Thursday, May 12, 2011


This week and next week are finals week - I have three exams:
Sociology (May 17), Engineering (May 19) and History (May 20).
When I was in high school/senior school, work and exams didn't really
stress me out that much. I was only studying science, which I'm
relatively good at. I generally did well on exams and papers, and if
something was really important to me and I studied hard I could almost
always get a grade I was happy with.
Then I hit first semester was particularly tough (not
just because of academics) and I wound up with some of my worst grades
- C+, B, B, B+. They're certainly not super awful, but I hadn't really
got C's before.... . Anyway, things got marginally better, and I was
averaging somewhere between a B/B+. Last Spring was an awful semester
for me though - I ended up with B-, B-, B-, A-, which didn't make my
GPA happy at all! I was also disappointed because I'd studied *really*
hard (like, done all the problems in the textbook kind of hard).
Last semester I decided to seek help for academics and study skills.
Grades and academic stress were also one of the things that prompted
me to go see the counsellor, as they were really getting me down/
depressed and badly affecting my self-worth (which I later learned/
realised should not be at all linked to grades). Anyway, my University
has pretty good academic support - they run workshops on various
academic skills (studying for finals, procrastination, effective
reading etc) and they also have (free) sessions where you can go talk
to a peer advisor about your study strategies. I was really lucky and
randomly was paired with someone who just seemed to understand where I
was coming from. Two of the most useful things he told me were:
1. Often there's a type of problem or concept underlying problems that
you don't understand. So, what's important is not to do all the
problems in the book and work out where you went wrong in each
individual one, but to work out the trend in where you seem to go
wrong in problems and focus on that.
2. Think of the exam as "point grabbing". Don't imagine starting from
100 and losing points for everything you get wrong. Instead, imagine
starting from 0 and gaining points for everything that you do get right.
I've also learned a lot more about smart studying - predicting exam
questions, tailoring my studying to the kind of questions asked on the
exam (I study different for a essay vs definitions now).
Last semester wound up being my best semester ever and I was really
pleased with my grades (I got my first ever A! And 3/5 of my grades
were A range (A, A-) grades).
I'm hoping that I can keep up the trend this semester. I'm pretty
nervous about my exams, but I'm trying to use all my study methods. At
the moment. I'm really just catching up on the reading I didn't get to
do during the semester though!
Does anyone have any other study tips or ways that they like to study?


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