Smart Students Do This One Thing That Average Students Don’t | The Smart Student’s Guide

Picture this – Trudging through endless english vocabulary, grammar exercises and spending hours on assessment books but to no avail.

Results day arrives – the grades have not budged since the previous exam.

Disappointment ensues. Progress starts to seem elusive and intangible; a never-ending quest.

As it turns out, what you might have actually needed was a little tweaking in your sentencing structure and essay structure. As a result, your essays took a heavy hit.

When it comes to trying to do better at their studies, many students frequently presume that the solution is to do additional practice questions in the subjects they are weak at. These attempts are occasionally at best a matter of hits and misses.

Only one or two subjects might benefit from such mechanical practice but the other subjects either stagnate or bear the brunt of their lack of strategic planning. Furthermore, the wrong issues get more attention and as such, weaker areas are neglected.

Many students underestimate the importance of this first step at improving: taking stock of your studies.

key to doing well

What is meant by taking stock?
Taking stock means finding out as much as possible about your current status. Think of it as your academic dashboard. A driver has his dashboard in front of him telling him all the essential details he needs such as how much fuel is left or what speed he is currently cruising at. Likewise, your academic dashboard will help you get a good overview of what is going on. You would be relying on information like past exam results for each subject and charts that indicate your progress as the year goes by.

Basically, this is understanding where your knowledge gaps in each subject are and working to bridge them. 

Why should I take stock?
Just like how cruising at a speed that is over the speed limit might cost you a fine, ignoring essential details about your current academic status might cost you a grade or two.

The best students are the ones who, given the limited time they have, make the most of it. They spend their days wisely and strategically. Improving in your subjects boils down to allocating the right amount of time to the right subjects. Not only that, you would want to be working on the right things within each subject. A student who uses details from his dashboard to make strategic decisions is way ahead of his peers who go about doing so haphazardly.

The more aware you are of yourself, your study habits and attitudes towards learning and studying, the better equipped you will be to improve.

taking stock

How can I do it?
The very first step to improving is to do a rigorous self-assessment. No, we do not mean to do assessment books by yourself rigorously. We mean to go through a process of self reflection and ask yourself questions so as to be able to understand yourself better.

Take stock of where you are right now. The idea is be able to get a bird’s eye view of how you are faring for each subject.

A common way is to use an A3 sized sheet and different colored markers. Divide the sheet up into the number of subjects you have at the moment. Otherwise, if you are technologically savvy, go ahead and load up a new spreadsheet.

Now comes the important part; the contents. Chart out your progress over the past few examinations. Within each subject, list down all the different components and rate them according to how confident you are at them and also how well you perform for each of them. Dedicate some time to do a post mortem study of your past papers if you have to. 

For example in Math, give each topic and subtopic a self-assessed rating of how confident you are. List down the common mistakes you always make.
Questions you should be seeking to find answers to are :

– Are there any gaps in the fundamental concepts of each topic?
– What are my common mistakes?
– How careless am I?
– What should I be focusing on this time round for the upcoming exam?
– What are some feedback that I have received in the past from my tutors and/or teachers?

If you do find yourself needing help in getting answers to the above questions, seek it from a teacher or your tuition teacher.

I have all the details. Now what?
Now that all the details you may possibly need are in front of you, rank your subjects according to which is in most dire need of attention. Figure out if more time should be spent on it and lesser on other subjects. Figure out what which subtopics are the ones with issues. Figure out how to address the issues within each sub topic.


Perhaps you happen to lose up to 20 marks per examination due to carelessness in your workings. As such, make a conscientious effort to double check every step of the way. Aim to reduce the number of marks lost to carelessness by half. Make informed decisions based on the information you have at hand.

Understand also that it is a process of fine tuning and finding out your studying styles. As time goes by, review if you have taken the right steps for past preparations. Smart students do stock taking from time to time and even consult their tutors to get advise if they have to, so as to ensure that they are on the right trajectory towards their goals.