Make the Most of Your Classes: Tips for Top Performers in Singapore
“You may delay, but time will not.” -Benjamin Franklin
If you are unhappy with the results of your recent examinations or just feeling unprepared for your upcoming ones, this rule #4 from MindWork's 8 Rules for Academic Success series might contain just the tips you need to follow through on your dreams and become a top performer in your class.
“The classroom should be an entrance into the world, not an escape from it.” - John Ciardi
Everyone needs to attend classes, so students should make full use of the class time. This may sound like an unavoidable daily routine, but there are traps we need to avoid.
Here is what you shouldn’t do during classes:
1. Attending class without knowing what to expect
A lot of students go into the class without knowing the focus of that lesson. Their minds are not prepared to absorb the new information readily. Since learning is the association of existing and new knowledge, these students may not have the ‘prerequisite’ knowledge to start with. This means that it will be more difficult for students to follow the class, and some students may even be lost for that entire class.
However, knowing the focus of the class will make you ready to associate the new concepts or deepen your knowledge of the concepts. Therefore, it is crucial to know what to expect for that class by employing techniques like SQ3R (read on to learn about this technique!).
2. Not taking notes or taking notes in less effective ways
Think back on how you usually attend class. The majority of the students will come to class, open their textbooks and listen, listen and listen. This may work well for the first ten minutes, and you can still attentively absorb the knowledge. However, our minds will soon start to drift off to other unrelated topics like what to eat for recess, where to go after school with friends, the test paper we did a week ago etc. Sounds familiar? Our minds keep wandering around, thinking about the past or the future. Even when you are reading this article, you may also be thinking about other things.
Don’t worry. This happens to almost every one of us. If we don’t notice, our minds will start wandering from one thought to another, which are irrelevant to our present tasks. Put simply by Buddha, few of us live in the present.
“What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow” -Buddha.
Hence, it is important to keep our minds actively engaged. We all have roles to do instead of merely staring at the teacher and listening passively. Effective students prepare many questions in their minds and take notes whenever possible to keep their bodies and minds engaged. Rule #6 will explain effective note-taking strategies, so make sure to subscribe to our MindWorks Blog and receive email notifications about all new posts!
Without further ado,
Let’s reveal the effective classroom learning secrets of top performers:
1. Preparation before class
Before class, go through the pre-requisites of the chapter and see if there are any important concepts that you have not understood. If so, consult tutors, friends or the internet to clarify the concepts.
Next, apply the SQ3R reading method - Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Review.
You can begin surveying the chapter by skimming through the chapter’s pictures, diagrams and graphs to get a brief idea of what the topic covers.
After that, come up with a few questions, e.g. What is the atomic number? What is the difference between atomic number, mass number, nuclear number and proton number?
The learning objectives of the topic is a good source of questions as it tells you which concepts are essential and what will be tested. Looking at practice questions also allows you to understand the most important concepts for a particular chapter and sparks your curiosity about the topic.
If you are striving for excellence, continue on to the 3Rs.
When you start reading, look out for answers to the questions you have raised previously and ensure that you have met the learning objectives at the start of every chapter. Make sure you read section by section and recite after completing each. When you recite, summarize what you have read in your own words and write it down. It may also help to highlight the main points. Remember that the more senses you use when studying, the higher the probability of remembering what you have read! Hence, for best effect, see, hear, say and write what you have learnt.
The last R, “Review”, is crucial and perhaps the most important but it isn’t required during the preparation phase as our brain will forget 70% of the information within 24 hours.
2. Be actively engaged in class
By adhering to the above tip, you would already know what to expect during class and following the class will be a breeze for you. When your teacher emphasizes key points in class, your learning and understanding will be further enhanced. If there are still concepts that are unclear to you, this is your chance to clarify in class. Do not be afraid to raise questions in class because your fellow classmates can benefit as well! Chances are, if you are confused, so are at least a few of your classmates.
However, if you are too shy to do so, you can also approach the teacher privately after class to clear your doubts. This is crucial - it is detrimental to your learning if you do not clarify doubts as you will forever face problems with questions testing these concepts.
Now, if your teachers are busy or if you would like personalised and in-depth help in your lessons, consider getting a private tutor. A one-on-one home tutor can be difficult to find in Singapore since the best ones face high demand, which is why MindWorks is here to help you. Fill this simple form to request for a tutor now! This might be just the help you need set you apart from all other students in your class.
You should also take notes during class as this ensures both your body and mind are fully engaged, making it easy to follow through the class and not be distracted. Understanding your learning style might help you do better and stay focused for longer as well. Click here to find out what your learning style is, and read personalised study tips!
3. Review and practice after class
Reviewing is an ongoing process as we will forget what we have learnt with time since new neural linkages will disintegrate if not strengthened by active usage. According to Donald Hebb, the father of cognitive neuroscience, the more we repeat what we have learnt, the stronger the neural linkages are and, the more likely we will remember it. It takes as much as six repetitions to retain new information in our long-term memory. Therefore, it is recommended to review daily from day 1 to day 7 of learning, but given our hectic schedules, reviewing on day 1 and week 1 of learning will have to suffice.
After reviewing the topic on day one, it is time to test how much you really understand. Do practices in assessment books or past year papers as those questions are designed to test the concepts required by the syllabus. If you can do all of the questions accurately, your work for this chapter is done and you will only need to review it monthly or right before the test.
If found otherwise, you should try to understand where you have gone wrong with the questions. Sometimes it could be due to carelessness or forgetfulness and in such cases, make sure you understand the mistake and take note to not repeat it in the future. If you are unable to understand why you were wrong, you MUST clarify it with your teacher or tutor.
By following these steps for each chapter, you are destined for success!