How Successful Students Make the Grade
Like many students at university, you may be unhappy about the results you attain in exams. You may feel that even with all you are doing there must be something more -- or different-- you could be doing to get better grades. We have all at some time or other heard of that student who only studies a couple of hours for final exams and scores A's every time. We stand in awe of those who seem to breeze through without undue effort and seem to need very little in the way of studying to nail an exam. The reasons for success, in what I think are the vast majority of cases, are less esoteric than many students think: successful students consistently apply a series of productive strategies with view to attaining clearly identified learning and grade goals throughout the academic term.
Where difficulties arise
Sometimes the difficulties students have with preparing effectively for exams stem from a need to develop fundamental skills such as time management, reading for comprehension, note-taking, and coping with anxiety. If this is true of you, you might also find it helpful to read "Reading University Level Materials" and "Note-taking at University" to strengthen your essential learning skills. Some other reasons that students experience difficulties preparing for exams are related to constraints on time, lack of preparation of appropriate kinds, and a misplaced focus on the course material. In some cases students have difficulty developing an adequate understanding of the theoretical perspectives of the course or the course concepts and applying this understanding of one part of the course to another. Others try to maintain their old approach to studies and this may involve them choosing to memorize materials when it may be more appropriate to work analytically or interpretively; this in turn may lead to increased anxiety and a chance of "blanking out" in exams.
Additionally, it is often the case that students seek effortless, short-term solutions to studying for exams, trying to learn a full year's work in the matter of a few days intensive studying. In sum, the reasons for failure or poor grades can often be traced to the absence or break-down of a productive approach to learning. Providing you aren't willing to be satisfied with moderate understanding and moderate grades, then you will probably be looking for ways to overcome these concerns. These kinds of issues are common to many students and can be worked out with a little instruction and application of new strategies to your efforts.
What to look for on these pages
As you read through these pages, be alert to ways in which you can adjust your approach to learning and studying for a variety of learning contexts. These resources have been designed to assist you in learning a variety of skills which I encourage you to employ and challenge you to master. It will take time for you to develop your skills, and you will have to be patient with yourself and determined to achieve your goals, but your time will be well spent. The strategies contained in the following pages have been culled from a variety of expert sources on the topic of learning skills and they have been presented with a view to providing you with the building blocks to become a better student.
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