Students today are burdened with a heavy curriculum and cut throat competition at every step of the way. To keep up with the pressure they start with tuition and coaching quite early in life, which is basically another set of reference books, notes and suggestions, many a times differing from what is taught in their formal classrooms. Students end up with confusion and tension further leading to sleepless nights and ultimately an average result. The reason is lack of clarity, proper guidance and disorganized learning. While there is no clear cut formula to do well in studies, being calm, methodical and sincere goes a long way.   Here I’m trying to pen down a few methods which more often than not have proved effective.

1. Relax- The most important thing is to have a relaxed mind before you start studying.’ Early to bed and early to rise’ is the best formula to get up fresh in the morning. Early morning is a goods time to study because at that time you are relaxed and your mind is very alert and receptive. One must make good use of this time. However, some people prefer studying late at night because it is quiet and distractions are less, which is okay but in that case do not attempt to get up early. Being awake till late at night and then getting up early is actually not helpful because if the 8 hour sleep is not complete your brain is not in a position to acquire much information from whatever book you are reading. Recreation, sports, exercises and walks also help relax the mind.  

2. Concentrate- Study with total concentration. It is more effective to study for a short while with full concentration as compared to spending a long time in front of the book with mind wavering from time to time to other things. In fact it is better to take a break in when one is unable to concentrate and come back when feeling fresh.  It is known that Swami Vivekananda used to read up massive books in hours and remember every detail given in it because he read with total concentration. Meditation helps one focus. It is a good idea for students to meditate for 20 minutes before going to bed. It also helps calm you.

3. Inquire- When studying, pick up one topic and try understanding it completely. Ask questions. We have seen in small children that they are in awe of the world ‘Why’ is something they ask for every little thing coming their way. Bring that on.  Don’t learn anything mechanically or don’t believe anything without understanding. Ask your teachers (which includes anyone who is willing to guide you) for explanation to theories, laws, formulae or even a story in literature. Question till you understand completely. Take help of whatever aids you get, like real specimen, models, pictures or books. Science is based on proof, so, ask for it, do the experiments, go to laboratories, make use of libraries.  Once we understand something, it is much easier to learn and remember not just for exams but for life.

4. Summarize first and then Elaborate- Get the gist or the essence of the topic, especially if you are referring to many books. It is important to make a summary and note down what is required or what is important. Apart from helping you learn, it comes in handy during Exams when we have time only for revision. Highlighting the key words and writing points in the notes also help recall details.  From the key words elaborate in your own words. This clears the concept. 

5. Use Mnemonics-Certain things need to be memorized, be it the names of cranial nerves in Biology, the first twenty elements of the Periodic table in Chemistry or various formulae in Maths and Science.  Use of Mnemonic devices is a good way to memorize a sequence.  Mnemonics are easy to remember sentences or pictures which can be used to learn the difficult words of curriculum. To quote an example, you would find it difficult to remember the sequence of the cranial nerves as  Olfactory, Optic, Occulomotor, Trochlear, Trigeminal, Abducens,Facial, Auditory, Glossopharingeal, Vagus , Accessory, Hypoglossal in that order but it would be easy for you to remember- On Occasions, Our Trusted Truck Acts Funny, A Great Vehicle Any How . Since the first letters of the two sets of words are same, it will be easy for you to replace the second set with the first one and get the correct order if you know the nerves. There are some well known Mnemonics used since ages but they can also be made up by students the way they want.

6. Write- Written practice has proved helpful time and again in learning and remembering. Mathematics has no other alternative but to go for written practice. I believe it works in other subjects too.  Frame questions from the lessons in addition to what is given in your text book Exercises and write notes. 

7. Make it a continuous process- Learning should not be kept for the examination time. It should be done every day. This way the syllabus does not pile up and one is not at a loss just before the exams. It is not important to put in a lot of hours. Even if you put in just one or two hours, make sure you do it whole heartedly.  “I’ll do it tomorrow” attitude is addictive. So, try avoiding it unless absolutely necessary. 

8. Set a target – This is actually continuation of the previous point but I’m separating the two in order to emphasize on the importance of planning. Allot a study time and decide how much you plan to learn. This can be done on a weekly basis. Keep other commitments in mind while planning. Doing on monthly basis many a times upsets plans due to various reasons like sudden outings, visitors and so on. Decide at the beginning of the week how much of your syllabus you intend to complete in the coming week. Do it seriously and try to achieve the target you have set.  Go by what your school/college is teaching at a point of time. That way you will not be lagging behind. For junior classes, I feel it is enough if students just come home every day and revise, learn, understand what has been done in school that day.

Effective learning and effective teaching are interrelated in ways more than one. It is the duty of the parents and teachers to guide their children to be systematic in their approach. Every student is different and need to be guided accordingly. The idea is to get the best out of them based on their aptitude without getting them bogged down or hassled. While it is okay to be a little worried before the exams because that pushes one to study,  losing sleep over it or getting over-stressed leads to ‘Test anxiety’ and interferes with the performance a great deal. Our children can give their best only if we understand them and support them based on their needs and abilities.

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