The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

From the Head of Senior School

Study Habits

With the much needed holidays now over, it is time for students to re-establish, or possibly establish for the first time, their study habits.

Studying requires a definite set of skills that must be understood, developed and practised. Studying is a concentrated attempt to learn. Effective study is an active process and it involves steady progress and the efficient use of time. It is the aggregation of effective habits that pays dividends over time. I thought it would be worth reviewing a number of considerations for students to improve concentration, remove distraction and to set yourself up for success.

  1. Establish a place for study. Does it have adequate lighting and ventilation? Does it offer space and comfort? Is it too warm or too cool? Are there too many distractions? By removing distractions, not only are you completing the work more efficiently, but by concentrating and focusing on the task at hand your attention to detail is improved. This allows for greater accuracy and for stronger links between concepts when developing understanding.
  2. Are the things you need for study readily accessible? That is, paper, pens, books, calculator. Establishing a routine as simple as this removes opportunity for procrastination and distraction. It is natural to allow oneself to procrastinate when needing to complete tasks one finds less than enjoyable. Set up your location and your resources and begin.
  3. Establish a regular routine of eating, sleeping and exercise. Students who do this generally gain higher marks. Plan to do the things you enjoy. There is no harm in prioritising these, as long as you leave the quality time you need to do what you must.
  4. Establish a clear goal for what you want to accomplish during the study session. Make a list. This will assist you to focus your attention on the specific task at hand and provide you with feedback about your progress.
  5. When you are not actually concentrating on the work in front of you, have a break. Avoid fooling yourself by faking study behaviour. Work for a maximum of 45 minutes and then take a short break of 5 to 10 minutes. Stand, walk, go and get a drink of water. Just enough time to refresh yourself.
  6. Change the subject or task you are working on every 45 minutes or so. The brain does not easily assimilate the same or similar material continuously. This means that anything you want to learn or remember should be started early and revisited over many nights.
  7. Study the hardest, most challenging, least enjoyable subjects first. Put a time limit on how long you will study them for, e.g. 30 minutes, so you know there will be an end. This makes it easier to face uninteresting study tasks.
  8. Develop a system to organise, reduce and store information for each class. Review your notes (read, think, write, talk) at the end of each day and create summaries. Give 10 minutes for every one hour of new material learnt. If you don't recall what you have learnt on a given day, within 24 hours you will lose 50-80% of it. Review and consolidate your notes at the end of each week and then again at the end of each month.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, successful study is often the aggregation of many habits. I hope you can apply some of these suggestions above to great effect.

Mr Dean Shadgett
Head of Senior School