The pen scratches its way across the paper. There is no other sound in the place except for the flipping of a page, the occasional tapping of the pen against the table, a rare frustrated grunt. The child, in his seat, focuses on the paper in front of him. However, this is not the examination; it is but the prelude to it. This is the scene of a child studying, absorbed in his revision, prior to his first Semestral Assesment (SA1) of the year.
The SA1 Exam is often the first opportunity in the school year for a student to pit himself against his peers and see where he stands academically amongst his fellows. It is also the first assessment in the year which will have a significant impact on his overall yearly grades. As such, the SA1 period is often a time of uncertainty, pressure, and frustration for a child. Uncertainty, because he knows not the standards of the peers with whom he will be competing. Pressure, both social pressure in the form of peer pressure, and from authority figures such as parents and teachers in the form of expectations. Frustration, because of a lack of visible indicator of improvement.
The buildup to SA1 exam is a particularly trying time for students, and SA1 itself has a strong effect on the tone of the rest of the school year. While it may not be possible to eliminate this difficulty, the use of effective preparation strategies can go a long way in helping to mitigate the stress and frustration which plagues the SA1 preparation period.
However, while many of the core studying techniques, such as repetition and rote learning, are known to and employed by students, there are some highly effective strategies which are woefully underutilised. Thus, this article will seek to share with you three of such strategies.
1) Preparing to prepare
Revision for SA1 exam or any major assessment, much like the answering process for a question, requires precision. Too often, students spend their allocated revision time just attempting to learn all the content in their syllabus. This results in a significant amount of time being spent inefficiently; they spend an equivalent amount of time revising their stronger topics and concepts as they do correcting their weaknesses and gaps in understanding.
While it is important to revise one’s stronger topics to refresh one’s memory and make sure they remain strong, it is arguably even more important to work on one’s weaknesses, if one desires to achieve a good score. As such, allocating an equivalent amount of time to all subjects is a slightly inefficient methodology of learning.
Instead, the revision time can better used by planning ahead of time. Prior to beginning revision, a student can try to identify their own weak areas and topics, and plan their timetable accordingly, to allocate more time to the areas where they need more practice or revision, with their conceptual strong suits allocated less time, or even scheduled as a reprieve from the difficulty of their weaker areas.
By focusing revision in this manner, study time can be made far more efficient and effective. By allocating more time to weaknesses, students can study more comprehensively, allowing them to be more prepared for any permutations of questions with which they might be confronted during the SA1 exam.
2) The student becomes the teacher
One highly effective method of study which is often overlooked is the benefit of peer tutoring. One of the most effective ways of revision for SA1 exam is to teach the content to a peer. By teaching and explaining ideas and concepts to others, students can obtain a deeper understanding of the concepts. By answering their peers’ questions, they can contextualise and organise their conceptual knowledge. By breaking down complex concepts into smaller, more understandable components, students can reinforce their understanding. In the process, they help other, weaker students, as well. It could be said to be an ideal form of revision.
However, there are a few limitations which cause this type of peer study to be underutilised. For instance, this method presupposes that the child already has a high level of familiarity with the content, and desires only to reinforce that strength. Additionally, there is the possibility that there is no one topic in which the student is stronger than his peers, and therefore, he may feel unqualified to engage in this peer tutoring.
This is where parents can lend their assistance, by offering an audience. Parents can take the role of a student, asking their child to teach them about a certain topic, taking the place of the peer. Parents who wish to do this should make sure to approach the information as if they were indeed students learning it for the first time, formulating and posing as many questions as they can. By doing so, they can maximise the result of this tutoring by their child, allowing the student to attain a more holistic understanding of the content.
3) Breaking the mould
Most students understand – either through advice or experience – that taking breaks is a necessity when studying for prolonged periods of time. The mind grows fatigued over time, and its ability to comprehend and retain information is similarly reduced. Taking breaks allows for the mind to be rejuvenated, therefore becoming able to resume studying with a fresh state of mind that can absorb and retain information more effectively.
However, many students are utilising these breaks wrongly. With the modern-day conveniences of smartphones and television, many students make use of their study breaks to check social media sites or watch a bit of television. These are dangerous activities that can open the way to procrastination and distraction, which would adversely impact their ability to study effectively. Additionally, such breaks are not optimal, as these activities stimulate the mind when an ideal study break should provide a span of time where the higher thought processes should be allowed to rest.
Instead of such activities, it would be more effective to engage in some exercise, or to cook and consume a nutritious meal, to provide their mind with a much-needed reprieve from the barrage of information, which will, in turn, let them resume studying with a refreshed and reinvigorated mind.
SA1 exam is a difficult time, providing the first opportunity for a student to test their abilities against those of their peers. In the midst of such competition and the socials pressures which plague students, learning to utilise the above strategies would likely aid greatly in facilitating the studying which they have to do in the build-up period to this assessment.