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Teenagers studying togetherEach of the points below actually deserve an entire article all to themselves. But the purpose of this article is to remind us of the fundamental elements of effective study – the tenets of studying that we all need to keep in mind, especially when our teens are facing a challenge (struggling at school, feeling unmotivated, feeling overwhelmed).

1. Studying is a learnt skill, so why don’t we treat it like one?

It’s one of the reasons that inspired us to start The Study Gurus, and I’m sure it’s something that baffles you as well — the education system does not recognise, or at least acknowledge, that studying is a learnt skill.

Remember this when your teen is completely disheartened because they don’t know where to start with their study or when they get a disappointing grade, because most of the time, when teens are in this situation, it’s not their fault. They’re being forced to comply with an outdated education system that treats every student the exact same way; expects them to all digest information in the same way, and expects them to inherently know what it takes to prepare for and sit exams.

This isn’t for one second having a go at teachers. They’ve got enough on their plates. This is having a go at the system teachers themselves are forced to work within the confines of.

So, what are we to do? Well, we need to recognise that while a few lucky ones take to studying like ducks to water, the rest of us need teaching, guidance and support as we develop our study skills, just as we do in the course of acquiring any other practical skill.

Of course your teen will only reach their academic potential when they are ultimately driven from within, but we must not expect them to get there on their own.

2. Your teen is unique and so is their Study Formula

Let’s state this as plainly as possible: There is no one way to become a good studier and to get good grades. We are complex beings, and the way that each of us process and retain information varies person to person. Of course, there will be study skills that are almost always beneficial to utilise in the course of exam study (eg writing study notes, looking at practice exams), but the nuanced approach to studying and exam preparation of the individual student will be unique to them.

We call this unique approach each student has to their study, their Study Formula.

Every student’s Study Formula should be the beating heart of their study practice. A Study Formula is the unique study process a student undertakes as they study and prepare for exams. It’s made up of all the study techniques you use from the moment you start studying, right up until you put your pen down at the end of the exam.

The absolute key to learning, to studying effectively, and to consistently getting the grades you’re capable of, is figuring out your Study Formula, and applying it every time you study and prepare for exams.

Students who get consistently good grades know what their Study Formula is, and they approach studying in a purposeful and systematic way.

It’s the job of every student (with the support of their family) to figure out what their Study Formula is, and to apply it and hone it.

3. Time management isn’t just about efficiency

Time management is a very boring term, but by golly it’s an important part of studying.

Without developing your time management skills alongside your ‘hard’ study skills, you may as well not answer 40% of your exam papers, because time management isn’t just about making aesthetically pleasing timetables. Time management affects not only the quantity of study you can achieve — it also has a huge impact on the quality of your study.

More often than not, when a student is struggling for seemingly no particular reason, the first thing to ask is, how are their time management skills? Are they appreciating the importance that time management has on the success of their study?! Have they thought about how they’re using their time? How are they structuring their study sessions? Do they prepare Exam Timetables before exams?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘dunno‘, well then you need to look no further for one of, if not the, cause of a student’s study woes.

Time management is connected to all parts of studying — our motivation, our organisation, our efficiency, our productivity, and these things all feed off each other, so having good time managements skills creates a positive feedback loop where effective study begets effective study.

How your teen manages their time when they’re studying, when they’re preparing for exams, and when they’re actually sitting their exams, should be a crucial part of their unique Study Formula.

Why this stuff matters so damn much

I want to drill these three fundamental elements of effective study into your teen’s brain, because it’s very easy for all of us to get caught up in the complexities of life and for teens (and parents) to become overwhelmed by the demands of modern high school life. It’s easy to forget that, at its core, effective study does not need to be complex and should not elude as many students as it does.

If it were better appreciated (especially by the education system) that studying is a learnt skill and that we all study most effectively in our own unique way, how many fewer high school teens would be struggling at high school? I say thousands.

Alas, while we wait for the world to catch up, let’s help our teens filter out all of the unhelpful noise and re-focus on what matters so they can get down to business and reach their academic potential.



Photo credit: School photo created by ijeab –


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