The essence of learning is to have an excellent result, and a sure way of attaining excellence in academic or educational pursuits is by developing an effective study habit. What is a habit? It is a thing that a person often does and almost without thinking especially something that is hard to stop doing (Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, 5th edition). When we talk about effective study habits, we mean, a lifestyle of study, which is efficient and becomes your usual behaviour. Something is only considered effectual when it produces the intended result. Your study isn’t yet useful until it makes a strong or pleasant impression of success. When something is a habit, it is part of your behaviour and folks around you identify that patterned activities with you. I remember one of my former school prefects habitually studious. My late father usually pointed at him as a mentor I should emulate.
Many students confuse reading with studying. Reading and studying, though synonymous, are entirely different. To read through a textbook isn’t the same as studying it. The Oxford Advanced Dictionary defines studying as, “the activity of learning or gaining knowledge especially from books; a detailed consideration or investigation of a subject; to give one’s time and attention to learning about a subject: to examine or consider something very carefully.” To read on the other hand means, “to look at and understand the meaning of written or printed words or symbols; to go through written or printed words …”
Apparently, studying involves reading. It is the elder brother of reading so to say. While reading may be flipping through the front to back page of a book, studying demands careful attention, deeper understanding, subject breakdown, and research. Study arms you with ideas that are original, yet profound, while reading gives you a faint idea of the issue. This difference, I consider, is the first step to a productive habit that will guarantee academic success. Other steps shall be considered in three categories as follows:
PREPARATION (Pre-Study Acts).
- Have a comprehensive notebook which contains notes taken from regularly attending classes.
- Ask questions in class. I typically encourage my students to develop the curious mind and feed that curiosity by asking questions during our discourse. As a teacher, I do not regard any questions asked by my students as stupid or impeding the progress of my lessons.
- Do all class work, assignments and test. As a trained teacher whenever I speak to students at academic success seminars of our organisation (PESO Crusaders), I tell them that test, assignments/homework ultimately reveals a teacher’s pattern of setting questions and areas of concentration on the examination day. Whenever your teacher grades your class test and assignment and returns your scripts to you, it is an opportunity to assess his or her marking style and what is expected of you as a student by the teacher.
- Create a summary or nutshell notebook which should be smaller than your primary notebook for the subject. Jot down key points, catchwords and formulas. As early as in my J.S.S 1 class, I had a pocket jotter (which is still available) for my summary notes. You can use fancy pens and crayons of different colours to keep your attention for revision on the subject.
- Develop a habit of waking up at a time in the morning to read/study, as this is the beginning of self-discipline, which is the bedrock for effectiveness in any area of life. Some years ago, I heard God tell me, “My son, just be disciplined and diligent and you will achieve good success.” To achieve anything in life, eat lightly at night to wake early. Avoid eating after 8:30 pm.
THE PROCESS (Actual Study Activities).
- Read widely on various issues especially those about the subject at hand. The books that a man reads are reflections and outward expressions of his inner hunger and aspirations/desires.
- Read immediately you return from school/lecture or later that same day of the lesson taught in class, which you had understood. Many students think that since they had learned the lesson in class, it will stick to their memory, but this is untrue. A review of previously understood lessons enhances the retention of such teachings. Statistics show that an only 38.8% of a thing heard is usually remembered. But if the student had been writing down what he heard, such a student is likely to retain about 68% of the lessons taught. By the time the student goes on to revise that which he wrote down while listening with understanding (especially with audio-visuals), the student should remember about 99% of the things he or she learnt.
- Always scan through the book or material before commencing the study process. When you read, make notes/summaries. Keep a dictionary and other reference materials beside you. Read all at once, and then begin to STUDY!!!
- Reframe your teachers’ definitions, and avoid cramming (please note that if your lecturer prefers word-for-word of what he gave, then give him what he wants). In any case, be wise.
- Read systematically from a timetable. “Wisdom can be said to be 9/10 a matter of knowing what to do on time”. So, use your time well. By looking at a book, I can estimate how long it will take me to finish reading (not studying) it, especially after I read the first page. So, divide your curriculum/syllabus into units, which you can effectively study at least 1 – 2 months before any exam or 1 – 2 weeks before any test.
- Increase your reading speed by reading newspapers, novels, Bible, etc. faster. Also, read from left to right without moving your head, pointing with your fingers or vocalising. Reading should be internalised and your lips should not be seen to be moving.
- Read and go for break. It is best to take about fifteen-minute break for one hour reading and about one hour break for three hours reading, etc. Music and sleep should be part of your break as well as regular exercises in the mornings.
- Observe short breaks and continually revise your work.
- Begin to attempt standard sample exam questions related to the subjects you’ve been studying. I tell my students, “I can’t tell if you have learnt enough of the subject unless I examine you and you prove such by passing.”
- Check out that you are duly registered, qualified and prepared for any exam. Have two pens and check out the venue of the exam. When the exam commences, start from easier to hard questions and obey all instructions.
- Have a study group of serious-minded friends and learn to interact with them academically. Your friends will surely add, subtract, divide or multiply you, so make your choice.
- Consult God for excellence not just for academic success but real success. That is what excellence means and what an effective study habit plus God can produce (Joshua 1:8). Daniel recognised the success maker (God), hence Daniel was made a success. If you don’t have an effective study habit, then you have a pattern of ineffectiveness which needs God’s help. Make Jesus your Lord and Saviour, then call on Him to change such lifestyle and He’ll do. Prayer works!
I would like to introduce four key skills that we were taught at the Teachers Institute to improve your effectiveness. Space won’t permit me to go into details so take it as an assignment from me (maybe someday we’ll meet and examine them). They are.
- Listening skills
- Speaking skills
- Reading skills and
- Writing skills.
Remember, the essence of developing an effective study habit is to achieve academic success or to create a pleasant impression. Conclusively do the following and success shall be yours:
- Select your goals.
- Uncover your personal potentials
- Commit yourself to a plan
- Chart your course
- Expect challenges/problems
- Stand firm on your commitment
- Surrender everything to God.
The above guideline is success defined and simplified. I pray that you become efficient as you develop a study habit. I also pray that you achieve success in that field. I thank God for helping you overcome the obstacles and problems/hindrances. Let me hear from you.
Raphael Effiong is the Nigerian President of Peso Crusaders and Editor-in-Chief of WAVE BAND Magazine. He is a trained teacher, TV Presenter, author and entrepreneur who has spoken to several students in various academic seminars. Contact him on +234 803 676 2341, P.O. Box 885 Calabar. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com