Always work against the Clock
Each time you study, clearly specify the work you intend to complete and set yourself a given period of time in which to complete it.
Don’t become a “clockwatcher” – they sit in the room quite happily, just so long as they spend sufficient time “at the books”
You must learn to work against the clock. By specifying clearly what work is to be completed, and by what time, you should provide the necessary motivation to complete a worthwhile session.
Keep a notebook and write down just a few things that you feel you could achieve this week – something important but not too difficult. Perhaps there is a verb or two that could be learnt; perhaps you could watch a video of the novel you are studying; or maybe something as simple as learning four French words a night (you will be amazed at how quickly it can build up!) Never set yourself things that you feel you can’t do.
Goals must be very specific. Don’t set goals like “I’m going to improve at Maths”. It could be “I’m going to improve my Maths mark by 4% by the next test.” Don’t say, “I’m going to do more study” – be specific – how much? and when exactly?
By writing down simple tasks, and by setting a completion date, you will be amazed at how you stop just drifting from one day to the next. There is also a real sense of achievement when you work your way down the list.
Buy yourself a “goals notebook” and use each page for one week. Set a small number of goals for the first few weeks so that you get the satisfaction of completing them, you can always increase the number as you go on. Every Sunday, check what you have achieved. You are not limited to school topics. You could set personal fitness goals, skills goals, behaviour goals – anything at all! Once you do this you stop drifting and start achieving!
All goals should be “SMART”
- S pecific (not something vague)
- M easurable
- A chievable
- R ecorded (written down)
- T imed (have a time limit)
Whenever you study you should get into the habit of taking notes. You cannot “study” by just reading, or highlighting, a book. I know that many students believe that taking notes is wasting time, but there is really no other way if you want to remember the information!
Don’t spend ages writing summaries. Notes are just the key points. Make a list of the main points only – don’t write sentences, or include “little words” like ‘the’, ‘and’, ‘or’ and so on. Use abbreviations and even start to develop your own shorthand – it will save you hours and hours! Always number the points in the list you construct. The brain can recall a numbered list better than a list with no numbers. Also, have plenty of “white space” on the page (blank space). It should almost look like a shopping list when you have finished.
Some students prefer to draw mind maps or spider diagrams. They use different colours and symbols and spread their ideas over the page. Each student may find that different styles suit them. The main thing to remember is to avoid just writing the book out again in a shortened version! Try to decide which are the key points and put these on paper in such a way as you will find it easy to study. Different styles may suit different topics.
We would also advise you not to copy diagrams into your notes – some students waste a great deal of time copying out the book. If you come to an important diagram – close the book, have a quick attempt (on scrap paper), correct your mistakes and throw away the attempt. Now, make a note of the diagram and its page number in the margin of your notes. Each time you return to these notes, you will see the reference and quickly practise the diagram once more, before referring to the page in the text.
The presentation of your notes is very important – keep them neat and use a little colour – but don’t overdo it!
Some examples taken from our seminar
Don’t waste time copying your homework answers out of the textbook – you learn little by copying. Read the information required to answer the question. Jot down on a piece of paper the briefest of points (a date, a formulae, a name). Now move onto some other task and then come back to it a few minutes later, and attempt to do your homework with the book closed. If you get stuck, refer to the paper with your brief notes. If you still can’t do it, refer back to the textbook.
Never Be Afraid To Make Mistakes!
Always remember, you learn by making mistakes.
You can achieve an awful lot in class – however, for a lot of students, it is almost a waste of their time! Where do you sit in the room and why? If you moved place, would your marks improve?
Don’t go to the back of the room, don’t sit beside the window, get away from the “messers”!
Jot down a few notes in every lesson, don’t wait for the teacher to tell you to take something down. You have no idea what a great impact it makes on a teacher to see a student working in class. Force yourself to ask the occasional question of the teacher. Don’t just sit there – do something!
Every time the bell goes in school, ask yourself , ” what did I learn in that lesson ? “
Don’t waste your valuable time! Construct a plan before you start. You can work off a weekly or a daily timetable – whichever suits you the best. Click on the link to view a short PowerPoint presentation on “How best to use your time”. Time Man
Whenever you are studying, always refer to “The Principle of Learning“
1. Have a go — 2. Make mistakes — 3. Correct them!
Keep in mind that it’s a timed exam and remember to practise answers in the set time limit. You must know, and stick to, the timing of the paper. This is the most important aspect of Exam Techniques! So many students spend too much time on questions they know a lot about and then cannot finish (or even attempt) other questions on the paper. Generally speaking, you are better off to do two half answered questions than one complete answer in a given amount of time.
Know clearly the format of the paper you are going to sit in each subject. Check Marking Schemes and Examiners’ Reports, they are full of really valuable information.
Studying for Leaving Cert or Junior Cert exams?
Visit our Study & Revision Material page and get access to a wide range of educational websites that will really help you to succeed in your exams! Just click on the icon.
Other links that may prove helpful:
Examinations website (for Marking Schemes/ Examiners’ Reports)
To download a brochure of all our courses offered in schools click here
For students who have attended one of our seminars:
Avail of a few useful templates by visiting the “Useful Templates” page on this site.
- a “study skills” checklist, which will help you to monitor your progress over the coming months.
- a number of Goal Setting templates
- a timetable template (and subject weighting)