Have you ever read the story of The Hare and the Tortoise? It is a delightful children’s story of a race between two animal friends who each are confident of their ability to win a race. The Hare sets off to a speedy start and covers a significant amount of territory before deciding he has enough of a head start on the Tortoise that he can stop for a rest. He settles under a shady tree and enjoys a nap, confident that he can sprint to the finish line well before the Tortoise can catch up to him.
The Tortoise leaves the start line slowly plodding along the race path. Though not a flashy racer, he keeps a steady pace and remains focused on getting to the finish line. He passes the sleeping Hare and soon sees the finish line looming in the distance. As the Tortoise is within steps of crossing the finish line and winning the race, the Hare wakes up. He realizes he needs to make a spirited sprint to overtake the Tortoise. Unfortunately, the Hare’s panicked dash for the finish line is “too little too late”. The Tortoise, although a long shot, wins the race and the brazen, confident Hare is left humiliated and searching for an explanation for his loss.
There are many analogies that can be drawn between the race strategies of the story characters and long-term, short-term, and panic study schedules.
Long-term Study Schedules generally are implemented well in advance of exam time and require you to set aside regular study time on an on-going basis. Like the Tortoise a slow and steady approach helps to win the race. The advantage of a long-term study schedule is that once you establish your study routine, it is quite easy to maintain – and shorter, regular periods of study give you the most benefit!
Short-term Study Schedules are often implemented several days or weeks before an exam and require you to prioritize the time you spend on each topic or concept. It may be difficult to find a “starting point”. Do you focus on the things that are most important in the subject or on the concepts that are most challenging to you? Like the Hare, your focus may change before the end of the race. You may skim over content that you feel you have a firm understanding of in favor of focusing on topics that feel less confident about. Your focus may not be as consistent or as strong as it needs to be for the duration of your study or exam preparation time. The advantage of a short-term study schedule is that you gain a sense of confidence as you “check off” the topics and concepts you feel confident about.
Panic Study Schedules usually happen “the night before” the exam – when you realize that you do not have enough time to adequately prepare for your exam. Although this study schedule requires the least amount of time commitment, it rarely allows you to achieve your potential. Like the Hare, leaving too much to the end makes it impossible to finish what needs to be done. However, any effort is better than doing nothing.
To achieve the grades you want requires effort on your part. A long-term study schedule gives you the best chance for success. A short-term study schedule may work well in a course where you have a strong understanding of the concepts. A Panic Study Schedule is better than not studying at all but may not help you to achieve your course goals over the semester or school year.
Does your study strategy resemble the race strategy of the Hare or the Tortoise?
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