2017 – 2018 Scholarship Entry – Test Preparation Essay
Test Preparation Inc. Scholarship
For as long as I can remember, I have had a burning curiosity for the mysterious complexities of the human mind. Throughout high school, I excelled in both biological and social sciences with a profound interest in psychology. Although I continued to exceed myself in academic life, it grew increasingly apparent that the work I put in to achieve straight A’s was not proportionate to the outcome. I studied hard, just as if not more so than my fellow peers who similarly achieved academic excellence. Though I knew doing well in school does not necessarily translate to compromising my social or extracurricular life, altering my habits seemed too overwhelming of a prospect. As I continued to fill out my time table with an increasing array of activities from sports to community service, choir and student council, I realized that my inefficient study habits simply would not accommodate. It wasn’t until my last year of high school, continuing into University that I decided to make a change; it was time to do the research.
My objective was clear and simple: study better, not longer. Of course, it’s always easier said than done. Nonetheless, I valued my education and drew upon my inborn curiosity and desire for maximizing my academic success. With a major in behavioural sciences, the science of learning played an ever-increasing role in my life as a student. There is something particularly rewarding about being able to directly apply the knowledge I acquire through my classes and through research to every-day life. After reading multiple papers, attending lectures and conducting my own personal experiments, the three main study methods that I have found to have the greatest positive impact on helping me reach my objective are analogies; the spacing effect; and collaboration.
As I learned more about the workings of human memory from my course in cognition, imagery became and increasingly popular topic of discussion. I consider myself to be have a fairly imaginative mind. I enjoy creative writing and visual art, so I thought I would play to my strengths and integrate that mode of thinking into study habits. Analogies are by far one of my favorite study tools, particularly in science fields. Even the process of developing a clever mnemonic or anthropomorphizing a demanding scientific concept- for instance, the elements from the periodic table, engages a deeper mode of thinking. Humans are pretty good at comprehending human-like phenomena, it’s evolutionarily important, a component of our innate social condition. We know ourselves well so why not draw on that knowledge to make new connections to other more foreign domains of thought? Creating an analogy allows us to convert big overwhelming concepts into more familiar pieces of information.
Familiarity and frequency is key in this next test prep strategy. The spacing effect is not only effective but also incredibly simple. It is as it sounds- learning increases when spaced out, as our brains are given more time to consolidate information. It’s a concept that to many does not appear intuitive, however, it is proven to be far more successful than its common counterpart- cramming. The philosophy behind the spacing effect is one of those golden rules; although late is better than never, why not just start early? Small chunks of review spread out over a longer period of time will save you sweat, tears and headaches when prepping for a big test or final exam.
I’ll admit, even someone who finds joy in learning runs into mental roadblocks. Sometimes class material is just too dry to sugar-coat with a fun mnemonic. At times like these, I often seek out my classmates and not just to confide in. My third go-to study tool is collaboration; here’s when social skills become study skills. As the old saying goes, ‘two heads are better than one.’ So long as the topic of discussion is the material you’re studying, collaborating with classmates is a great method for a few different reasons: it helps fill in existing gaps of knowledge; reaffirms what you already know and speeds up the problem-solving process. Working with others is also a great way to alleviate stress and avoid feelings of isolation.
Effective study habits are crucial to achieving success in both one’s professional life as well as one’s personal life. As I learned the hard way, being ambitious is not always enough if you don’t have the right resources to propel you onwards and upwards. Sometimes, knowing how to learn is just as important as learning itself.