Unstable foundations: The importance of learning materials first time round

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According to personal development expert Steve Pavlina, college students are wasting time by failing to properly learn the material presented to them in class each week. The period of studying before exams should be treated as an opportunity to recap on learning and never to understand a topic for the first time.

Pavlina likens the failure to learn an important topic or concept at the time it is first taught to a serious bug in a software development project. In the majority of cases it would be advisable to fix a bug immediately as waiting until the end of a project to address the problem would result in 50x as much complexity. The same can be seen of the learning process.

A student who fails to learn a topic or concept at the time they are supposed to creates an unstable foundation upon which they then proceed to pile increasingly more complex topics and concepts without ever really understanding them. By the time that student gets to the end of a particular study period, they find themselves lost and confused with nothing but a few weeks and a bit of cramming to help them. Light bulb moment! If a student failed to learn something first time round when they had sufficient time to do so, expecting to learn it as part of a cramming period is more than a bit optimistic.

Learning something properly first time round has the added benefit that you are surrounded by fellow college students who are looking at the exact same information. If just one of those students can explain something to you the way they understand it, that might be all that’s needed for the elusive penny to drop. The same goes for your college professor. They’ll be much more willing to help you if they are teaching a subject at the time. Coming back to them weeks or months later and explaining that you didn’t fully understand something first time round will only serve to frustrate those who are going all out to impart their knowledge on a daily basis.

It’s incredibly counter productive to leave things to the last minute. Pavlina explains that toward the end of the year C grade students tend to work harder than A grade students. Sounds bizarre? It’s not. The C grade students are flat out trying to learn stuff they should have fully understood ages ago. The A grade students have a little reading of their notes to do to refresh what they fully understood at the point they were first introduced to it.

Knowing your stuff first time round and aiming for A grades for each subject makes life at college infinitely easier and a lot less stressful as opposed to it becoming increasingly incomprehensible. It kind of makes sense not to skip that lecture now, doesn’t it?

To read more top tips for students courtesy of Steve Pavlina, visit his blog, Personal Development for Smart People.

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