Now, we’ve covered the main subjects that students have trouble with and we’ve given our favourite tips and tricks to improve in these courses. Generally, we’ve found that students who can implement these ideas into their studying have a better grasp of the subject matter.
One topic that we’ve talked extensively about is the need to practise the assigned (and some unassigned) problems. Students often think they understand a concept and that they do not need to practise. Understanding a concept and being able to complete problems with it are completely different things. Exams and assignments are generally structured to test your applications of knowledge rather than the theory. In order to convert the theoretical into practical, students need to do the assigned problems. If they’d like to challenge themselves or to gain more understanding, they should consider doing unassigned problems as well.
Another topic we’ve covered within a lot of posts is that sometimes students do not have a problem with a specific course but with a gap in their knowledge, or they are perhaps struggling with another course, which prevents them from understanding what is taught. For example, a student is struggling with chemistry, not because they do not understand the underlying theory, but because they are also struggling with math, and cannot complete the test questions. Therefore, the student does not really need help with chemistry, but would do much better with help with the mathematics that are needed to do well in chemistry. This can be a hard problem to diagnose, but experts in their field, like your teachers, TAs, tutors or professors can generally let you know whether you have a gap in your knowledge.
If you would like more information on a specific topic as it relates to a subject, take a look at the rest of our blog posts here.
Knowing when to ask for help is a critical part of academic life (and others for that matter). It is critical to be able to realize when you are stuck and when you need to ask a professional, be they your teacher, your friends, a tutor, your TA, or your professor. Another notion which often falls under this umbrella concept is having to ask the right questions. Going to your teacher and saying “I don’t get it” is not a good way to gain the understanding you need. By teaching yourself to ask the right questions, you can get the concepts you are missing much faster and with much better explanations.
One of the most important concepts (to students and parents) that we’ve barely covered are grades. The reason we’ve not covered it extensively is because we were more focused on getting the knowledge and having the understanding to apply it than we were on the specific numbers or letters. This is not to say that we think grades are unimportant (far from it), but grades are a way of testing the student’s knowledge. The main point we were trying to get across in this series is that once the knowledge and ability to apply the knowledge are there, the desired marks will come naturally.