Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a difficult subject. I’m not advocating that all high school students take AP Physics and all college students take advanced organic chemistry. I didn’t take either of those courses, and I came out fine.
Instead, I’m referring to courses that seem difficult to you based on your personal skill level, strengths, and interests. Tips for Taking Difficult Exams Classes apply to any class that you believe is difficult, regardless of its actual level.
A course is difficult if:
- To understand the material, you must hear it explained several times.
- The teacher’s explanations of the material are insufficient, and you should use YouTube or Google to reinforce most concepts.
- You must meet with the teacher more than once per week to review the material.
- Despite your best efforts, you received a C or lower.
You may not need to employ all ten of the suggestions listed below. Perhaps only a few are required. That decision is entirely up to you and is determined by how much you struggle in your difficult subject (es).
- Stay extremely well-organized
If you’re disorganized, all classes become significantly more difficult. From the first day of class, you must commit to a system for keeping track of your notes, files, papers, and assignment deadlines.
- Get ready for classes
We understand the material better if we are exposed to it beforehand, thanks to a cool learning phenomenon known as priming. As a result, preparing for difficult subjects is a critical tip for surviving difficult subjects.
Here are my top three class preparation tips. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “But Katie!” I don’t have time to study for my classes!” Consider this: the more you prepare for the more difficult the class, the better you will understand the concepts, which means you will spend less time doing homework and studying for tests.
- Look for gaps and fuzzies.
This is one of the most important pointers for taking difficult subjects. And, despite my odd phrasing, this tip is critical. The ability to identify exactly what is confusing at the moment it becomes unclear is critical to taking and succeeding in difficult subjects. Everything will be confusing if you do not pause to identify when things become confusing.
Here are some pointers to help you identify gaps and fuzzies in your understanding:
Stop reading difficult text when you begin to zone out. Reread from the point where you got lost focus. If necessary, look things up on Google.
When the teacher says something that confuses you in class, raise your hand and ask for clarification.
When taking notes on a lecture or a reading, use a question mark when something doesn’t make sense to you. Then devise a strategy for locating the answer.
- Take careful notes
Always take notes on difficult subjects. The more difficult the class, the more critical it is to take notes. By taking notes, you encourage your brain to experiment with and think about the material. This is how we interpret events. In addition, you’re more likely to zone out in difficult subjects, so taking notes increases your chances of staying focused.
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- Begin studying earlier than you would like.
This advice may irritate you. But you’re reading this post because you want to make things better, right? Studying for exams in difficult subjects takes longer because you frequently have to teach yourself some of the material along the way.
Most tests require at least 5 days of preparation. Here’s my 5-day study plan, with detailed instructions for each day.
- Group studies
Studying in groups is not for everyone, and that’s fine. However, for particularly difficult courses, it is a good idea to schedule at least one group study session prior to big tests. You are hearing when you study in a group.
People your age discuss and explain the concepts you’re struggling with. You’re having discussions about the material rather than being lectured by a professional. This assists you in working through complex information that you are unable to process on your own.
If you’re going to plan a group study session, please promise to start with these group study session tips.
- Obtain additional assistance
If you’re taking a difficult subject and have tried (really tried) to learn the material on your own but are still struggling, you need to seek additional assistance. You may not want to, but that isn’t really the point.
Can you schedule a regular weekly check-in meeting with your teacher, either before or after school?
or perhaps after school? Can you afford to hire an outside tutor just for that one difficult subject? Is there a peer tutoring program at your school? I’m guessing yes to at least one of those questions.
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- Make inquiries
If you don’t ask questions, you won’t get answers. I understand that raising your hand in every class can feel strange, but do it anyway. As a former high school teacher, I can tell you that teachers appreciate it when their students ask questions! But, seriously. The worst thing you can do in difficult subjects is not to ask questions and sit silently in agony.
When you’re confused, here are some questions you can ask:
Could you answer these clarification questions?
Could you please explain that again, or in a different way?
Here are some examples of questions: Could you please provide us with another example?
Please repeat questions: Could you please repeat that? I didn’t notice it the first time.
Questions about explanation: Could you please elaborate?
- Be resourceful.
The further you progress in school, the more you are expected to figure things out on your own. When you get stuck on something, you’re expected to think creatively and come up with a solution. This is also true for taking difficult courses: if you’re in college and the content is difficult, the professor is there to help, but they’ll expect you to try to solve the problem on your own first.
Here are some examples of resourcefulness:
Googling what you want I’m not sure
Watching YouTube videos to help clarify difficult concepts
Requesting assistance from peers
Attempting to answer textbook questions even when you are not assigned to do so
Furthermore, here are my best strategies for figuring things out, especially when those “things” are extremely difficult.
Three final pointers for taking difficult subjects
In addition to the ten suggestions listed above, consider the following:
If all of your classes are exceedingly difficult, it may be a matter of quantity. In other words, are you taking too many difficult courses, making them all appear difficult?
If you’ve tried everything to succeed in a class and still aren’t succeeding, you might consider dropping down a level. There is no shame in lowering one’s standards to an extent when you’re mental state is at peril.
Hard courses should always be scheduled in advance. If you participate in a fall sport, you should postpone your difficult subject until the spring semester. Take your difficult subject first semester if you have a spring job. All of the other things going on in our lives outside of the course can make classes appear more difficult than they are.