Takhar: Exam season is upon us

Brynne Takhar writes a monthly column on life as a student in Sylvan Lake

About two weeks ago, students returned to the hallways of H.J. Cody as their holiday break inevitably dissolved into the precise opposite of a holiday break – exam time. January: a time for focus, hard work, and determination, all paying off in the form of academic success. For many students, it can be difficult to find the motivation to study for exams, especially in courses one finds particularly challenging. However, I cannot possibly stress enough the importance these exams have on determining our futures and life goals. Our high school grades can truly make or break us; they can either give you a vital advantage to accomplishing your dreams or limit you to a cycle of achieving below your true potential. Of course, Grade 12 is the only grade where students need to actually study for exams, right? Wrong. A number of post-secondary institutions will offer acceptance to students based solely on their Grade 11 marks, or, more dangerously, could reject students on this same basis. Grade 11 students, your grades this year are of equal, if not greater, importance than your Grade 12 grades – if there ever was a time to study, it is right now. However, Grade 12 students, do not feel assured that you absolutely will receive post-secondary acceptances on your Grade 11 marks alone. Many institutions require interim grades throughout the year, meaning that your grades cannot fluctuate dramatically throughout the semester, as they will regularly be reviewed by your chosen college or university. Furthermore, these interim grades can often finalize your admission decision into your program, for better or for worse. Grade 9 and 10 students – your exam grades are of just as much value this year as any other year. Not only are these exams teaching you good study habits and learning practices that will be necessary in your following years, but your grades this year are going to have an immoderate effect on your high school journey. If you are a student whose grades frequently hover around 60 or 70 per cent, your exam grades are likely going to determine whether you are placed in the – 1 or – 2 stream of courses next year, which will ultimately either open or close options for you as you begin to choose what career field you wish to pursue. This January, make the mental decision that you are capable of high academic achievement, put in the time and effort right now, and set yourself up for future success. Now that we have established the importance of studying for exams, a question arrives: How does one most effectively study for exams? Luckily for us H.J. students, there are plenty of studying resources at our disposal. One of the absolute best ways to study is simply to attend the after school tutorials. Though not every student is keen on the idea of extra school, studying within the walls of the school rather than at home can be much more productive, as there are less distractions present and more opportunities to get help, such as by talking to teachers. Plus, teachers know what you need to review better than anyone, which leads to more effective and beneficial reviewing than studying alone. Even if you are tired after a day of classes, or simply wish to study something by yourself, just being present while the tutorial is being taught is more beneficial than not being present at all. Of course, on top of using school-provided resources, it is so important that students learn how to study in a way that works best for themselves. Every student is unique in the way they prefer to study, but I would like to share some of my personal study habits in the hope they might be helpful to some of my peers. First, my number-one study rule is to only study what you do not already know. There is no sense reviewing a trigonometry unit you understand fully for hours and hours when you could spend that time studying the polynomial unit that makes no sense to you. Logically distribute your time not evenly on each unit, but by which units you feel like you need to spend time on. Second, one of my favourite ways to study my notes is to rewrite them. I find rewriting my notes helps me remember them more effectively than simply reading them, but pulling from my first studying rule, I only rewrite the notes I do not already have committed to memory. I do this over and over, remembering more and more each time, creating a smaller and smaller list of notes I need to remember. I have found this is a great tool for sifting through notes to find the parts you have forgotten, and also is an encouraging way to study because it allows to you see your own progress as your rewritten notes grow fewer. Third, a study habit that works for those subjects that do not come with practice books, like social studies and biology, is to create my own question-and-answer booklets specified to my own needs. I take the concepts I do not understand and write them as questions, then I find the answers to each question and write them separately. Once the ‘books’ are made, I quiz myself (or others) on the questions until I know all of the answers. I especially enjoy this strategy because it is one I can share with my peers to help them as well! This leads me into my final studying habit – helping those around you. There is no better demonstration of understanding of a subject than to explain it to someone else, so if someone asks for a hand, help them out! It will end up helping you, too. Even if you are not comfortable enough on a subject to help someone else with it, at least encourage those around you to keep on working because everyone needs a little support during exam time. We can do this, Lakers – success is right in front of us!

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