“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” ––Pelé, professional Brazilian footballer
Indeed, at the A Level and O Level examinations, how well you perform is largely dependent on the amount of time, effort, and resources you have invested into mastering the content you are being tested on. So-called “natural” intelligence isn’t going to help you much if you don’t even know what’s going to appear in your examination papers! In this article, Zenith, the best JC and Secondary school tuition center in Singapore, equips you with ten study hacks for increased productivity. Say goodbye to spending an entire day at your study desk only to realise at 2 a.m. that you haven’t even covered half the syllabus being tested in a few hours!
Study Hack #1: Start early and be consistent.
At both the A Level and O Level examinations, students have to master many content-heavy topics for multiple subjects. This means that between actually turning up for school, completing your homework, and attending CCA, you have to make sure that you are consciously internalising whatever you are learning in school. You shouldn’t copy off your friends’ homework, or memorise formulas without understanding them. That being said, Zenith is not suggesting that you get rid of your social life to simply study your weekends away! Instead, Zenith recommends that you set aside just 30 minutes per subject each week to revise what you have learnt for that week. Find out if there are any concepts you are still unsure of and clarify them immediately (if there are any). Letting your misconceptions pile up till just before your examinations is a sure way to make yourself feel anxious and unprepared, which is absolutely unhelpful for your productivity levels. Starting early also means that you have a longer period of time to familiarise yourself with important concepts and memorise them. Find out about the 4 best memorising techniques to ace your A Level and O Level examinations here.
At Zenith, our team of dedicated tutors curates “cheat sheets” with important concepts for each topic to make your learning process easier. We also offer one-to-one consultations for all students, where you can clarify any concepts and also seek feedback on assignments you have completed in school. This helps you to stay on track while you prepare for your exams!
Study Hack #2: Set daily goals.
It is sometimes difficult to envision the bigger picture when it seems so far away from completion. In March, it often feels like your end-of-year, A Level or O Level examinations are eons away. This unfortunately means that you may be less motivated to spend your time productively. Why pass up a day at Siloso beach for your Biology textbook, right?
Right… but also wrong… while Zenith definitely encourages you to have a good balance of play and study, you definitely cannot start studying only a week before our exam. As you’d have probably realised yourself, there’s just too much to cover! This is why we’ve shared with you Study Hack #1, which is to start early and to be consistent. The question is, how? How does one overcome all the inertia and hunker down at the study desk time after time again?
In light of this, Zenith suggests that you set daily goals for yourself. If looking at the big picture doesn’t inspire or help you, you simply won’t look at it. So if you find this to be a problem for you, think about what you can do now. What could you do now to make full use of your time? What could you do now that will benefit you in that Mathematics test in a few weeks? Perhaps you could complete some topical practices. Or you could go through your past work, identify your common errors and mentally (or physically) jot them down to avoid making them in the future. After you have decided what you are going to do for the day, write them down. Strike each task off after completing it and celebrate your little wins at the end of the day. Trust us, this can feel pretty satisfying, and it’s a self-reinforcing cycle. The small wins ultimately lead to bigger ones and your satisfaction fuels this engine of productivity.
While you might not be thinking about your end-of-year, A Level or O Level examinations when going about your daily goals, what you are doing is inadvertently helping you prepare for them. That one extra Mathematics worksheet you completed on partial fractions has now strengthened your foundation in the topic. When the O Level exams are round the corner, having a stronger foundation in a particular topic means the likelihood of you having to re-learn important concepts is far lower. This saves time, and you can spend your time doing practice papers instead, to familiarise yourself with questions that could possibly appear during your examinations.
Study Hack #3: Make a checklist for every subject.
Not knowing what you need to cover is one of the key problems students encounter during the revision process. A student’s biggest nightmare is probably realising on the day of their examinations that they missed out on a major topic when revising. Imagine sitting for your A Level H2 Mathematics Exam without having revised Integration!
To prevent that, Zenith suggests that you make a checklist of all the topics you have to cover for every subject. This is a simple organisational hack, and it’s usually a one-off effort. You just have to consult your syllabus and make sure that your list contains every single topic you have to study for. As you go about your revision, just tick off the topics you have completed revision for and are now confident in. This helps you to keep track of your progress and ensures that you will cover all the ground that you need to. Learn how to create a bulletproof revision plan for the A Level examinations here. You may even want to create a mind map of these topics, and you can find some mind map tips here.
Study Hack #4: Get sufficient sleep.
How many times have you boasted about staying awake till 5 a.m. to study for an assessment the next day, carrying it like a badge of honour that says something about your hustle? Driving the midnight car is often glorified as the epitome of diligence, however, it really is not the most productive way to go about your revision. Our circadian rhythm is influenced by numerous factors, especially how dark or light it is outside. As you might have expected, a dark environment with no natural light may condition our body to think that it is time for rest, which can slow down metabolic rate, lowering your energy and concentration levels. This is often why you find yourself lethargic when studying at night. To stay awake, some might snack excessively, which is also unhealthy for your body in the long run! On that note, studying at night also has negative effects on your immune system. Staying awake for prolonged periods of time without rest causes stress on your bodily systems, which again affects how well your brain can function. Staying in a vicious cycle of insufficient sleep causes increased stress too, as you are unable to perform at an optimal level and become more prone to frustration. Most studies recommend that you get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Attending classes in school often takes up enough concentration and energy as it is. Revising and completing your homework after school adds to the amount of brain juice you’d have used up in a single day. Instead of struggling to focus through the night, it is far more productive to get a good night’s rest and get more done in a shorter amount of time the next day. Again, if you adopt Study Hack #1, which is to start early and stay consistent, you should find managing your time easier such that you have adequate time for sleep!
Study Hack #5: Take regular breaks.
As Adama Traore, a professional Spanish football player once said, “It’s about working hard, resting when you need to, leading a healthy life, and having a support structure around you. These factors help you improve.” Indeed, playing hard and working hard are key to excelling at the A Level and O Level examinations. When you take a break, your subconscious is still working to internalise whatever you have just learnt. It is working to move what you have learnt into your permanent memory so that you will still remember it months later! As such, breaks can be very necessary for effective learning.
Study Hack #6: Put your devices away.
You might have rolled your eyes at this tip and insist that you don’t spend that much time on Twitter and Instagram, but checking your screen time allocations might tell you otherwise. Even if you just refreshed your timeline 30 seconds ago, the temptation to do it again is strong when you would rather be doing anything but study. Suddenly, re-reading all the Tweets you’ve already scrolled through sounds appealing, more appealing than doing Chemistry anyway. To combat this problem, Zenith suggests that you put your devices away. Let your friends and family know that you’ll be unavailable for the next 45 minutes because you need to get through Ionic Bonding by tonight. Hold yourself accountable with the Forest app on Android and iOS. If you have to use your laptop for revision, restrict your access to irrelevant sites and apps with SelfControl on MacOS and FocusMe on Windows. Physical accountability methods like simply putting it in another room or asking someone to hide it from you for a couple of hours are viable too. P.S, we are not related to any of the apps mentioned.
Study Hack #7: Find a conducive environment.
Humans are curious creatures by nature. It’s no cardinal sin (and also no surprise) that you feel distracted if you are studying in a space where there’s lots of noise and movement. Most people would find it hard to concentrate when they want to know what the people at the next table are eating and also find out what they’re gossiping about. Zenith’s trick to solving this problem is to study in a quiet environment, where everyone is doing focused work. This could be at the library, or at a quiet cafe, or at a co-working space. You could be there with your study group, or you could be there alone. That really isn’t the important part. The key is that because everyone is concentrating on completing their own tasks, the atmosphere is a serious one with no distractions. As famous author James Clear once said, people who seem to stick to good habits with ease are often benefitting from an environment that makes those behaviors easier. Indeed, studying becomes much more productive and easier to stick to when you have an environment that gets you in the zone.
Study Hack #8: Start with your strongest topics.
Many students, in fits of panic, start their revision too late and only have time to revise their weakest topics. As Zenith has shared with you in Study Hack #1, this is not advisable and you should start early. Starting early means you can cover all examinable topics, instead of a select few only. It also means that you can decide the order in which you revise for your subjects and its constituent topics.
Zenith suggests that you get through your strongest topics for any particular subject first. Why? Shouldn’t I start with my weakest topic first, since I probably need the most time for it? Yes, you probably need the most time for your weakest topic, but starting early means that you most definitely will have adequate time, regardless of the order of topics you go in. Starting with your best topics gives you a confidence boost. This simple psychological trick motivates you to continue revising by getting you off on a good start. It is this momentum that will keep you going for the remainder of your revision marathon. When you eventually get to your weaker topics, you will have already covered significant ground, which means you will feel less worried that spending a longer amount of time on one topic will hinder your progress. Compare this to if you were to start with your weakest topic where you are far more likely to feel dejected, stressed out, and hence, unwilling to continue revising! Thus, starting with your strongest topics can actually boost your productivity.
Study Hack #9: Form study groups with your peers.
Some people find it difficult to focus when they are alone. Studying can be really mundane, and sometimes there’s just no drive to get down to it when there are a hundred other more entertaining things you could be doing. This is where having a study group can be really beneficial! For a variety of reasons, your friends are often the ones who can motivate you to keep going while keeping you accountable. Many times, you might find yourself deciding to go to the library for a study session just because your best friends are doing the same. Without them, you might have just spent the afternoon gaming. Furthermore, studying with your friends means that you can share your notes with one another! Instead of having to make notes for every single topic on your own, you could split the workload with your friends, which saves time for all of you. Similarly, you can help to clarify one another’s doubts, strengthening your own understanding of important concepts at the same time. You’ll find that you can master a topic better as you seek to explain a concept to someone else.
At Zenith, we understand the importance and numerous benefits of peer support. This is one of the reasons why we carry out group lessons and encourage our students to forge strong friendships with one another! Our education studios are also open to students who wish to self-study after class hours in a conducive environment. Find out more about the Zenith experience here.
Study Hack #10: Acknowledge your progress!
At the end of a long day of studying, we might find ourselves feeling disappointed that there’s still so much left to do, and that we’ve barely made a dent in the seemingly endless pile of revision we have to complete. This is normal! In particular, the first few days of revision can feel especially slow. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t let this get you down—constantly putting yourself down affects your motivation, which will affect how productive you are! Instead of falling prey to a vicious cycle, Zenith encourages you to tick off your checklists with satisfaction, grab a good meal, maybe slot a workout in and go to bed early. This keeps your momentum going and prepares you for the next day of studying. Before you know it, you will have covered all you need to know for your examinations. It’s also crucial to note here that motivation only lasts so long, it’s discipline and diligence that will get you far. So, even when we’re feeling particularly low on one day, we must still try to show up and do something. Something is always better than nothing and you’d feel less bad about watching that movie or hitting the gym after it.
At the end of the day, it might be difficult to manage your stress when preparing for major exams. It’s part and parcel of life that you will face obstacles, however, managing your emotions is extremely important! Find out more about how to do that with Zenith here. We might be a tuition center, but as Singapore’s best secondary and JC tuition center, we are invested in the mental well-being of our students! We hope that this article has been useful for you and that you will pick up some of these study hacks to make your revision process a more enjoyable and productive one.