Mindset and Methods: Tips for Better Studying Habits
By Calvin Lam S2BT (11) & Isaac Chu S3CT (7)
As students, we know how studying can sometimes be full of challenges. Some may struggle in a particular subject, while others might have trouble finding the most suitable way to do revision. Whatever your problem may be, we hope we can help you out and provide some solutions with professional advice from education experts.
In talking to some of our classmates in different forms, we found a few common challenges many students said they faced:
Many students find Chinese difficult. Because our school is an EMI school, our students often have less exposure to Chinese compared to English. This causes some students to feel uncomfortable with Chinese and find it a challenge.
Many students have problems with time management. Some students are barely able to finish their homework on time, and others might need to work until midnight, leaving them with only a few hours of sleep. Staying up late is a very bad habit because it will mess up one’s internal clock and causes them to feel sleepy the next day during lessons. If they don’t listen in class and have no idea of what’s going on, they will need to spend more time on homework than usual, causing them to drag into midnight, creating a vicious cycle.
A lot of students have too much pressure. Besides getting their homework done and revising for tests and dictations, they also have to join ELAs and other additional clubs and teams. Managing so many things at once is too much for some students. This causes some of them to feel stressed and hopeless, as if matter how hard they try, there is always something else waiting that they have to do.
So, how can we make our revision more efficient? To find out, we interviewed Dr. Kennedy Chan, an educational psychologist at the University of Hong Kong and an expert in the area of learning.
According to Dr. Chan, it is best to understand the material before doing revision. Read through your notes, worksheets and make sure you understand the context. Then, after having a general idea of your study materials, try to relate new ideas to any old ideas you know. “Successful learners make links and connections between concepts, ideas and facts such that they can be easily ‘remembered’,” he explains. “Ideas and concepts that are organised into networks are more easily retrieved and applied in different contexts.”
For example, when reading about the middle ages, recall the events you learnt about the Roman Empire and try to relate them together, like ‘How is the political system of the Middle Ages influenced by the Roman Empire?’ or ‘What event in the Roman Empire period made the church become so powerful in the Middle Ages?’. By strengthening the linkage of learnt concepts, you could retrieve this information much easier in tests and exams.
However, do not over rely on rote memorization! Research done by Dr. Chan shows that students who revised hard but still did not get a good mark often abuse memorisation. Although they recited all the definitions and examples of the terms, those students do not truly understand the concepts, and struggle in high-order thinking questions. That is why you should use the right approaches to learning!
Dr. Chan also has suggestions when it comes to learning languages, particularly challenging language subjects like Chinese. To learn any language effectively, he says, you have to deeply immerse yourself in it. Hence, reading more Chinese books, writing more in Chinese, and speaking in Chinese with your classmates are good ways to improve your Chinese. This goes for other languages, such as English, as well.
Of course, it isn’t just your study strategies, but also your mindset, that matters when it comes to learning. According to Dr. Chan, having a good learning attitude is important. For him, the ideal learning attitude is a self-regulated one. “[Students] should set goals and monitor their learning progress,” he explains. Goals should be reasonable and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely), and students should make suitable adjustments to their timetable to help manage everything. Students should also be proactive, like seeking feedback from different sources on their academics, including classmates, teachers, and tutors. “Good learners think carefully about the comments given by others and formulate plans to adjust their learning strategies to achieve the goals.”
Finally, it’s important to have a balance. “We need to make our life ‘sustainable’,” Dr. Chan says. “Taking regular breaks and doing physical exercise are important to make your life sustainable.” We all need to take time to relax and have fun. Remember: “Work hard, play hard!”
Of course, none of this is easy. Even with some of these useful tips, you’ll still have to put in the hard work and time to get those good grades. But hopefully, with a positive mindset and some of Dr. Chan’s useful tips, all of us can achieve new heights.