Do you wish you could get better grades? Do you struggle with certain subjects and believe that maybe you’re not cut out for them? Do you want to spend less time studying and still get good grades? Maybe you think that some subjects are just not for you. Maybe you don’t like to study, because you secretly believe that you just don’t have what it takes, so why bother? Maybe you are a parent, worrying about your child’s grades, worrying whether they will be able to qualify for the opportunities you want for them. Studying for tests and exams can be stressful, not just for students, but also for teachers and parents. Grades in school exams and standardized tests can seem to determine your entire future, and yet many students are not able to get the grades they think they need to succeed.
Anyone Can Get An A+ is a conversational, down-to-earth guide for high school and college students on how to maximize their learning and get the grades they want. This book draws on research from the fields of psychology and neuroscience, and gives students practical advice that they can implement right away, to overcome procrastination, make the most of their study time and improve their grades significantly.
The book includes sections on how the right nutrition and diet can aid learning, how to organize your time and study schedule, how to keep track of all your deadlines and school-related paperwork, and how to overcome procrastination to complete your schoolwork on time. The author also discusses how students can incorporate the latest research on education and learning into their everyday study habits.
Anyone Can Get An A+ contains 39 tips on various aspects of studying and preparing for exams. In this book, you will learn:
• How best to prepare for exams
• What is the top mistake most students make when doing exam preparation and how to avoid it
• How to overcome procrastination and use your study time wisely
• How to break down larger assignments into smaller chunks
• How to write a paper
• How to use small segments of time effectively
• How to get help to understand difficult material
This book includes techniques that work for both high school and college students. Although some of the examples used may resonate more easily with college students, it is never too early to start good study habits, and many of the tips translate equally to high school and college. The author herself learnt many of these techniques while preparing for board exams in high school.
Geetanjali Mukherjee was a top student through high school in Shri Ram School, New Delhi, India, law school at the University of Warwick in UK and graduate school in Cornell University, USA. She was class topper in the ICSE Board examinations in India, and graduated near the top of her class in the ISC Board examinations. Geetanjali graduated law school with honors, and was inducted into the Pi Alpha Alpha, the Global Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration, for her high GPA at Cornell University.
Anyone Can Get An A+ includes the following chapters:
Chapter 1: Adopting The Right Attitude
Chapter 2: Nourishing Your Mind and Body
Chapter 3: Organizing Your Study Life
Chapter 4: Getting The Most From Your Study Time
Chapter 5: Beating Procrastination
Chapter 6: Studying Effectively
Chapter 7: Tackling Difficult Subjects
Chapter 8: Revising For Exams
Targeted Age Group:: 14 – 25
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Even though I was a good student in school, I had many ups and downs and had to struggle through insecurities, bad teachers and family problems. I doubted my ability to do well, and getting good grades felt like winning a lottery – one worked hard, but didn’t always control the outcome of that hard work. I continued to do well through college, but the whole time I was stressed, overworked and continually feeling like I was one bad test away from flunking out, even though my teachers were all happy with my grades and I loved the classes themselves. Recently, I returned to the topic of learning and skill development, and have heard numerous books and articles on the subject. I started to connect the dots, and what earlier felt like a lottery with varied outcomes, now seemed to me crystal clear why I did well in certain instances and not as well in others. I can see now how unnecessary a lot of my stress in school and college was, because I now understand exactly how our brains learn and process information, and if you follow simple techniques, you can harness that knowledge to do well in school without burning out. I wanted to share this understanding with other students, who like me, are either overworking and stressing themselves out, or are unable to get good grades because their study habits are ineffective. I want students to see that with the right study habits, anyone can get good grades without chaining themselves to the library.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The internet is great for increasing our knowledge and connectivity, but it is also full of distractions. If you have a smartphone, then any number of beeps and buzzes can distract you all day, not to mention the instant availability of endless videos, games and the fun of chatting with friends, and catching up via social media. Given all this, it is almost a miracle that anyone gets anything done! Studies have shown that each year the US economy loses $650 billion to lost productivity every year from employees spending time on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube while at work (Ned Smith, “Distracted Workers Cost U.S. Businesses $650 Billion a Year”, http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/267-distracted-workforce-costs-businesses-billions.html). An article stated that on average, college students spend 3 hours on social media (Jennifer Shore, “Social Media Distractions Cost U.S. Economy $650 Billion”, November 3, 2012, http://mashable.com/2012/11/02/social-media-work-productivity/). A recent study of first-year college students showed that students who spent more time on social media had lower GPAs (Steven W. Glogocheski, Ed.D. “Social media usage and its impact on grade point average and retention: An exploratory study to generate viable strategies in a dynamic higher education learning environment”. Dissertation submitted to St. John’s University, School of Education and Human Services, 2015). At the same time, social media helps us to connect to others, keep up with what’s going on in the lives of our friends and the wider world, and can even help to land internships and jobs. How do we find a balance between being connected and informed, and getting our work done?
Why Multitasking Doesn’t Work
Other than something that you “should do”, why do you need to manage distractions? Experts who have studied the brain have discovered that although we love to think that we can multitask effectively, the truth is that we don’t multitask; we only switch from one task to the other, doing neither of them well. As a New York Times article describing the science behind attention states, “every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources in your brain with important things” (Daniel J. Levitin, “Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain”, The New York Times, August 9, 2014), like figuring out how to complete a problem set, or choosing a topic for an upcoming paper. As previously mentioned in chapter 2, our mind has two modes, and we switch between them when we work. For tasks that require us to pay attention, such as reading a book, driving, listening to a voicemail – these tasks are done in the focus mode and can only be done by the brain one at a time. When we multi-task, for example switching from writing a paper to checking our messages, in essence we suspend the attention we were devoting to the first task, and switch it to the second. It is also more inefficient: studies show that if you are interrupted, it takes twice as long to complete the task, and introduces twice as many errors (Cole, W., et al., “The Multitasking Generation”, Time 167 (2006): 50-53). Each time we switch, we lose the train of thought, and find it difficult to get back to where we were; after being distracted, it takes on average 23 minutes to get back on track. More disturbingly, the longer we work in a distracted manner, the harder it gets for us to focus when we do need to.
This may seem obvious – that we should focus on doing one thing at a time – but very often it isn’t. Maybe you’re studying at home, sitting on your sofa or at your dining table, and your roommate or sibling comes in and puts the TV on. It is your favorite show – so you watch out of the corner of your eye, and before you know it, you start laughing at the jokes and forget about your reading. You decide you really need to get your reading done, so you go up to your room to focus. After a few minutes, your phone buzzes with a message from your friend. You type in a quick reply and get back to your reading. Then you remember that you were supposed to check whether a certain book you need for a class is available at the library, so you open your browser and check. By the time you get back to your reading, you realize you can’t remember a single word you’ve read.
I used to study sometimes with my friends outside our dorm on the grass, sunning ourselves while revising for our exams. It seemed really productive – we sat there for hours with our books open on our laps. However, every few minutes, we would look up to admire cute boys playing a spirited game of Frisbee just a few feet away, sometimes getting up to return an escaped Frisbee disc. Or we would talk to each other. Or get up to get a snack. This clearly wasn’t the most productive way to revise, and yet many students around us were doing the same thing, congratulating themselves on getting a lot of “studying” done on a beautiful day when they would all rather be doing something else.
Working in Focused Mode
As we have already seen in chapter 2, the brain needs to switch on its focus mode to be able to concentrate fully on a task, whether it is solving a math problem, or understanding the causes of an historical event. When we get distracted, or switch to another task, that focus shifts. Then when we try to get back to the original task – it takes some time before we can get back to the point we were at before. That is not to say that we should never take breaks – on the contrary, well-timed breaks can actually help us to find an answer to something when we are stuck (our diffuse mode kicks in and keeps working on the problem), and we often come back to our work refreshed. But constant distractions and interruptions disrupt the thinking process, so that we get less done, and the quality of what we do get done is affected. This means we can spend more time studying, but accomplish less – simply because we are distracted.
The other benefit of focusing without distractions is that we are more easily able to enter the flow state – a state where we are able to almost effortlessly focus on our work, when time flies and we are absorbed in what we are doing (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row, 1990). This is what some athletes call being in the zone. Not only is studying much more enjoyable when we are working in the flow state, but research shows that learning is deeper in this state, and we are able to make connections between what we are studying, and other topics, also known as transfer.
Working Without Distractions
The best way to work with focus is to switch off your phone (or put it on silent or vibrate mode), and decide to work on a specific assignment (read an article, solve a problem set, take notes on a book chapter) for a specific length of time, without interruptions. Ideally, you would be working somewhere with less distractions, somewhere easy to focus, like the library. It helps to decide in advance what you’ll be working on, and also how long. For instance, if you say to yourself, I will work on the math problems for 40 minutes, and then I can take a 10 minute break, then when you feel like checking your phone after half an hour, you can remind yourself that you only need to work for 10 more minutes, after which you can take a break.
You can also break up your work day into periods for different types of work. Some scientists and productive people suggest that it is more efficient to do work that requires blocks of focused thinking, such as writing a paper or preparing for a test, when your mind is fresh and you have no distractions. You can also schedule time in your day, perhaps when your energy is lower, to catch up on social media and email. Instead of being “always on”, it is more effective to work in certain blocks with devices and notifications turned off, knowing that you will have a dedicated social media break later on.
By working in focused bursts, you can actually get more and better quality work done, and complete your work faster, so that you can go ahead and take a break and catch up with friends or update your Instagram without feeling guilty or affecting your schoolwork.
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