Monday, October 21, 2013

Effective Ways to Study

This school year is already 25% over, and for the most part, I am very, very proud of my grades. Some grades haven't been put in for first quarter yet, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm bound to have six As and one B. And that B is in math, so I'm happy.

My grades have improved GREATLY-- my best grades last school year were all As and one B and that was in one quarter. I think I feel a 4.0 GPA for this year coming on if I focus hard on math these next three quarters.

How did I do it? Let me explain how I got my grades up.

I know how I learn best.

I learned that I am a visual learner at the beginning of the year through a quiz my biology teacher made us take. I also looked deep inside myself as Mufasa instructed, and that helped me find ways to help me learn.

Favorite art: Music
Hobbies: Singing, guitar, quoting, studying animation, acting, poetry, songwriting, ballet-style dance, translating
Favorite subject: Chinese
Best subject: World History
Least favorite subject: Fitness
Worst subject: Geometry

I learned to use this information to my advantage. I love music, so I made several personalized playlists to use when studying; fast-paced music for fitness, instrumental music for math, motivational music for biology, music from around the world in World history and Chinese, and songs that include our vocabulary words for language arts.

Sometimes, if I really can't bring myself to remember something, I sing a little jingle about it. I just make my own melody, even if it isn't one I've heard before. Yeah, my songs are cheesy, but they help me remember. There are songs I made as long ago as first grade that I still remember!

I used quotes as ways to motivate me and help me remember things. For example, the stem BENE (which means "good") is one of our vocabulary words. I remembered the "Brotherhood of Man" lyric, "There is a brotherhood of man! A benevolent brotherhood of man!" I know this works for me because in all the vocab tests we've had this year (like, one every week... we've done 125+ stems), I haven't lost a single point. Not even one-tenth. Straight one hundred percents. Unfortunately, my way of studying doesn't work very well for a lot of the kids in my grade who could care less about showtunes, so I've only tutored maybe one kid. But for the most part, we all do well anyway.

I even used my cartoon obsession to my advantage. Do you know how relevant the series Avatar: The Last Airbender is to real life? Well, it is very, very relevant. We just read a memoir about a boy soldier in English, and the whole time I was constantly reminded about the show. How war changes people. How it forces children to turn into adults earlier. How it affects morals. One of the military officers in the memoir was talking about how anyone who wasn't on their side basically deserved death. He kept reminding the boys, "these are the men who killed your parents." The whole time, I was thinking, "That's Jet. He's like, a non-fictional Jet." There were a lot of other resemblances. I was able to use my  fangirling during essays and got one hundred percents on all of them. I would think of an Avatar character they reminded me of and really get into detail about it.

I also learned from myself. My best subjects were history and English because of the ways I studied in those classes. I took note of this to help with others. I ended up with a 99.42% in history. Can I get a boo-yah?

I timed myself.

I know from experience that cramming doesn't work very well for me. I mean, I did get a 98% last week on a test I didn't have time to study for so I waited until the night before to study. But that's not my point.

I learned that I needed a system. So, I made myself a plan.

50 minutes hard work in one subject
10 minutes break to eat/use the bathroom
50 minutes hard work in another subject
10 minutes break to do a stress relieving activity (like guitar)

That way, I get my work done in time to go to bed before midnight (but I can't help being a night owl... sometimes I'm up at 1 and 2 a.m.) and everyone's happy, including my "YOU NEED TO GO TO BED EARLY SO YOU'LL BE THE AMAZING STUDENT WE KNOW YOU ARE" parents.

Flash cards

You probably have already tried this.


On my flashcards, on one side I have a little reminder to help me out. With this Chinese card, what I normally do is start with the Pinyin side and then writing the character on paper. If I don't remember what the English is, I look at the other side and think, "Oh! This word reminds me of Sokka!" or "Oh! This makes me think of that one song." And that helps me remember.

I take the test... BEFORE I take the test.


I always ask myself, "Hmm. If I were a teacher, what would I ask? If I were a teacher, how hard would I make it? If I were a teacher, what kinds of questions would I give? Multiple choice? Long response?" So far, this approach has never failed. Every time I've made a study guide, at least 50% of what I put there ends up on the test. This study guide you're looking at? She asked everything on there-- even a little less-- but at least I was prepared (got a 100%). I've never gotten below an 83% using this approach. This works best combined with other ways of studying, and using this as a night-before reference.

So, what I found got me As more often, was when I used the text, flash cards, and games all throughout the week. Then, the night before, I would give myself the quiz I prepared when I was reading the book. Afterwards I grade it, and then review whatever I missed. And 90% of the time, I make my study guides ten times harder than the actual test ends up being, so I have no reason to be stressed. How do you know your study guide is effective?

It includes:
  • Long response answers
  • Definitions
  • Specific wording
  • Labeling diagrams
This works best for visual learners.

Have the day planned.


Another way to make sure you're getting your homework in on time is keeping two agendas and a calendar. Throughout the day, I take notes of the homework I have in my classes on the left agenda. Yes, my school does have an online system, but I am always prepared, just in case internet is down. Plus, some of my teachers aren't exactly the fastest to update their site. That's why I make sure I have absolutely no excuse to not get my homework done. Then, my second agenda is a plan laid out for how I will tackle the day. An example:
  1. Bring spare clothes for fitness class
  2. Talk to geometry teacher during lunch
  3. Study Chinese and vocab during advisory
  4. Bring homework to Wendy's (basically the Nasty Burger for our school because we have a Wendy's in our parking lot... so I guess I kinda love my school)
  5. Study voiceover and acting on the ride home
  6. Finish homework
  7. E-mail biology teacher
  8. Finish portfolio (I'm launching a business in summer 2014)
  9. Take a shower
  10. Be in bed before midnight
Then, when the day is done, anything coming up that has a due date any later than the next day I transfer to the calendar. 

No social media in this house!

Oh, you read that right. Maybe I stretched the truth a little; I mean I do have a Facebook button on this very blog. And a link to my Tumblr. But those are weekend hobbies. I'm currently working on limiting the time I spend watching television (something I wouldn't have needed to worry about before I started re-watching Nickelodeon cartoons-- they're so addictive!), but I've mastered internet rehab. I actually have to push myself to use my Tumblr now, so that I won't lose followers. It used to be that I would spend hours reblogging. But not anymore. During the school week, it's all off. And boy, is it worth it!

Read, highlight, annotate

I would never make someone use Cornell notes if I were to become a teacher (I'd kind of like to be a professor) because heaven knows those did not, I repeat, DID NOT work for me. We had to take notes in language arts last year over an e-book that we mainly listened to during class. Hope couldn't use a print book. Hope could not focus without holding the book. Then, my teacher gave quizzes over tiny details and you wanna know something? I passed one of those tests. One. And that was with a C. But I was so proud of that C, you don't even know.

So, what actually does work for me? Annotating. I can feel the groaning of my classmates right now. I just might be the only student to walk through the doors of my school who actually enjoys annotating. It helps me retain information because first of all, I'm re-writing what I see in my own words (and not just a dumbed down version), and I can go back to what I wrote instead of scanning the entire passage. Highlighting and annotating for the win!

These are only a few of the ways I study. I may update when I think of more!

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