Getting a First Class: Consistency

I haven’t been writing in my “Getting a First Class” series of posts for a long time. In short, I wasn’t consistent and people couldn’t get the knowledge and tips that I have in my head. This meant that I couldn’t achieve my goal of sharing information so that others could learn. While this is a lousy example of how inconsistency meant that you don’t achieve your goals, sadly it is an important rule that could result in your GPA dropping.

A university semester is about 13 weeks long in Singapore. It is broken down into two terms of about 7 and 6 weeks respectively. You need to be consistent near the start of the semester so that you are able to achieve results with minimal effort – and you don’t need to spend extra hours cramming at the end of the semester.

It is difficult to write about how to be consistent in your studying. This is something that you have to be conscious about to do. Most people, however, have subconsciously grown used to having the bad habit of not being consistent and leaving all the work to the end. Hence I am just going to give examples of the type of consistency I have grown used to in university.

I start my semester relaxed and but consistency kicks in about a week into the semester. As I mentioned previously, the tutorials on the subsequent weeks depend on the material learnt in the lectures. It is important to be able to grasp the concepts in the lectures and validate it during the tutorials. This also means that you can understand better in subsequent lectures as you are aware of the fundamentals. Compare this to an inconsistent student; he will not know what is going on at week 5, and has to spend 5 weeks of effort crammed into one week to be able to catch up. Chances are, you need more than 5 times of effort – the effort increases exponentially.

I am also consistent in the timeline I use to prepare for exams. During the final month (about 3-4 weeks prior to examinations), I would start doing my revision and download all the exam papers. I would do my planning to clear about 1 paper a day at the onset and do more papers as it progresses into the reading week before the examinations. If I have any questions, I ask them on the school forums or meet up with the professors to ask them questions.

It is such level of consistency that makes it easier to achieve your goals as compared to when you are not consistent. If you add up the amount of effort required, you might find that you are achieving much more with less effort. And that’s the smarter way to study.

5 thoughts on “Getting a First Class: Consistency

  1. Hi Ignorantsoup,

    I would firstly like to thank you very much for these posts. I matriculated a week ago and have been consciously applying the mindset that you generally describe. You have expressed this mindset clearly and powerfully, allowing me to obtain a practical understanding on what makes a good student – and I really do want to be a good student, given the importance of my performance personally and to my family.

    There is one rather discouraging issue that I am facing, and I would love to hear your thoughts about how to deal with it – I am sure that you possess a perspective better-formed than mine. To put it concisely, I am having trouble completing all my readings on time. I do not procrastinate, but find myself taking hours on a single 30-page reading (I am in FoS, doing a mathematics-related course). I suspect this is because I like to analyze what I read in great detail, because that is what I think is required. This makes me slightly nervous, worsening my concentration on the task at hand – creating a sort of a vicious cycle.

    I would thus greatly appreciate it if you could indicate to me how you approached your readings and how you dealt with them efficiently – they are just one part of learning in university! I hope that I have given enough detail for you to understand my intent. Whilst I am not in the same course as you, I would still love to hear your perspective.

    Thanking You,

  2. Hi Throttl,

    I am pleasantly surprised to receive your comment. I had thought that nobody will be reading my old posts, especially when I have not been updating.

    In my course, I rarely have readings. The only modules requiring readings were humanities. However, generally there are some tips that I could share. Hopefully it will help in your readings. First, essays are typically written in the same manner. For each paragraph, the front sentence will be the main point, and the last sentence sums up a para. In that way, you can quickly skip through those paragraphs which are not important, and focus on those that are. Second, what you can try is to do a quick read, jotting down main points of each para without giving it much thought. After the initial reading, you can look back and then revisit those paragraphs that require deeper analysis. I am not so sure what sort of readings you do for a mathematics module so I am just throwing things out. Third, if your issue is on concentration, then what I find best is to follow the Pomodoro Technique. I can’t remember if I ever wrote this in my blog. However, in summary, work for 25 minutes without distraction and take 5 minute breaks. This is 1 Pomodoro. After 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break. I find that it forces me to focus as I need to only focus for 25 minutes, not too long or too short. Without it, I tend to surf facebook in the middle of my readings or gravitate to do other stuff.

    Also, sometimes you have to weigh the impact of having completed the readings. You may find that not every set of reading is important, and prioritising a few would help gain most of the knowledge anyway. What is more important, I feel, in a math course, is practice and the spirit to ask your professors when you have issues. Diligence goes a long way.

    I wish you all the best and I hope you achieve your first class honours. Could you do me a favour and let me know whether you manage to accomplish it at the end of your course? It would give me immense satisfaction to have played a small role in your studying life. Also, don’t be shy to ask me further questions. I am happy to share what I know, and I might also be able to learn from you as well.


  3. Dear Kenneth,

    I am aware of the many techniques that one can use to study effectively. Nonetheless, thank you for reiterating them – your endorsement goes a long way.

    Additionally, I am most surprised by your statement:
    “Without it, I tend to surf facebook in the middle of my readings or gravitate to do other stuff.”
    I can’t tell you have good this makes me feel! When I initially read your series of posts, I assumed that you had a mechanical efficiency I have never been able to match. The knowledge that your are human humanizes your results. This is encouraging, as I find that my biggest impediment in my studies now is not consistency, or positive team-mates; it is my inability to retain a positive mindset at times.

    Your advice here and in these blog posts has already made a fundamental impact on my personal choices, and is continuing to do so as I learn more about myself and continue to try to improve my academic effectiveness. This is already one good result! Thus, every tangible result I receive after this will have been heavily influenced by your words. I will thus most certainly update you with my results when the time is right. Please keep writing until then!

    Yours Sincerely,

    1. Hi Achal,

      Thanks for the kind words. To add on about my distractions, I found that I was able to handle distractions more effectively during my studies as compared to evenings after work as I was more hungry for success during my studies. I was very focused on trying to get my first class, hence the distractions, though present, were easier to tackle.


  4. Postscript –
    I just reread my comment, and wanted to add: thanks for bringing to my attention that certain readings may not be required if it is impractical to finish them – I didn’t know that particular study ‘technique’! In the past (A-levels) we were expected to cover everything!

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