Study Skills 101: Studying Long Hours vs Short Hours

STUDY SKILL 101. How to study and score A*/A1 for PSLE and O levels

The argument to do long hours of studying versus short hours

There’s been talks attended by students in schools where they are taught to study 45mins, get a 15min break and go back into studying the next 45. This keeps the mind fresh and helps in clarity and memory work. Makes sense? Supposedly, if you want to see it in a scientific kinda way.

I, however, beg to differ. Because in an exam, its a reality, and reality differs much from a controlled lab experiment.

Here’s my argument. Short bursts of studying are akin to running a 200m race, training for years with low stamina and high energy bursts. Funny thing is, loads of people can run 200m. I can. Definitely. But! Runners that do really well with 200m races will ultimately falter in a marathon of 43km, without a proper training plan, simply because they are never trained that way.

On the other hand, marathoners will never do well in a 200m race, simply because their physiology are solely based on the slow burn of energy, as efficiently as possible and conserving their muscles and energy for the long term.

Here’s our problem, is an exam a marathon? Or is it a 200m race? (for that matter 100m…?)

In the PSLE, an exam takes a week to complete. In the GCE O levels, it is done in the span of a month. Each paper lasts between 1.5-2.5 hours. With a lot of waiting in between that will tire a mind out pretty quickly. That sounds like a marathon to me.

You see, the rule dictates the game. We have to prepare ourselves for a game with the rules that are given. Disobey it, and fail miserably. So Game ON!

Which is why we cannot subscribe to the stupidity of doing 45 mins and resting for 15mins.

Why not? Because no examiners will stop for a break in an exam, and we don’t prepare for a game with a set of rules that we dictate, and then appear in court and play by another set of rules. That is just suicidal. An exam runs longer than 45 mins, and for a good week’s worth of examination. That means our brains will be taxed, which means we need a marathoner’s brain, not a twitchy short distance runner’s brain.

It might all sound scientifically sound to follow the 45mins regime, as much as a 200m sprinter looks like Hercules in the stadium, but is absolutely out of their league in a 43km marathon. I don’t see the point of getting an A1 for Paper 1, then screw up the rest of the exams for the next few weeks just because of a tired mind. That will not help any student much.

So, lets talk about training for the examinations. What do we want to achieve? Here are the goals:

  • Complete all questions correctly
  • Complete all questions on time
  • Complete examination period whilst maintaining peak performance throughout

Solution? Here are some keywords: speed, endurance, stamina, handwork, long hours, mind over body, strength in character.

Complete all questions correctly are based on two important aspects of training, months before the examinations.

  1. learn the curriculum
  2. do all questions pertaining to the examinations

Complete all questions on time are based on the aspect of speed, which has the function of time.

  1. doing questions in examination conditions
  2. timing work and complete within stipulated time
  3. repeat till speed comes naturally
  4. study longer hours, incrementally increasing time spent on studying
  5. train like a marathoner
  6. start small, and pushing the envelop of acceptability to reach full distance

Complete examination whilst maintaining pear performance are functions of stamina and health. This is where the game gets difficult. Make a marathoner repeat the marathon again and again for weeks and still score high for it. How?

for health, stick to routine,

  1. no surprises like attending parties, oversea family visiting
  2. eating junk food, that fried chicken that broke the back
  3. get sick standing next to a sneezing, coughing friend
  4. play extreme games and break a leg, literally
  5. basically do safe, simple, easy, routine stuff during exam periods

for stamina, rest well, conserve energy

  1. get home quick, maybe take a cab home even
  2. rest well and recharge
  3. train for stamina months before by studying long hours
  4. train the brain to handle consistently high level of thinking for long hours
  5. endure the mental pain, build a fortress of a mind
  6. don’t waste too much time revising what you are good at
  7. focus on the weak parts and last details
  8. don’t get distracted or annoyed with siblings, friends, family
  9. find a safe place to study, and warn family members to stay clear of your tyranny
  10. relax your mind, try not to think too much with what is not important
  11. only study for the next paper, and not worry about previous papers
  12. what is done, is done. no point crying over spilt milk
  13. what is too far in the future, you cannot control

Hence, my argument to study long hours. Train like a marathoner. Start small, and then go long. Stamina and endurance does not come easy, but incremental improvements months before an exam, and you see that endurance increase. Build a fortress in your mind, and get stronger, no exams are too difficult.

Be realistic and be the best there is. Don’t subscribe to idiotic studying methods that plays a different set of rules. Or even come up with magical solutions that might blow up in your face. Stay grounded and understand your capabilities. A large proportion of the population can run a 200m race, which probably is fine for a lot of us, but to be the best in a marathon, only a small proportion can run a competitive timing for it. That takes a lot of commitment and planning. Funny thing is, a lot of us can do that too, if we fully commit ourselves to the task.

Unfortunately, that is the rule needed for the PSLE and GCE O levels. A strong, highly enduring and full of stamina mind. It is not for the faint hearted, but plan carefully and train for it,  it will be an achievable goal and a successful charge at the end.

About the writer, eduKate Punggol Tutor Yuet Ling:

Tutor Yuet Ling is a seasoned Shentonista, training and leading staff to achieve goals by setting up strategies that works in the real world. Understanding human nature dictates that individual characters do not necessarily follow scientific rules or social norms that leads to a predictable outcome. Hence the structure for any studying strategy in eduKate Punggol has to be based on a spectator sport, rather than being an audience in a movie. We train our students with the intimate knowledge of the rules of PSLE, GCE O level, and we play to win, imparting a competitive attitude on our students during tuition. Know the rules, play the game.

For more of our classes, kindly contact Yuet Ling, +65 82226327

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