We can all fall into the trap of underperforming academically, quite often through no fault of our own. As a student, finding yourself in a position where your performance was not quite up to scratch, in a particular exam or for an entire subject can be disheartening and begin to form a vicious downward spiral.
If this resonates with you and you're feeling stuck in a rut, then I would implore you not to worry. You have just taken the first step. Recognising that something is wrong. Well done!
The next thing to do is take a few minutes, clear your mind and work out some of the reasons why you may be underperforming. Look at each issue as objectively as you can, rid yourself of emotion and understand that you are going to overcome each issue. Don't linger on what has gone before, know that you are working to correct it.
Now you have identified the issues, the next step is to tackle them. Knowing where to start is the next biggest hurdle. I like to write lists, as this helps me hold myself accountable for each task and can be used to track my progress. It also gives me a clear structure of what I am going to do next. If you're unsure how to go about rectifying the problems, this blog shows you what you can do to create a plan for improvement and help you achieve the grades you know you're capable of.
We all have our way of studying - some prefer to work in complete silence whilst others like an atmosphere with music, clicky keyboards and lots of people, so they can feed off of the energy that the environment creates, to be productive.
If you feel like you're struggling to retain pieces of information whilst you are studying then it may be worth switching up your place of study to see if it makes a difference. But don't go too extreme! Avoid transitioning from pure silence, studying alone to studying in a busy cafe. This drastic change will distract you because you won't be acclimatised to it.
Take gradual steps, if you can make use of a library whether that is at school, on campus or in a local town then it will provide a good transition. With more noise and energy to feed off of but not to the extreme that you feel uncomfortable.
TLDR: Clean your desk and add some plants.
It may be that you just require a little extra support on certain topics or with how to answer specific questions. The best way to combat this is by having sessions with a private tutor. Tutors are excellent at developing and tailoring sessions specifically to your needs. Having tuition sessions has been viewed as a negative for a long time, however, with the shifting landscape of education it has now become a sign of proactiveness and a healthy habit.
One of the most important life skills that you can learn is to know when to ask for help.
There are many tutors out there available to help you succeed in your studies, but it is important to find the right one. Ask friends, teachers or a counsellor if they know of any good tutoring platforms and if they have any recommendations for you. This will help you begin your search.
TLDR: Check out some tutors here on Sherpa.
I am well aware that this falls under the cliche, "easier said than done"; but that doesn't mean you can't alter your mindset. It will take time and patience but not only will you begin to feel better about the situation, but you'll also find yourself more relaxed when sitting exams without that gut-wrenching feeling of stress and anxiousness.
You are capable of getting the grades that you want, it is just a case of having the right mindset. When you get a bad grade it can be easy to fall into a negative pattern of thought, we are all guilty for doing this and it needs to stop.
The first step, which you have already taken is acknowledging your issues and taking active steps towards resolving them but also holding onto the belief that you will achieve the grades that you want.
It is essential to focus on your strengths and not dwell too much on your weaknesses. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, it is what makes us unique! It is important to focus on utilising your strengths to get the best out of yourself.
Maintaining a positive attitude towards learning can significantly improve academic performance and social/personal growth. Negative thoughts can disrupt our standard thinking patterns, ultimately leading to an increase in procrastination and distractions which have a bad impact on performance.
TLDR: Recognise your moods, write them down and notice patterns.
A recent study broke down the impact of video games on students' educational outcomes and the findings were incredibly interesting. It found that video games can be very beneficial to the most exceptional students and this is due to the approach of "play hard - study hard".
Video games have a big impact on social opportunities which can help boost a student's self-esteem leading to greater exam results and also improving problem-solving skills. This is particularly handy in exams with tricky worded questions as students can break them down into smaller chunks and analyse them more efficiently to find the correct answer.
The best way to implement video games into your schedule is by using them as a self-reward scheme for completing some periods of study.
TLDR: Study hard, play hard and be competitive.
This is a great tip for those who find it difficult to engage with the material or feel like they are not getting anything out of the lesson. When you ask questions, you are actively engaging with the content and participating in class which can only be beneficial for your learning.
Questioning helps students direct their learning as they begin to merge previous knowledge gained with new information in an attempt to make sense of concepts and ideas.
Not only will this help you to understand the material better but it will also show your teacher that you are interested in the lesson and want to learn. If you are worried about feeling embarrassed in front of your classmates (which is normal), get to know a few people in your class and ask them to study with you because the likelihood is, that they are feeling the same way as you. As such, you can ask each other questions when you're stuck and help each other out.
TLDR: Ask yourself what this TLDR would be...
Simply put, time management is the process taken to organise and manage your time. You can be both good and bad at managing your time effectively. Good time management practices can help you become more efficient, meet deadlines and feel less stress.
There are several techniques that you can use to manage your time more effectively, demonstrated in more detail through our article on 5 top techniques to help manage your time (and studies). These techniques are:
Improving your time management will help you stay organised during the academic year, meaning fewer mistakes and missed deadlines. A better study-life balance is on the cards as well, improving your mood and confidence when sitting exams.
TLDR: Organise your time better, use a calendar.
For years, people have tried to understand the best ways to learn through various methods of research. One of the most popular theories circling is the VARK model.
The VARK model identifies four different types of learners: visual, auditory, kinesthetic and reading/writing.
These are individuals that prefer to process their information in a visually appealing format, whether that is through maps, graphs, diagrams, charts and others. However, the catch is that they aren't as receptive to media such as photos or videos, preferring visual aids from patterns and shapes.
Auditory learners are individuals that learn better when they take information from hearing it or speaking it. The classic phrase "think before you speak" does not apply to these learners as they need to talk about concepts to fully understand them.
Learn by doing. That is the premise of kinesthetic learners. They prefer a hands-on experience and are usually more in touch with reality. Presenting new information to kinesthetic learners is most valuable to them through personal experience, practice, examples or simulations.
Reading/writing learners consume information best when it is in words, whether they are the ones writing it down or reading it. Unlike visual learners, the best thing for this style of learner would be to get them to describe a graph or chart through written statements instead of simply analysing it with their eyes.
TLDR: Try some new learning styles to find what works and break up the norm.
Having goals is a great way to motivate yourself and give you something to work towards. If your goal is to improve your grades, make sure that they are SMART.