Wednesday, March 25, 2015

5 Study Tips for That Class That Has You Crying

Do you remember seeing your class schedule for the first time at the start of the semester? My thoughts on my first day of Junior year went something like this:

First hour . . . Math. Ewww

Second hour . . . English. Not too bad.

Third hour . . . Seminary. <Commences happy dance.>

Fourth hour . . . College Prep Chemistry. Shut the front door! I know nothing of Chemistry and lack the prerequisite courses for this class! <Looks for cave to hide in, trembles in fear, and frantically runs to counselor's office to beg for a schedule change>.

As it turns out, my schedule could not be changed and I remained in the course for the entire school year. Guess what? I'm not even mad. Was the class easy? Goodness, no. But was it worth it? Absolutely. In fact, I've found my new love! I'm looking forward to going all the way to Chem 5 in my upcoming Neuroscience studies.

Even though I was absolutely terrified of CP Chem, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity it provided for me to challenge my mind and learn things I never imagined I could comprehend. While there were happy times (blowing things up and freezing s'mores with liquid nitrogen after the final, for example) there were also many nights that I spent staring at the ceiling and resisting the urge to punch my text book while crying over homework and praying that somehow osmosis would transfer much needed knowledge to my tired mind.

During this class and many others that have been hard for me <cough, cough . . .  Spanish, College English, Geometry, and Physics . . . clears throat> I have learned a few things that help me get through those frustrating assignments and actually enjoy (and get good grades in) courses that once had me wanting to rip out my hair. With that, I present:

But before we get to that, why even bother with classes that are hard? Can't we just stay in Kindergarten forever? (Come on, you know snack time was cool.)

Here's what President Monson has to say:
Isn't that amazing? With God's help you can do anything . . . but I'm getting ahead of myself. On with the study tips!

1. Believe in Yourself

You CAN do this.

You are a Child of God. He is the master mathematician, He speaks every language, He knows the entire course of world history, He's the ultimate scientist, and the list of his strengths could go on and on. As His child, you have inherited divine qualities from Him, including the ability to learn. Whatever the subject may be, remember what President Monson said and "don't take counsel from your fears". Have faith in your abilities and God's power and willingness to magnify them.

2. Seek Help (On Earth & In Heaven)

Let's face it: no matter how cool we think we are, no person is an expert on everything. You don't have to be either. (Even Einstein struggled with non-science subjects like language and history).

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Generally, your teachers teach because they are passionate about their course material and love helping students just like you. They also want you to pass their class. Contrary to popular belief, teachers don't sit at home hoping students perform poorly so they can use their favorite red pen and laugh evilly while entering F's into the grade book. (And trust me, I know. I live with a teacher. Hi, Mom!)

As cool as teachers are, they can't read your mind. Speak with them at lunch, during their prep/office hour, or after school and let them know you're struggling. (You can also shoot them an email if you're shy like me.) Ask questions, request additional material, or have them go through a homework problem with you -- just talk to them.

Another resource that helped me tremendously was finding some study buddies. Lots of people think study groups have to take a lot of time and commitment, but they can also be low-key. After a few weeks, I made some friends in the class and we added each other on Facebook and exchanged phone numbers. It was so awesome to know that help was just a quick text or instant message away. Plus, we kept each other motivated and accountable during tough assignments. Ask around. Chances are other kids are feeling the same was as you and would be happy to have someone to work with. (If nothing else, you can wallow in your misery and eat ice cream together.)

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In addition to teachers and friends, there's also another place you can turn for help and comfort: Heaven.

God cares about every aspect of our lives, not just the obvious church stuff. Don't believe me? Listen to Alma:

Notice that scripture didn't just mention praying for resistance to temptation and strength to be righteous. It also talked about praying for prosperity in temporal endeavors. Yes, I know most teens don't have flocks and herds today, but just as Heavenly Father cared for the success of the Nephites' pursuits, he cares for your success in school.

One of my favorite scriptures is 3 Nephi 32:9. It reads:

I have found that when I pray before I study for a class, I am able to understand concepts more quickly and fully. By inviting the Holy Ghost to help me, I am able to remember things I would have otherwise forgotten and even stay more focussed.

Remember that through the Savior's Grace, all of our weaknesses (even the comprehnsion Algebra and quantum physics) can be made strong (see Ether 12:27); but in order for that to work, we have to do our part, bringing us to #3.

3. Study All Year (Not Just During Finals Week)

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I'm ashamed to admit that I am one of those kids who has a history of waiting to study until the day before exams. (I should have listened to Gandalf.) This hobbit . . .  err habit is undesirable for a number of reasons:

1. Cramming is no fun. I can think of 3928 other ways I'd rather spend an evening that don't involve tears or thoughts of burning homework assignments.

2. Long term memories take time to solidify. Yes, you might be able to recall the information you desperately jammed into your head for a day or two, but you'll most likely forget it by the end of the week. Trust me when I say that you might think you'll never need that formula again, but courses build on each other and chances are next year you'll be wishing you had studied harder.

Do your future self a favor and learn not just regurgitate. Review your notes as often as possible. (I like to look over mine during those awkward five minute breaks between classes and after I finish my work). Re-read the text book, find YouTube videos related to the subject (just don't get side tracked by those cute kitties), or try making flashcards with paper or a cell phone app. Whatever method works for you, just remember that the key is to start studying long before the test date draws near.

4. Take a Break

It seems crazy, but sometimes the best thing you can do for your GPA (and your sanity) is rest. Studies show that taking brief breaks during study sessions actually help you stay sharp and focussed (see here and here). If you're feeling burnt out, try going for a quick run, getting a drink of water, watching an episode of your favorite show, or even taking a 15 minute cat nap. (You could even log onto Pinterest for a few minutes. I won't tell). ;)

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure this would help me out.
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5. Never Give Up

Sometimes, despite our greatest efforts, things don't go according to plan. I was heartbroken when I got a 51% on one of my first Chem exams with no re-dos allowed. My teacher encouraged me to keep trying, and by the end of the year I not only passed the class, but did so with the highest final test grade in my class period! Mind you, I'm not saying this will happen every time. There have been plenty of instances where I've accepted a C or a D proudly because I knew I had done my best. And that's okay. Just keep trying.

Remember how we talked about Einstein a few paragraphs ago? Guess what? He actually failed some of his classes and was denied admission to his dream high school (at that time you had to apply for secondary school kind of like we do for college). He didn't let his perceived failure get to his head. He kept persevering, was later admitted into the Federal Polytechnic School, and began to excel. Where would our understanding of physics, mathematics, and the universe be if young Albert had simply given up? (For more on Einstein's school experiences, see this article.)

It might take another study session or even another semester in the class, but don't stop just because there are a few bumps in the road.

You are smart.

You are capable.

You CAN pass that class.

And who knows? By the end of the year you might just love that course that had you crying. (If nothing else, you'll definitely have tears of joy that it's through, and I'm totally ok with those kind of tears.)

Happy Studying!

P.S. For tip #2, I borrowed some scriptures from a previous post I wrote about Finals Week. If you want to read more from me on this subject, check it out, here.

For more study helps, you can also read this article from the College of DuPage and this one from Standford University.


  1. I love that quote! I think it is my one of my new favorites:) These are awesome tips!

    1. Thank you, Shelby! It is one of my favorites, too! <3

  2. YES! I'm currently in the process of trying to teach my 12 y/o that cramming doesn't really work. She isn't convinced yet but my hope lives on. :) Thanks for linking up at the Monday Mash-Up @

    1. Haha that is definitely a difficult lesson to learn. :) Thanks for hosting the link-up!



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