How to Study Effectively in Secondary School

Studying in Secondary school is not very easy. There are multiple subjects to handle on a daily basis and it can really get overwhelming. It not handled properly one may see your grades slip from an A to a F easily. I’m not kidding it has been a right of passage for some students to move from excellent grades to seeing a failure mark on their report book for half the subjects they are currently studying when they cross over from Primary to Secondary school. Doggie boy experience that first hand when he was in Secondary one back then having failed nearly half of his subjects Monkey boy, on the other hand, has always been a straight A student and never had any major difficulties studying. He managed to get 8As when he took his O -Levels 2 years ago and graduated top 10 of his cohort. Doggie boy just sat for his N-Levels this year (2022) and has qualified to apply for PFP come 2023.

Both boys have different learning styles and what works for Monkey boy does not work for Doggie boy. Therefore it was with some difficult before Doggie boy found a method that worked for him. Using his own customized method he managed to improve his grades from C to A for most subjects. I will be sharing what he has used for himself next.

What study method will work for my child ?

There isn’t one full proof method which will work for EVERY child. One will have to firstly assess what the child’s dominant method of learning. Is he a Visual learner, an Auditory learner or a Tactile learner?

Learning Style Chart

There are a few different websites which offer free quizzes to judge your learning style . I recommend that you do let your child try out one if he is unsure what type of learner he is. Once the learning style is determined it would be easier for one to choose the correct tools to enhance their learning. More than often I have seen children with a mixture of two different learning styles- visual and auditory. For such students I normally use a lot of visuals and vocal repetition during classes to enhance their retention of information taught.

Monkey boy is a very visual learner so he can comprehend things after reviewing it on his own without much effort. He sets up his own revision schedule and goes through what is taught weekly so that there is a higher rate of retention. There is no fixed schedule for him but he keeps abreast with his studies effortlessly. He is still maintaining straight A’s now in his chosen tertiary course. He is currently on the Dean’s list being the top of his cohort and it’s the 2nd year running that he is on full scholarship.

Doggie boy on the other hand is one who is auditory. He is constantly reading out to himself what he has been taught so he can internalize it better. You can hear him talking to himself when he is studying or planning. He thrives on a rigid schedule and will plan everything down to a T weekly to ensure that everything gets done on time. Being laser focus works for him as I have seen his grades improved leaps and bounds. He used to struggle with certain subjects when he was in secondary 1 and 2. However when he entered secondary 3 he altered his way of studying and I’ve seen him go from failing grades to getting even A’s for subjects that were once his worst. 2021 was the first year that he received his Edusave Scholarship for being within the top 10% of the cohort. This year(2022) he received the Edusave scholarship again and even top the cohort achieving the Top student status in school with his N-Level results. He is the 2nd top student in our family. Hopefully Tiger girl too will be able to become a Top Student too in time to come.

Are there tools to help my child plan his study schedule?

There are many online tools which one can use for scheduling. The common ones which most people use are

Time tree is my go to app for listing down appointments and meetings that I have to keep track off on a daily basis. I like that it is in a monthly/ weekly setup and there are more colours that I can play around with to ensure that I keep on top of mine and the kids schedules. The kids can also key in their important dates and I assign each of them their own calendars which I have incorporated on the master(mine) .

Doggie boy used Google calendar for his own scheduling needs and it has worked well for him. On top of using this app he sets a 25 minute Pomodoro timer to make sure he keeps on task while carrying out the activity that is assigned. He has found it very useful for keeping focus and it also allows him to schedule in some down time in between study sessions. Everyday he goes through his to-do-list on Habitica before checking his Google calendar on the specifics to tackle. This routine keeps him disciplined and has proven to maintain his productivity.

If your child needs additional help for time management you can check out these other online tools
Power planner
My homework student planner

These online planners are more in detail and can add on notes about the different homework due, assignments and set aside study blocks for each subject. There are loads of other online apps which can use to enhance productivity. You would just need to search for them on the internet to find one that suits you. It may take awhile before your child is able to find a system that works for him

After personally seeing the two boys pass through secondary school in two different streams I have a better idea of how it is based on the perception of a student. Monkey boy was in Express stream in an all boys school while Doggie boy went to the Normal Academic stream in a neighbourhood school. Tiger girl will be starting her Secondary school journey come 2023 and it will be my another new experience for me as she will be in the Express stream in a neighbourhood school. In my next post I will be talking more about Elite schools vs Neighbourhood schools. Stay tuned.

Posts in the Series so far :
1) Surviving the Secondary Years (Introduction Post)

2) From 4 to 8 subjects

3)How to Study Effectively in Secondary School

From 4 to 8 subjects in Secondary School

Moving from 4 to 8 subjects

Congradulations you have just finished your PSLE and successfully entered secondary school. It is no longer a hand holding 1st day of school for you. Nope, your parents can’t and won’t be around on standby to see if you are adapting well to the new environment and there is no buddy for you now.

You are 12 turning on 13 and it is time to exert your independence. You have to handle navigating this new study environment by yourself. It is all up to you now. Good luck!!

Looking at the number of subjects that one has to take in secondary 1 can be mind boggling. From four examinable subject you now have 8 examinable subjects to handle. The addition of subjects like Geography, History, Literature, Food and Consumer Education and Design and Technology can be overwhelming. You may ask how do they fit in so many subjects within the existing time table. To figure out this question let us look at the typical week time table.

A Primary 6 Time Table.

As you can see above the typical school day starts from 7.45am to 1.30pm on most days. On the day that the students have CCA they are dismissed 15 minutes earlier to facilitate lunch and change over. The majority of the lesson time in a day is distributed between English, Maths and Mother Tongue ( Mandarin, Tamil or Malay). Now compare with the time table of a lower secondary student below.

A Lower Secondary Time Table

It gets more complicated once your child enters secondary school. The time table is now split into even week and odd weeks where there will be slight changes in the time table. With the addition of home based learning(HBL) one day every forthright it is amazing how both the students and teachers can keep track on what is to be scheduled for the week. I certainly be stressed out trying to juggle the ever changing schedule on a weekly basis. It is really mind boggling.

Since there isn’t a great extension of periods in the time table there is lesser time allocated to the 4 core subjects (English, Maths, Science, Mother Tongue) with the addition of Geography, History, Literature , Food and Consumer Education/ Design & Technology. Independent learning is emphasied and strongly encouraged. This is a challenge for most students as they are so used to have everything planned for them. They are not use to taking charge, design and follow a self-designed schedule. It is certainly stressful and many find it hard to cope. What then can we do to prepare our child for these changes?

Study Tips

  1. Review your work weekly.
    At the end of the week do look through what has been taught. It does help to make notes of keywords and concepts that have to be memorised to make it easier for one to focus on for the subject.
  2. Do a learning planner
    What I have found effective for myself and my students is to set aside at least half and hour to an hour a day to do the following
    – check off items on the to-do-list which was set for the day.
    -review the difficult concepts/ problems that were handled on the day.
    – block off hours in a week for learning and review.

It may take time to get use to the adjustments in the school time table and to develop new effective routines. Give your child a few months to settle down once you enter secondary school. The time taken to adjust properly will certainly help them and they won’t be so stressed after awhile.

In the next post I will be sharing with you the apps and videos that my boys have been using to keep on top of things during their secondary school education.

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Posts in the Series so far :
1) Surviving the Secondary Years (Introduction Post)

2) From 4 to 8 subjects

3)How to Study Effectively in Secondary School