From cramming to learning
Despite reaching degree level education, thus attaining my bachelor’s in mathematics, I would not have deemed myself an effective student. Late nights piled together before a deadline resulted in stressful and sometimes subpar work, depending on my friends’ collective outputs. By twenty-one, you would have thought I knew that cramming wasn’t the best method. Yet, I didn’t pursue any alternative methods and continued to leave everything to the last minute. Fast forward a few years, here’s what I’ve finally understood on how to learn effectively.
Make studying a habit
There’s a high chance that you’ve set a New Year’s resolution at least once in your life. Of that percentage, I’d also wager there aren’t many which lasted past February before falling by the wayside. A common error is trying to do too much in too little time, sprinting a potential decade-long task. Firstly, make sure your goal is a SMART one (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound). Secondly, include the goal into your routine until it becomes a habit. There’s wide debate surrounding how long a habit becomes automatic, but the average falls between two and three months. Set aside a brief period of your day to focus, make notes etc. and reward yourself after.
This may seem like a strange one (especially around exam time), but the effective way to learn is by failing. I was, and admittedly still am to an extent, fearful of failure. But by avoiding mistakes, I have been holding myself back and remaining in my comfort zone. This causes stagnation as you’re only answering questions you already know the result of. To learn is to make a mistake, understand how and why that happened, then improve for the next time! Repeating this process will not only help you learn a subject but will also make you more comfortable with failing. Celebrate these shortcomings because it means you’re moving forward in the right direction.
Get a tutor/mentor
One of the first slip-ups I made was trying to tackle such advanced concepts by myself. Quick question, who do you think knows more? Me, a teenager who struggled to differentiate between differentiation and integration, or a tutor, someone who’s been there done that and got the certificate. Now, this is it not to shame myself or anyone else struggling on these topics – I did learn eventually. Although, my journey through school would have been a smoother ride if I had received some extra assistance.
Tutors and mentors are not reserved only for those still in full-time education either. What’s easy to forget whilst panicking trying to fill last-minute gaps is that learning is for life. Since retiring, my Dad has enlisted support on how to speak Spanish (or, as he would say, cómo hablar español). Understanding new skills, or brushing up on old ones, will look good on your CV. Unsure how to create a CV or which job to go for? A mentor can provide crucial insights towards navigating your way through an industry. It can be difficult to go it alone, so why not take one of our tutors with you!