Most Common High School Study Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make (or Else!)
When you picture those who have life “all figured out” in life, high school students don’t often come to mind. This was especially true for students like me — I was that former Jonas Brothers-obsessed, soccer bench-warming, quiet girl who had yet to discover the miracle of keratin hair treatments. I struggled with “new friends” and “eye contact with boys” until well into college. But when it came to studying and test taking, I always felt in control. Don’t get me wrong, I was nowhere near a perfect student. But by teaching myself how to retain information more efficiently made it easier over time.
Unlike most of life, high school tests are usually pretty straightforward. The challenge is often not the material itself, but developing the skills to study effectively. So starting Monday, (yes, this Monday!) try putting these simple, clever tricks to the test.
1. Put Some Muscle in your Hustle: Study like you workout
Don’t let anything (or anyone!) stand between you and your A
Maybe being an all-star student hasn’t been your thing, but you’re a school athlete. Look at the best players on your team. They’re usually the blokes working the hardest during practice drills, because they know it keeps them in game-winning shape for when it matters.
Studying is just like sports – you need to build the right muscles. The more you practice, the better you perform. The longer you practice, the more effortless it becomes. Similarly, studying is much easier once you get into shape.
Pro Tip: Don’t pull a mental muscle! Treat your study sessions like your exercise by starting with a warmup, not a sprint. Instead of diving into the most difficult material, start by reviewing key terms and basic concepts. You can tackle the tough stuff once you’ve hit your stride.
2. The Confidence Trap: Thinking you’ll don’t need to study after acing your last test
To this day, the word ‘cumulative’ makes me twitch. In my first ‘cumulative’ history class in 11th grade, I aced the test from the first unit without little effort. Come the end of the second unit, I was confident that I didn’t really need to study, as the first test had been so easy. The second test was an unwelcome surprise of of grueling (and endless) multiple choice. I could barely remember any of the old unit, let alone the new information. To put it lightly, I bombed.
Luckily, failing first test of the semester does not mean you will fail the class, but succeeding early on doesn’t guarantee an end grade you’ll stick on the fridge. Each test is an opportunity to improve your grade, so take every test in stride.
3. Teacherphobia: Choosing Not to Set a Gameplan with Your Teacher
Contrary to what you might think, teachers want you to do well in their class. Your success means they did their job right.
Two weeks before the test, get to class a few minutes early to ask your teacher in person for 20 minutes of their time in the next week to review material questions. They’ll probably ask that you send them an email to set the time (don’t forget to do this!). Then, come prepared with at least five questions that you can’t find answers to in the textbook.
4. Check it Once, Twice: Forgetting your study ammo
…to defeat the Hun(dred of multiple choice question)s.
Forgetting some of the materials or you need to study in your locker does not bode well for your test prep. Unless you need to bring it in to school, collect and organize all the material you plan to study, leaving you time to track down AWOL papers. With all of your chapters, handouts and assignments well-organised, the battle is half-won.
And, I’m sorry for getting “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan stuck in your head, especially if it wasn’t stuck before you read that.
5. (GPA) Suicide Squad: Studying with a huge group of friends
Sure, there’s power in numbers. The power to create endless distractions, get into off-topic debates and fail as a group.
Instead, pick one or two good students from your class to work with, even if you are not best friends. Study quietly for a half hour, then take 15 minutes to go over questions you each have about the material. By working as a small group, you’ll hold each other accountable to staying on your schedule (and off Snapchat). Plus, having discussions about the material helps engrain it into your memory better than just reading it.
6. Finding Never(fail-a-test)land: Discover your happy study place
Find a nook at your bookstore, a favorite chair at a local coffee shop, or even just a favorite empty classroom – wherever you do your best work.
I used to love the idea of being able to sit outside and do work. Unfortunately, the minute a bug gets near me, I jump eight feet and need time to settle in again before I can retain information. I learned that if I go to my public library and find a quiet table, I can usually sit for 5-8 hours and get into the zone, uninterrupted. Just like jean styles or or a haircut, you need to learn what works for and flatters you.
7. Mind AND Body Connection: Forgetting to be physically prepared
Anxiety, exhaustion and hunger can all get in the way of doing your best on a test, regardless of how long you’ve studied. Not getting into the right state of mind going into the test will diminish your study efforts. For the last 30 minutes before a test, do not look at the test material. Instead, grab a bite to eat from the cafeteria, meditate, or take a quick walk outside to clear your head.
(Again, figure out what works for you!) But going into your test calm, cool and collected will help you unlock everything you studied the night before.
9. Keeping Perspective: Remembering it’s just a test
In University, some larger classes will have your midterm and final make up about 75% or more of your grade. Luckily in high school, your grade is often weighed in class participation, homework and assignments. Even if you don’t ace the test, it’s easier now to still ace the class.
If you didn’t do well on a test you studied hard for, ask to meet with your teacher to diagnose where things went wrong. They might help you figure out if you overlooked a section while studying, rushed through your answers or misunderstood an instruction.
The beauty of high school is that while you are there, your next exam is usually right around the corner. Why is that good news? That means there are near-endless opportunities to work harder, learn from your mistakes and succeed. So, go get it!