionally stressed or are going through other personal problems, your brain literally repels information.
Do not study if you are tired, angry, distracted or in a hurry. When the brain is relaxed, it will naturally absorb whatever you are reading like a sponge.
Make Same Day Review a MUST
A quick review later in the day will tend to cement information in your brain. In the next study session, you will recognize it and it will seem easy. When you learn something new, try to go over the points the same day.
If you wait a few days to review the material, it will appear much less familiar.
Prepare a study environment
Try to always a make this a priority in case there are any in the environment which can help you in your study, and you have some control over them.
If you are in a boarding school you may not have much control over the study environment. You will have to just comply with what is available.
If you are studying at home, try to create and ensure you maintain a conducive study environment.
Get your study space organized by putting all your study materials such as books, mathematical set, dictionary, pens, pencils and rubbers in the right place.
Avoid cluttering your study space to ensure that you don’t waste your time looking for things all over the place. If possible, have a waste baskets nearby for useless things respect.
Respect ‘brain fade’
It is normal for your brain to have an attrition rate and to forget things. As you place more information on top, the lower levels becomes older and less available to your immediate recall.
The trick here is simply to review. Since you can anticipate the eventual fading of your memory, creating a review aspect to your study sessions will solve the problem.
Once every two or three study sessions, simply review older materials that you will still need to remember.
Create a routine or schedule for study
Plan a definite time for studying every day. This will discourage procrastination and prevent a pile-up of work. Study every day, even for a short period of time, keeps you from falling behind.
Prioritize your study subjects list and begin completing the most difficult material first. An effective way to do this is for you to create a study time table or schedule and stick to it.
Ensure that the way subjects follow each other on the study time-table does not make your study boring. If you do not adopt a structured study schedule, you will be setting yourself up to fail.
Avoid reaching a mental block
To avoid a mental block, take a break and do something different instead of forcing things in your head. A break may help to re-energize your system.
Try a different approach in tackling a topic or subject and see if it brings results. Different textbooks will provide you with different explanations on the same topic.
If you want to make a job harder and bigger than it needs be, put it off for a while. Warning signs of procrastination include a desire to engage in simple tasks such as: pencil sharpening, drawing, colouring etc. how do you fight this?
The answer is, study as per your schedule. It is that simple.
It is your obligation to pay attention while in class. You need to cultivate a mind-set that is needed for 100% concentration. The best way for you to let your teacher know that you didn’t understand is to ask questions.
Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. The only dumb question is the one that goes unasked.
- Sit where the teacher will always see you, preferably in the front
- Pay attention to the content and not the teacher’s appearance or destructive habits
- If you disagree with what is being said by the teacher, hold your judgment until after class then see the teacher
- Listen for new ideas and facts and take some good notes
- Read in advance about the topics to be discussed in class and note areas you may want to ask questions about in class.
- Be prepared to ask questions in class
- Resist external distractions such as someone coming in late to class, noises from outside the classroom or students talking
Learn How to Make Good Notes
Effective notes will help you improve your study. Don’t be deceived into thinking that because you understand everything that is said in class, then you will remember everything thereafter.
The following are hints on note making:
- Don’t write down everything you read or Be alert and attentive to the main points
- Notes should consist of key words or very short sentences
- Take accurate notes
- Don’t take notes just for the sake of Take notes that will be of real value to you when you review them at a later date
- Keep related notes in order and in one place in a book or in a file
- Review your notes periodically; daily, weekly and make major review just before a test or an exam. This is the only way to achieve lasting memory.
Know Bad Study Habits
Bad study habits include:
- Studying when you are Don’t do it.
- Avoiding your weak It is better to allocate extra time to working towards improving them rather than avoiding them
- Getting Do not sit staring into space, or listening to friends telling you that you don’t need to work too hard
- Rewarding yourself before you deserve Reach your goal first then allow yourself the reward
- Trying to do too much. Studying at odd hours or for longer than 40 minutes without a break in counter-productive
- Skipping Revise everything you need to know; if you miss out, chances are, it will be on the exam
Improved learning is the result of utilizing the best study habits and effectively using your time. Not having time to study means you lack organization.
By managing your time, you will have control over your life and a chance to do more of what you want to do.
MAKING USE OF STUDY GROUPS
Group study enhances students’ performances both in class and in examinations. Study groups make work easier and can help in learning concepts much quicker. Group members can guide and help on one another’s areas.
Group study is very helpful in a number of ways:
- It forces you to alter your old ways of thinking and it changes your less effective patterns of behaviour
- In a group study environment you are less likely to procrastinate. Normally, it is easy to put off an assignment when you only have yourself to answer But when you know that your colleagues are counting on you, you will most probably get the job done.
- Group study encourages you to explain things By speaking to and listening to others, you will most likely improve on your ability to remember information on the exam day
- The many and varied perspectives of group discussions improve your chances of anticipating test Group members will always bring up ideas and thoughts you had never considered
- Group study will help build self-confidence. Speaking to small groups at school will prepare you for speaking to larger groups in the future
Strategies for forming a study group
- Limit the size of your group to between three to six students for best Too many voices will add confusion
- If you have eight or more students who are interested in a group study, simply form two groups and mix the membership from time to time. This will avoid hurt feelings and avoid having a stronger and weaker group
- Don’t feel you have to limit yourself to study only with your Pick other smart colleagues who are really keen on doing homework or assignments, if your goal is to improve your grades
- Establish a regular meeting place and time for the group and encourage each other
- Give your group a this will give the group a sense of identity and encourage participation
- At your first meeting, encourage each member to talk about their strengths that will help the group
- Take turns acting as the group moderator to keep the conversation on The moderator should speak up if the conversation drifts to far from the assignments
- Predict exams or test questions as a group
- Come up with a special word or small reward for a great idea
- Come up with a friendly word for members who are slacking Use it as warning to encourage them to pull up their socks
Start revision early
Major exams and tests do not come every day. You therefore, have no excuse to have a study crisis at the last minute. Don’t allow yourself to suffer from a sudden bout of last minute revision. This does not help. Planned revision does.
Plan your revision
Unplanned revision can get you into a panic attack resulting into stress and confusion. Proper prior preparation prevents poor performance. Remember that practice makes perfect. Figure out your most efficient and effective revision strategy ahead of time
Ask for Help
Ask your teacher for help in solving difficult problems in any particular subject. That is the teacher’s job. You may also seek help from your study group partners or other smart friends.
Don’t let a topic go by if you do not understand it. Have confidence and seek assistance if you are struggling. Don’t be shy!
Review and practice with past exam papers
Past papers are the best clue to future exams as they provide an insight as to how the teacher or the examiner might set the final exam.
Practice using as many past papers as possible to enhance your exam techniques and to ensure that you are fully prepared for the exams.
Gather any old assignments and re-do the exercises. Many textbooks have exercises at the end of every chapter. Review them until you can answer every question with ease
Don’t question guess
When reviewing and analyzing past papers, don’t question guess or question spot. You may assume a question wouldn’t come, and when the assumption is wrong, you lose the opportunity of gaining marks.
Don’t also memorize model answers in the hope of using them in the exam. Repeating old answers cannot and will not be appropriate
Form a habit of finishing assignments
Assignments are for your benefit. Finished assignments provide teachers with important feedback on a topic or subject.
Pre-viewing any assignments on topics you have not yet covered gives you the chance to familiarize yourself with the paint. This makes it easier for you to understand the topic better when it is taught in class.
Know the purpose of, and understand each assignment before leaving class or going on holiday. If you understand what to do and how to do it, your study time will be shortened.
Maintain a revision balance
Draw a study schedule that will help you maintain a balance over all the subjects or topics you must revise.
A potential mistake is for you to concentrate on only one subject or topic at a time and by the time you have covered the fourth subject or topic you have forgotten all the stuff you learnt from the first one.
It is better to keep each of them going across the time available for revision in order to ensure that your knowledge remains live
Be honest with yourself
In drawing your revision plan, you need to be honest with yourself. If you have more work than you have time for, you need to adjust what you are trying to revise for example by reducing the number of topics you are revising.
There is no point drawing up a revision plan you cannot stick to. Likewise, there is no point in just looking at a book and not taking it in.
Gain an understanding and sufficient knowledge
It is not surprising to note that the reasons for not passing an exam can actually be easily resolved. Truth be told, you cannot successfully pass an exam if you haven’t studied adequately, so be prepared. Topic or question spotting is a common pitfall. There are no short cuts. Therefore make sure that you study intensively.
Identify weak areas
Identify those subjects or areas of the syllabus where you are weak and work hard to improve your knowledge of these areas
Build up your class notes
Organize your notes by date and take note of any missing dates and pages. Get together with a study partner or group to compare notes and fill in any missing material.
Don’t be surprised if you missed key information while in class. After you organize your new set of notes, underline any key words, formulae, themes and concepts. Make yourself new practice tests with fill in sentences and definition of terms.
As you prepare for exams, ask the members of your study group to make practice as well. Then swap and practice the tests as often as necessary.
EXAMINATION EXECUTION TECHNIQUES
Many intelligent students who know all the material and can answer questions well, often fail the real exam due to poor final preparation and poor examination techniques.
It is all about using the right techniques before, during and even after exams in order to give yourself the best chance of passing. It is also about preparing properly before the exam, managing your time effectively and understanding the exam question techniques.
In an exam situation, good techniques can make the difference between a pass and a fail. It is hoped that the following exam execution techniques will help you maximize your chances of passing your exam well:
Relax and Review
A day before the exam, relax and review. Try to relax as much as possible. Review the topics learned or studied. Just go over the things you found difficult and get as much information as possible in your head
Don’t cram all night. Have enough sleep
Do not cram the night before a test or exam. If you have not had enough sleep of approximately 8 hours the last night before the exam, you may not be in peak physical and mental condition to take your exam. Sleep helps rejuvenate your body.
During the sleep, the body performs maintenance functions by repairing damaged cells. The difference between passing and failing is not what you learn in the early hours of the day of the exam, it is all the preparation you put in during the months before the exam.
Don’t wait until the last minute to cram it all in because, you will not do well in your test or exam. You may be having the fear of failing, but the best way to cope with this is to prepare well, trust in yourself and your abilities. Then simply go and do the best you can in the exam room. Whatever happens afterwards should not bother you.
Talk less, listen less
On the day of the exam, talk little before the actual exam. The worst people to talk to are people who are discussing the possible content of an exam. Those kinds of conversations are only going to make you more nervous and less focused.
Go to your strengths first
Review the exam paper once you are allowed to do so and see what questions are there and what you know. By spending a few minutes skimming through, you will be able to figure out which questions will be easier to answer. Do those first.
This will give you a good start and also help you get into the flow of the exam. It will as well make you feel better by giving you necessary confidence to deal with the tougher questions.
Manage your time effectively
You may be a very capable student, but you will definitely end up failing if you don’t manage your time well in the exam. You must manage your time effectively in the exam by allocating time for a question, or each question part depending on the number of marks the question carries.
To be good in exam time management, you will need to practice out as many past exam papers as possible under exam conditions.
Organize your answer presentation
When presenting or writing out answers, remember:
- Illegible handwriting can result in missed marks if a correct answer cannot be Ensure you practice handwriting skills as you prepare for your exams.
- It is not necessary to write out the question at the start of the This habit wastes valuable time and gains no marks.
- Do not use dashes when answering essay Instead use short paragraphs
Tackle question by question
Read the question carefully: ensure you read the whole question carefully and think before you begin to write your answer. If you don’t do this, you may answer part of the question only to realize some of the points you have made are more relevant to other question parts. This ends up wasting your time as information is repeated.
Answer the question on the paper: answer the question asked and not the one you want to see. This may often occur with questions on subjects or topics that are tested regularly and which you have repeatedly practiced before.
Likewise, don’t answer more questions than the exam paper asks you to do. If you do, it will be a waste of time and will not gain you any more marks. Also, never forget to answer all compulsory questions. If you leave them then you will obviously be increasing your chances of failing.
Move on and come back later: if you find yourself completely stuck on a question and unable to answer it, don’t panic and don’t let your head go down. Take your time, leave this question alone and leave to another question and return to it later.
Chances are, you may be able to squeeze some marks out of it this second time round. If you find yourself with time to spare, never leave any blank spaces on your answer sheet. Just write something. Your guess be the right answer and may earn you a mark or two.
Wear comfortable clothes
Don’t squeeze yourself into uncomfortable clothes on the exam day. If you are uncomfortable, your brain will expend precious energy bothering you to fix the problem. You surely want to be alert on this day. Therefore, go to the exam in your most comfortable, decent clothes uniform.
UNDERSTANDING KEY EXAM QUESTIONS VERBS
To do well in your exam, you will need to fully understand the tasks the question is asking you to perform. The following are some of the common question verbs used in exams that you need to understand.
Analyze: Break into separate parts and discuss, examine or interpret each part
Comment: Make a remark or express an opinion
Compare: Examine two or more things to identify similarities and differences
Criticize: Present the weaknesses and problems
Define: Give the meaning. Explain the exact meaning
Describe: Give a detailed account or key features and characteristics Discuss: Consider and debate or argue about pros and cons of an issue Evaluate: Determine the scenario in the light of arguments for and against Explain: Make an idea clear. Give reasons for an event
Illustrate: Explain clearly by giving concrete examples
List: Just list several ideas, facts, reasons etc. Do not discuss
Outline: Briefly describe main ideas, characteristics or events Recommend: Advice on the appropriate action to take Relate: Show the connections between ideas and events State: Explain precisely, focusing on the exact point
Summarize: Give a brief, condensed account including conclusions but avoid unnecessary details
IMPROVING YOUR MEMORY SKILLS
Before you study for your next exam, you might want to use a few strategies to boost your memory. The following tips offer a number of great ways to improve memory, enhance recall and increase retention of information
- Know why you forget: the fact is, exams are mainly meant to test how well you have understood your material and how much you can remember. The main reason you forget something is because you never really understood it in the first place. The fact is when you understand something, it sticks with you longer if not forever. A student should never try to memorize something if it can be understood. Remember when you understand something, it is automatically memorized.
- Focus your attention on the materials you are studying: Attention is one of the major components of memory. In order for information to move from the short term memory into long term memory, you need to actively attend to this Try to study in a place free of distractions and diversions.
- Review material: every time you study, try and spend at least 10 minutes reviewing the material from the previous study One of the best forms of review is teaching or telling someone else about the information using your own words. This is where study groups become very invaluable
- Teach new concepts to another person: research suggests that reading materials out loud significantly improves Educators and psychologists have also discovered that if you can actually teach new concepts to others, you will enhance your understanding and recall. You can use this approach in your own studies by teaching new concepts and information to a friend or study partners
- Vary your study routine: another way to increase your recall is to occasionally change your study If you are accustomed to studying in one specific location, try moving to a different spot to study.
- Utilize mnemonic devices to remember Mnemonic devices are techniques you can often use to aid in your recall. You might come up with a rhyme, acronym, abbreviation, a song or joke to help remember a specific segment of information.
- Avoid cramming by establishing regular study According to research, studying materials over a number of sessions gives you time you need to adequately process the information. If you study regularly, you will the material far better than those who did all their studying in one marathon session.
- Pay extra attention to difficult information. Have you ever noticed how it is sometimes easier to remember information at the beginning or end of a chapter? Researchers have found out that the position of information can play a role in recall. While recalling middle information can be difficult, you can overcome this problem by spending extra time rehearsing this information. Another strategy is to try restructuring the information so will be easier to remember. When you come across an especially difficult concept, you have no option but to devote some extra time to memorizing the information,
- Do some brain exercises: to keep your brain in shape you must:
- Challenge it with exercises: exercise your brain with chess, Sudoku, crosswords etc. these games rely on logic, word skills, mathematics and more. They can improve your brain’s speed and memory. They are fun. However, do not spend hours on them, minutes are enough
- Tell stories to others: telling stories will solidify your memory apart from helping you interpret events and share moments.
- Do physical exercises Physical exercises are great brains exercises too. By moving your body, your brains has to learn new muscle skills, estimate distance and practice balance. Research has shown that regular exercises even walking leads to robust mental abilities
- Read more books: this will give your brain workouts and increase your knowledge
- Learn a new skill or language: this will challenge and work multiple areas of your brain.