09 Oct 2017
Do these words sound familiar? Have you ever snapped at someone out of sheer irritation, irked by people talking or just shuffling around while you are trying to study? Does every little sound distract you such that you hole yourself up in your room, close the door and maybe even the windows, so that you won’t hear anything, including the sound of rustling leaves?
You are probably someone who needs total silence to concentrate and very likely, you would also have started studying way before the examination schedule was distributed. You would also have drawn up a revision schedule for yourself which you follow closely.
Or are you at the other end of the spectrum where ambient noises, rather than distracting you, are welcome because let’s face it, listening to Justin Bieber crooning as you try to get a firm grasp on critical science concepts helps you retain the information that much more effectively.
You are probably comfortable studying in almost any environment and are likely not to have any fixed schedule which you follow, preferring to go with the flow and revising any subject or topic which catches your fancy for the day.
How should one prepare for the examinations? Is there a right or wrong way? Are some strategies more effective than others? What are some good study habits? Let’s take a look!
In Singapore, a distinct phenomenon occurs a few times a year. It usually coincides with the imminent commencement of the examination period in the various institutions.
Suddenly, fast food or coffee joints like McDonald’s and Starbucks seem more packed than usual. You scan the entire place and realise there’s not a spare table in sight. You look at your watch. It’s really peculiar how crowded the place is. It’s not even lunch or dinner time! Then it hits you. Most of the tables are occupied by youths; specifically youths with thick stacks of notes next to them. They nurse the single drink they have purchased while poring over their revision notes, looking up only occasionally to exchange insights they may have gleaned with their group of friends.
Meet the people who revise for their examinations in groups. These same people will almost never be found at home studying, preferring to head out to cafes and even other public places like the airport. In fact, Changi Airport draws students in need of revision space like bees to honey. These students descend upon the airport in droves, plonking themselves everywhere and anywhere, resting against pillars, walls and even lying down on the carpeted floors!
Is such a study strategy effective? Isn’t it distracting to study with friends?
It really depends on the individual.
Studying in groups can be a useful strategy for subjects like Mathematics or Science where revision often entails tackling practice questions.
With one’s peers on hand to help out should one hit a roadblock, it might actually make the revision more productive.
Janice Wong, a Primary 5 student, had this to say: “Working in a group is my preference as studying is less boring this way and we can ask our friends for help if we do not understand how to do certain questions.”
A word of caution though. Studying with friends does require much discipline on one’s part. If you are the sort who gets tempted to chat just because you are in the company of your friends, then this may not work well for you! You would probably be better off studying on your own and calling someone up or seeking the help of a teacher if you should stumble during your revisions.
As for feeling the need to leave the house in search of revision space, what is the rationale behind that?
Ian Lam, a polytechnic student shares his view: “I can’t study at home as it is too distracting. I’d rather head out to Starbucks, plug in my earphones and listen to classical music. This helps tune out the surrounding noises and I am better able to focus.”
These range from the candy bars in the refrigerator begging to be eaten or the temptation to turn on the computer to indulge in a game or two.
Speaking to a few parents about how their children coped with revision for the examinations uncovered a common bugbear.
Ms Shuna Wee who has two daughters in Primary 5 and 2 recalled being annoyed at how study sessions were often interrupted by numerous trips to the kitchen or toilet or anywhere else in the house.
She says, “I always had to be physically present and seated down at the study table with the two of them. If I left them alone for awhile, I would return to find them examining the contents of their bags or searching for something on the bookshelves. It was really frustrating.”
At this point you might be thinking: surely children cannot be expected to sit down and revise for an hour without moving!
While that is an unrealistic expectation, frequent and unnecessary movements like these may indicate that one is actually restless and not concentrating to the best of one’s ability.
How to counter this?
• The revision period can be divided into manageable blocks.
• Set a clock or a timer to go off when that block is over.
• Enjoy a short five to ten minute break before you start on the next block.
However, some people find that a little movement actually aids in their revision. For example, walking around while trying to commit facts to memory apparently works wonders! Are you one of those people?
Various study preferences notwithstanding, there are some good study habits that you can form.
1. Ensure that revision does not take place at the last minute.
2. Be organised in revising. In other words, draw up a timetable to help you see what needs to be done first and how far along you are in your revision.
3. Be proactive in your revision. Know what your own weak areas are and seek help early.
4. Learn how to study smart. It is pointless doing countless revision papers and making the same mistakes over and over again. Better to consolidate one’s errors and then work on ensuring that one does not make those mistakes again.
What kind of study strategy do you use? Why does that work for you? Or, if you are a parent, what are some techniques you feel have worked for your children?