By: Manveetha Muddaluru
Time is really flying by. Tomorrow is the first official day of Fall and I can’t believe that it’s almost the end of September. By now the excitement of Welcome Week has died down and with coursework piling on, the reality of the school year has set in. And on top of all of this, Reading Week is only two weeks away, which means that midterm season is right around the corner and it’s time to start preparing yourself for those long nights of studying and/or writing essays.
So, here are some study tips that I’ve learned over the past few years through trial and error:
Your study habits don’t have to be the same for every course you take.
I know that for my communications studies courses, doing the readings, taking notes and listening in class, and participating in tutorials were the most effective ways in which I learn the content. Whereas in courses like chemistry, physics, math, accounting, and economics, practicing and talking through how different variables and factors affected a scenario helped me understand the material better.
Proactively engage with course content.
Mary McCaffrey, who does academic skills programming at the SSC, suggests making graphics, flashcards, charts, answering questions from old exams, and my personal favourite, teach someone else! She also recommends creating and answering questions, which is especially helpful when you have short answers and/or essays or if you want to better understand how changes in variables or factors can affect an equation/scenario. My personal favourite way of learning is by making connections to real-life examples because the examples are personal. I know that I will be able to remember them during a midterm or an exam to help jog my memory in case I forget certain details about the topic. It’s kind of like when Sherlock Holmes has a mind palace to remember details and make connections to solve a case. By using these techniques, you will likely remember the content rather than having to memorize and regurgitate for a midterm or exam and then forgetting it all.
Do what works best for you.
I’ve come to realize that my notes don’t have to be aesthetically pleasing and written with Muji pens like the pictures you see on tumblr or Instagram for me to learn, especially if it’s more time consuming to make them look pretty and they don’t actually help me in learning the content at the end of the day. I much prefer scribbling down my notes on a piece of paper and using arrows to make connections or even creating quick mindmaps to learn the content.
Experiment with study spots.
Personally, I like studying and working at home. But during my long breaks on campus, my go-to study spot is the first floor in Mills Library because of its proximity to the bus stop, MUSC, and my classes. I enjoy having the background noise to calm me down when I’m stressed. Mills also has a lot of space for group study and work on the second floor and rooms on the third floor that you can book, Lyons New Media Centre on the fourth floor (where they have a 3D printer, a gaming room, and an audio recording booth), as well as quiet study on the sixth floor.
If Club Mills isn’t for you, try out one of the many other libraries on campus! There’s Thode (close to ABB, has quiet study in the basement and study rooms in the basement), Innis (in KTH, close to DBAC, has quiet study and group study spaces), or Health Sciences (in the Health Science Building, close to MDCL and LSB, there’s quiet study downstairs and a room with a great view) to choose from! Or find other study spots on campus! If you like studying and working in a more louder study environment, try MUSC second floor (there’s also quiet study spaces near MUSC Room 234)! For a quieter setting, try MUSC 3rd floor! I love the view from the hallway beside CIBC Hall, especially on sunny mornings! Hamilton Hall, IAHS, ABB, and JHE also have study spaces. Or if you get bored of studying on campus or find it too stressful, check out the many coffee shops around the city! For recommendations of coffee shops in the city that double as great study spots, check out my friend Jen’s food Instagram!
Learn how to work around your procrastination.
Let’s admit it, we all procrastinate. Although it’s easy for me to say that I’ll completely stop procrastinating, it’s a hard habit to break. I mainly procrastinate to avoid the stress of doing something that I think is too difficult or not interesting (for instance, I don’t understand it or it’s worth a lot of marks and I’m scared I won’t do well on it). But no matter how difficult or boring, studying for midterms and/or exams and finishing assignments is necessary for academic success.
So after four years of trial and error, I’ve developed a flawed, but effective strategy to work around my procrastination. Because I know I’ll leave doing assignments to the last minute and since most of my assignments involve writing, I plan ahead for the long writing session I’ll have to do before the deadline. I prepare myself by finishing all the smaller assignments that are due or studying for midterms that fall around the deadline so that I can block off a big chunk of time to just focus on the assignment the days before its due. I also finish doing all the research components of the assignment, compiling all my sources, and outlining the structure of the writing piece in advance. At this point, all the smaller, more detailed parts of the writing process are out of the way, so I can just sit down and focus on writing. To stop myself from getting distracted during the writing session, I keep my phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ or leave it in another room. I also break the writing session into sections and have an hourly schedule for taking breaks which help keep me motivated to finish writing. In general, to avoid procrastination throughout the semester, last year I went cold turkey before by deactivating my Netflix account for the semester to stop myself from watching shows or movies that I would never watch if it wasn’t for the fact that I was trying to avoid my responsibilities. This was pretty rewarding because I had so many TV shows to binge-watch by the end of the semester.
I hope these tips inspire you to experiment with your study techniques and find ones that work for you this school year.
Manveetha Muddaluru blogged about her student experience for the Student Success Centre from 2018 to 2019.