School has finally started, which means it’s time to set my 180 day countdown clock once again. To the freshmen who have just entered in the beautiful halls of Upper Merion, welcome. You’re in for a ride. To the sophomores who have one year of experience under their belt, utilize your gleaming potential to the max. To the juniors who are stressing about standardized tests, an important year is ahead of you, but please make sure there are sane moments every once in awhile. And last of all, to the Class of 2018, let’s get it!

Whether you’re an anxious freshmen or a senior already experiencing senioritis, the school year is young and countless tests and essays await you before June 8th rolls around. In the meantime, it may be helpful to know which study tips will be the most effective in making your academic career successful.

We’ve all heard of the phrase “practice makes perfect.” However, sometimes the advice holds false. You’re at a roadblock. In frustration, you ask yourself, “WHY?” when the end result is drastically different from the amount of effort you put in. I’ve been in many similar situations and turns out, I’m not alone.

Research has shown that repetition when studying only works on a select group of people for certain topics. For subjects that require more quantitative calculations (i.e. math and science), constant exposure and application to the lesson at hand form new pathways in your brain. In other words, you are strengthening your brain’s response, which allows for quicker recall when taking a test. Tackling questions that assess cumulative knowledge is best studied with practice.

For subjects that fall under the “fact-recall” category (usually english and social studies), it’s important to realize that the amount of time preparing for a certain exam does not correlate with how well you do on it. It all comes down to how you studied. Was it effective? Did it help the information stick? Will you still remember it even after you take the exam? Most students are (or will become) experts at temporary memorization. They quickly scan the sheet of vocabulary words a period before english class, take the test, then exit the room feeling relieved they passed it – while forgetting everything they had just “learned”. You get that 10/10 and life is good on the Sapphire Portal, but in reality, you essentially just wasted 15 minutes of your time studying for something that, in the end, wasn’t even worth it.

Now imagine the same scenario. Student A is the kid I just described – the one who magically pulled off a perfect score with only 15 minutes of so-called effort. Student B comes into the picture. He studied all night for this test, making flashcards and going over them with his siblings. It’s test time, and his mind goes blank. He mixes up one word, then second-guesses for another, and done. A 6/10. Not terrible, but not exactly great either. So what went wrong?

Both failed to apply. You learn vocabulary not to automatically spit out the word and definition on cue, but to apply it in your writing. This goes the same for all exams. In fact, “studying” for an exam seems almost pointless when you already have the acquired knowledge in your brain through experience.

So, does practice really makes perfect? The answer: yes, depending on how you studied, not how much. If you’re a visual learner and the textbook lingo doesn’t stick, watching videos can clarify your understanding. If you’re a kinetic learner, come up with hand motions to study your ID terms. If you don’t know what type of learner you are, experiment and figure out what works. There is no shortcut to practice, but there is a shortcut to effective practicing. Good luck on your academic journey, and remember: practice does make perfect!

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