In normal circumstances, this time in the semester is when you would have received your midterm marks. With the closing of Ontario schools due to Covid-19 in March, the whole school year is a little thrown off as is the world. Despite all that is happening across the globe, it is still important to improve upon your skills during key cognitive development years. The habits and skills you form in secondary school will set you up for the next stage in life, such as post-secondary school or when you join the workforce.
This week, our blog looks at ways to help you improve on your grades by forming strong study habits and techniques to help you upgrade your skills. You may follow some techniques for studying or preparing for quizzes or tests that are steadfast and true, but maybe there is something you haven’t learned. After all, even the most successful of us reevaluate themselves. As Elon Musk said, “It’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”
So, dive right in!
Study Tip 1: Establish a work and study space, but don’t stay glued to it
Establishing a study space has been widely considered the best practice when it comes to creating study habits and to some extent this is good advice. Establishing a defined workspace has many benefits such as allowing you to control your environment and avoid distractions, but also assist with setting a tone you prefer, whether with music or complete silence. This also lets you set the boundaries of where you work by ensuring you have an organized workspace with adequate lighting, a comfortable chair, desk and tools you need to get your work done. Setting a good work and study space is paramount to your success.
Just because you have a good work space doesn’t mean you should be glued to that space either. As the New York Times reported in 2010, cognitive scientists had shown that a few simple techniques can improve how much a student learns from studying. These techniques are contradictory to some of the expected habits out there.
For example, instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where you’re studying can improve retention. As the study found, the human brain likes variety. Therefore when studying in one room you associate the surroundings of that one place with the content you’re learning but you may not retain it as you’re focused on the surroundings rather than what you learned. When you attempt to learn that content in multiple places, your brain will absorb the content by associating it with multiple associations.
Study Tip 2: Avoid cram sessions by planning study sessions
Sometimes it’s hard to get all the studying you need to get done early on and the inevitable night-before cram session is your only option. Try to avoid that cram session. Aim to be consistent in your studies and look for ways to break things up over shorter times. There are a few different methods you can use to avoid the cram.
Consider breaking things up and starting early. It’s important to think about how memory works. The brain breaks things into three main processes – encoding, storage, and retrieval. Encoding refers to the process through which information is learned. That is, how information is taken in, understood, and altered to better support storage. Storage refers to how, where, how much, and how long encoded information is retained within the memory system, while retrieval is the process through which individuals access stored information. If you refresh bite-sized components over time, you’re repeating the encoding stage, allowing the storage stage to be more refined, thus impacting retrieval. This makes it more likely to retain that information. You may have a test at the end of a unit, but try to break up the unit into some study sessions so that you can check in with your knowledge. Not only will there be less content to remember, it will give you a chance to check in with your teacher if you’re having any challenges with the content you’re learning.
Often, your teachers will provide you with a course syllabus or course outline which will likely include some details on what you’ll be learning throughout the course and a general timeline, Try to identify some points in that schedule when it would make sense to hold these study sessions.
Study Tip 3: Mix up what you’re learning and break it up
Much like breaking up your study sessions, it’s important not to focus on one thing in each session. Now admittedly, this advice isn’t very helpful if you’re only taking one course, but if you have several classes on the go it can be helpful to ensure you’re doing something different during your study session. Also, try to study in one-hour blocks. This is proven to be effective as shorter periods are good for studying notes and memorizing materials, while longer periods are needed for problem-solving tasks or writing papers.
If you’re planning a one-hour study session for example, try to break it up to focus on 30 minutes of new content and 30 minutes refreshing content you’ve already learned.
Also, make sure you take a break and get up and get moving! Research has shown that sitting for longer than three hours can be detrimental to your health. Get up, take some breaks, go for a walk, do yoga or stretch. Anything that helps you take a break and shift your mind and body’s focus elsewhere is helpful.
Study Tip 4: Avoid studying with friends
Studying with friends can be super fun, but that’s also why it’s a bit of a problem. When we’re with our friends we want to have fun and enjoy our time together and often studying isn’t all that fun. Study groups can often lead to procrastination and “goofing around.” Study groups can create unwanted distractions and can often result in a lack of focus.
If you feel you need to study in a group there are some benefits to it, consider the following tricks to avoid getting off focus.
- Find the right group of people to study with. Ensure the people you are studying with are serious about studying successfully.
- Limit your group size. Try to aim for six or less people. Larger groups make focusing more challenging.
- Discuss possible test questions and answers. If you’re studying together it is helpful to find out what others think may be relevant information.
- Rotate teaching of concepts. Give everyone a chance to teach a portion of what you’re studying. It will help with retention for you, but could also help teach your peers what they may not have learned yet.
Study Tip 5: Sleep!
Get some sleep! Seriously, get sleep. We all know that sleep is beneficial for our mind and body but we often tend to ignore that during midterms or finals. Why? That could be for any number of reasons, perhaps stress that you need to learn as much as you can? Regardless, research suggests that if you study new material and then sleep, you remember the information better than if you study new material and stay awake for a longer period of time. Similarly a lack of sleep has an impact on our ability to focus, and pay attention making it more difficult to retain and intake information. This is related to the neurons in our brain and their ability to “fire up” when sleep deprived.
Study Tip 6: Take an online course!
Many online courses break up their lessons into very digestible content. This is partially out of necessity to ensure our courses are consistent for all students and creates a positive and streamlined experience.
If you’re currently attending high school in Ontario, or if you’re looking to upgrade your marks as an international student, OES has a wide range of courses available. From ENG4U to MHF4U, the amazing teachers at OES are ready to support you and help you meet your goals all over the world.
The Ontario eSecondary School has been inspected and accredited by the Ontario Ministry of Education. What does this mean? As a virtual school, all of our courses are recognized by and can be used toward an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) and are also recognized as part of your OUAC application.
This makes OES a great partner for upgrading ontario secondary school credits online and is also perfect for international students looking for Ontario secondary school diploma credits.
For the same reason, our courses are perfect for international students who are looking for credits that are required for post secondary institutions in Ontario.
Learn more about our courses at oeshighschool.com/courses