Saturday 17 February 2018

What's the key to being a successful student?

Tackling the obstacles that stand in the way of getting the results you want in your exams

Time management

How many times have we heard someone lament that there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done?

We can also recall days when time seemed to stand still and we thought it would never end. The facts are that there are 24 hours in every day and 168 hours in every week and that is the same for everyone.

The issue for a busy fifth- or sixth-year student is to maximise the effectiveness of the time spent studying. This does not mean studying for every available hour in the week but finding the right balance between study time and other activities.

It is also important that the time you spend studying gives you the maximum amount of learning.

How effective do you believe your study techniques were in the past? If you continue to do what you did in the past, will you achieve your goals?

Did you ever stand back and analyse what worked and what did not work?

For example, you might have spent two hours studying a topic only to realise that the learning from the last hour was not very effective.


The key to being a successful student is to get organised. It might sound easy but it is really the secret to success. If you decide to have an organised approach to your studies from day one, you have immediately shrunk your workload. You can achieve organisation by setting realistic goals, both in the short and long term.

You should record these goals in a study-planner notebook under the headings 'daily', 'weekly', and 'term'.

Your daily plan should hold a day-by-day account of your study progress. You should prepare your study plan for the next day the night before, ie, make a note of your list of goals.

Your weekly plan should hold a record of approaching tests and a list of things to be achieved that particular week. These tasks can be ticked off when completed. This is an effective way to see your progress.

Your term calendar/ plan is for a broader view and allows for forward planning. You can record all school assignments, tests and activities with their due dates so they are not forgotten about.

Weekly study chart

As well as your study-planner notebook, many students find it helpful to keep a weekly study chart pinned up in their study area.

This gives a good at-a-glance view of how you are doing each week. It helps you to plan your study at the start of each week. And it helps you to monitor how you are doing as the week goes by.

A weekly study chart is provided in the centre of this supplement. Make copies of this. Always keep a blank copy to photocopy for future weeks.

Be honest

and realistic

You must be honest with yourself and realistic when drawing up any study timetable.

You have 168 hours in a week, roughly 56 of which are taken up by sleeping (eight hours per night). You must calculate your remaining free hours and divide these between your study and relaxation time.

Study plan

A key to achieving effective study is to draw up a realistic study timetable that suits you. This reduces the stress levels, panic and last-minute "cramming".

It makes you a much better student with more leisure time on your hands. Use the guidelines given in this supplement.

It is best to be honest about what you can handle in your studies. Do you use your study time to your best ability? Can you really stay concentrated for the required time? Let's face it, you are only fooling yourself if you design a timetable that is too demanding for you to follow.

Take into account at what time you study best -- are you a morning or night person? Keep this time reserved for your study. It is wise to break up your study time and develop a regular routine. It is generally recommended to study in 45- 55-minute slots with a five-minute break. It is a personal choice, however, as it depends on your individual attention span.

By trying different things you can study cleverly. Rather than studying three chapters of geography in one sitting, you could break it up over the week. This will stop you from getting bored and keep the topic fresh in your mind.

Break up big projects such as art, history or geography into four or five different stages. This will make your life so much easier in March and April when you have to complete your history special topic and geography project.

The to-do list at this stage can seem endless but all the ground work you have done will help you reap the benefits.

Reward yourself when you work hard, even if it just means a small break. Your "rewards" should motivate you to work to enjoy what is to come. This may be something that you have to discuss with your parents to negotiate a compromise that works for both of you.

If your first plan doesn't work, ask yourself why. Make some changes and try again. Don't give up.

Creating an effective study timetable

Using a study timetable will make a student feel in control of their studies, especially when sixth years are revising the two-year syllabus for the Leaving Cert in a limited amount of time or fifth years are finding their way back into studying.

A study timetable enables you to put structure to your studies and to make the most of your time. A good study timetable also leaves you time for other activities like sport and socialising.

Students who follow a regular study timetable achieve a lot more from their school day and study at home than students who are disorganised and unstructured.

Preparation is the key. Plan in advance, setting yourself goals that you want to achieve, including short-term and long-term goals.

It is advisable to spend the first 20 minutes of your evening study going back over the main topics you covered in class that day. This will reinforce any new material that you have covered and help you prepare for your classes the next day.

Don't leave the subject that you find difficult until last in your timetable. Start with this one first, when you are able to concentrate.

Note taking

When you study, you should get into the habit of taking notes. Taking notes keeps you focused, helps your concentration and you have something to look back over. It should be an important part of your study routine.

Notes should be key words/points, kept in short form and lists -- easy to read and review quickly.

Use your class notes as a basis when starting a new topic. These will help refresh your memory and deepen your understanding of the subject. To save time, reread any notes/ work you already have on the topic you are going to learn.

Irish Independent Supplement

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