4 Tips for Studying Difficult Subject Matter

The cram session checklist: pot of coffee, laptop, scratch paper, a stack of books from the library, and a fevered desperation to finish an assignment due the next morning. Does this sound familiar to you at all? If it does, you may want to consider changing your study habits. Because whether you’re in school, or out in the “real world,” everyone faces difficult assignments from time to time. And developing solid habits for how to deal with them is paramount to your long-term success. Fortunately, here are four steps you can take that’ll help you tackle even the most perplexing material:

Ask Questions

It’s an unfortunate phenomenon, but the times when we need to ask questions most, tend to be when we want to ask them least. Fear of embarrassment or ridicule has precluded many a student from asking simple questions that could’ve cleared up a major issue they encountered later on. So if you don’t know what a luer adapter is, or why Dylan Thomas is important –– ask someone who does. There’s no shame in not knowing something, just make sure you put it right and find out.

Budget Your Time

Every teacher from the beginning of time has warned of the perils of procrastination. So how do you plan your time better to avoid making this fatal mistake? For some, it may be beneficial to map out your day –– down to the minute or hour if you have to. Hold yourself accountable and you’ll find the work will come easier. This is especially important for projects that take a long time, like giving a speech, or writing a college-level research paper.

Ditch the Study Group

As noted earlier, there’s nothing wrong with reaching out to a trusted source when you don’t understand a concept. But there’s no reason to think that joining a study group with friends or classmates is going to improve your individual performance. Learning difficult subject matter is all about solving problems on your own. There are no study groups at the office –– so getting used to doing things independently is critical for your development as a person, not just a student. 

Old-Fashioned Hard Work

Sometimes there’s no easy answer to a difficult question. When you find yourself faced with an uphill task, the best way to complete it is simply to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Whether you’re designing a car engine from scratch or reading Infinite Jest, some assignments are just plain tough. Don’t get discouraged, though. Many times in life, the more arduous the work is, the more satisfying the pay off will be when you complete it.