Everyone always has subjects that they're good at, some they're great at, and then there are those that you simply can't understand. For me, this subject is biology: I've been studying really hard, and dedicating a lot of time to my studies, but for some reason nothing has 'clicked' yet. Nothing about it makes sense to me, and even simply memorizing the notes is hard. I've been trying a few strategies over the past few months to improve my knowledge, and although I still find it difficult, it is starting to make a difference in my overall understanding. So, today I'm going to be sharing them with you guys! Everyone has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to study, so you're definitely not alone. Here are a few things you could do to improve your understanding of difficult subjects/material:
1. Try new study techniques
This sounds pretty obvious, but it has actually made a massive impact on my study. My usual technique is to highlight notes in my textbook, write them out, and then summarise everything under the syllabus points. However this made everything seem way too complicated, and just overloaded my brain with stress. So I decided instead of writing the information out to begin with, I would start by watching a lot of YouTube videos and/or looking at diagrams until I fully understood the concept (because in class when I don't understand something, I have a really bad habit of zoning out). Once I've been able to grasp the concept in my own time, rather than trying to keep up with the class, I am able to actually take in the information I'm writing down, rather than just copying meaningless words.
2. Study with a friend
Studying with a friend is a really great way to stay motivated whilst also gaining a better understanding of the work. You could ask for help from a friend who is going well in the class you're struggling with, and in turn maybe help them with something they're struggling with in another class. You could even meet up with some friends who are finding the class difficult as well and attempt to tackle the work together, rather than taking it all on yourself.
3. Don't be afraid to ask seemingly "dumb" questions
It's so much better to ask questions in class, no matter how weird they may be, than spend ages at home searching for answers yourself. It may seem like you're the only person in class who doesn't understand the concept, and even if you are (which you're most likely not), the teacher seriously won't mind you asking - even if it is really obvious to them. Everyone learns at a different pace!
4. Set up a rewards system
I know that when I'm working on something I don't understand, I get distracted and bored so easily. Literally reading the fine print on the back of my gluestick seems more appealing than whatever I'm writing down. So, to combat this, it's important to take breaks and reward yourself for putting in the time, even if you're not making much progress towards understanding the work. At least you're trying! I usually reward myself with food (haha), reading the next few chapters of a book, watching my YouTube subscriptions, taking a walk outside or just laying down and resting. Just make sure you give yourself a time limit, so you don't forget to go back to your work (something I'm super guilty of).
5. Don't doubt yourself due to past failures
Everyone has marks they're not proud of - even the people who always top the class. The most important thing to do is not let it get you down! Bad marks don't define you, the effort you put in does. Last year I did terrible in maths - I got something like 14% for Prelim. I knew that I wasn't good, and there wasn't anything I could do except try my best and focus on what I did know, and I managed to pass in Year 12. Even though it's not the mark I needed for my ATAR, I'm happy knowing I did all I could.
6. Try past exam papers
If you're worried about which content you should focus most on, I would definitely recommend checking out past exam papers. Not only will they help you learn how to correctly respond to questions, but they'll show you what kind of content is most likely to be included in the exam. If you're already struggling with the work, trying to overload your brain with every slither of information in the course isn't a good idea. It's best to focus solely on what will be included in the exam to reduce these stress levels. Yes, there's a chance you may miss something, but I personally think having strong knowledge of the main points is better than having weak knowledge of everything.
7. Set aside time everyday to work on the subject
Getting into a study routine will not only help with your work understanding, but give you the chance to focus on a wider variety of course material and study techniques. For example, you might spend Monday reading the work, Tuesday making summaries, Wednesday testing yourself, and so on. Starting your study at the beginning of the year is definitely better than leaving it until exam time, especially for subjects you don't understand.
Well, there you have it! I really hope these tips have been helpful for you guys - I know they've helped me a lot. Feel free to leave any tips/questions you may have below, I'd love to hear from you.
Also thank-you SO much to ColourHide Stationary for the amazing products featured in this post. How gorgeous are they? Having fun, colourful stationary always makes me feel more motivated and excited about studying. Their 5-subject notebooks are actually amazing–I have one for each of my subjects and love having the in-built dividers that also double as note holders. I've never personally enjoyed using loose-leaf paper to write on in school (I'm always loosing pages), so these are absolute must haves. Have an amazing day guys! x