Not once have I ever met someone who enjoyed every single class that they have taken. Most people have at least one or two subjects in school that they simply don't like. This can make test taking in these subjects much more difficult, even if the course itself is not particularly challenging. In this article I hope to provide a few tips for how I personally got through studying for subjects that I hated in school.
1. Make a Game Out Of Studying
This one was huge for me. You have probably heard of the term “gamification”. Gamification is the process of making a game out of something that isn’t usually fun or interesting, like studying. I have a specific genre of games in mind when I think of studying, and that is the roleplaying genre. Most roleplaying games have a way of advancing your avatar with experience points. Gaining experience points allows the character to move up in the game world, and to get rewarded for succeeding.
So why not apply the concepts of a roleplaying game to studying for your upcoming test? Here is what I did for a biology test in high school once (By the way, I hated biology). Before I began to study, I created a chart of experience points complete with levels of achievement written next to them. It ranged from 1 to 1000 experience points, and at every interval of 100 (200, 300, etc.) I would write a reward for that level. If I reached level 1 (100 points), I would reward myself with something small, like a glass of chocolate milk.
The levels would be progressively more rewarding, with a level 10 reward being something big, like a pair of new shoes. Of course, these kinds of rewards are not always sustainable… rewarding yourself like that can get costly and you might need to get creative with the prizes. Find things that are nice little treats that you will be excited to work for.
To gain points in my system, I would assign scores for certain tasks. These would be my “quests”, just like in a roleplaying game. For example, one task might be to read a full chapter of the textbook, which would be worth 10 points; answering a practice question, worth 5; and creating or completing a practice test would be worth 25 points. When I completed the task, I would add the points to my overall chart. I started to have a lot of fun creating and designing different systems, and creating challenges that would add extra points to my score was oddly satisfying. I often forgot that I was studying for a test!
Feel free to assign different values depending on how much you dislike the task. Perhaps for your math class, solving a certain type of problem may challenge you more than another type. Reward yourself with points according to your own preferences.
It may take a few moments for you to design a system similar to this one, but if you’re creative and can get over this small step, it may make your study sessions more pleasurable. The nice thing about this is that you start to work hard for the satisfaction of earning points and gaining rewards, and you start to forget about how much you dislike the subject. Try it; you could even have fun while studying!
2. Trick Yourself!
This tip might be a little hard to swallow. You might wonder how you can simply pretend to like a subject when you clearly don’t. However, if you don’t enjoy a subject and you keep telling yourself that you hate it, it will become harder and harder to study and prepare for a big test.
Let’s look at something else for a second. It is a well-known fact that if you force yourself to laugh, eventually you will actually begin to laugh for real. It is the same deal with seeing other people laugh. It’s hard to resist cracking a smile when you see a close friend rolling on the floor with laughter, even when you didn’t find the original joke to be all that funny!
Now, try to apply these two things to studying for a subject you hate. First, get yourself in a mindset of love for whatever the subject is that you are dealing with. If it’s English, pretend to be a passionate poet or writer. Maybe its chemistry—why not imagine yourself as a world renowned chemist? Think like these people would think, and feel the passion that these people would feel for the subject. That’s right… gently force yourself to love the work at hand and then, just like with laughter, you might actually begin to like the subject a little bit.
Now, onto the people you surround yourself with. When studying, resist the urge to study in groups of people that share your opinion of the subject. You might be able to support each other through the tough time, but a more likely situation is that you will begin talking about why the subject is so awful, or why you hate it so much. Then, just like before, it will become harder to continue studying for the test. As an alternative, you could explain to the group about the above method of gamification. Perhaps, if you have a group that is willing to try the game, it could be fun AND productive. If you surround yourself with laughing people, you will begin to a laugh too. If you are always studying with frowning people, you will frown. It’s just human nature.
3. Organize Your Study Time
As you have probably heard, a little studying often is much better than a night of cramming. This is so much more important when you hate the subject that you are dealing with. If you really don’t like this subject, then you probably don’t want to be spending more than an hour at a time studying it anyways. Save yourself the stress and just break the work load into small chunks and spread it over the time you have until the exam.
Now, if this is the night of the exam/test, then drink some water, take a short walk, and pull out a piece of paper. Divide the units and chapters of the subject into bullet points. Indicate the areas that you feel the weakest in. Set a time to go to bed (you aren’t going to be pulling an all-nighter, right?) and create a schedule. Don’t forget to intersperse a few breaks; they don’t need to be long. Set a timer, and buckle down. Follow the schedule like clockwork and try not to waste any time. This is how you organize your study time.
4. Beat Studying Procrastination With STING
We all know that the biggest challenge to studying for any subject is procrastination. The art of dealing with procrastination is already very available on the internet, and you can probably find several resources for fighting it. However, over the years, I have found a method that is great at beating procrastination especially when it comes to subjects at school. This is called the STING method, which stands for:
Select one task
Ignore everything else
Give yourself a reward
This method is already a little bit at work if you decide to make your study session into a game like I described earlier. However, this method on its own is very quick to implement. Example: if you have a long list of chemistry questions, then SELECT one of them, TIME how fast you can complete it (or try to beat a preset time), IGNORE any other questions (for now), don’t take any breaks, and immediately reward yourself if you complete the question within the selected time limit. Try the other questions on the list and beat your own record.
If you are anything like me, then you find it harder to retain information on a subject that you can’t stand. If you don’t know how to do a certain type of question or if you repeatedly fail to complete the question in time, then maybe you need to change the task to reading and understanding the material first. The STING method can be applied to absolutely anything to do with studying, from essay writing to finishing a set of math problems. Don’t be afraid to modify the method if it isn’t working for you.
I hope that the few tips I have provided have encouraged you to get past the feelings you have for a subject. Try and combine the methods from above for the best results, and always look for ways to improve your own personal study system. You can never be sure…maybe after using the methods outlined above a few times; you might start to like the subject after all!