My approach to studying

I have always studied alone, even in high school. Study groups made absolutely no sense to me. Particularly for the study subjects I took (Geography, Biology, Computer Studies (the theory part), History), I would tend to zone out in class and not listen to the teacher. In the evenings I would get busy underlining, highlighting, writing possible essay answers and memorising it all.

That’s why I could take on History as an extra subject in Grade 11, and why I got 1st position for it at the end of the year, as well as the highest mark for it in Matric (with distinction). Getting the notes from a classmate, studying the work on my own, and only showing up to write tests and exams, resulted in those achievements. I’m pretty sure the History teacher was not too happy about that fact.

That is not something I’m bragging about – I’m saying it because just like how some kids were good at sports, I am good at studying. I’ve always enjoyed the act of learning – my parents never had to force me to study for a test, or draw up a schedule for me during exams. I did those things out of my own, because to me, learning is fun. For reals.

I studied full-time at Stellenbosch University when I was completing my undergraduate degree, BSc Applied Geoinformatics. In my first year, I attended most of my classes; missing Maths was a nightmare, and I had to attend Biology because I hated the practicals, and would have had no idea what was going on if I didn’t.

By second year, I was over it. From that point on, I would attend class for about the first 3 weeks, then only sporadically after that. I did not see the point of a lecturer saying words at me – I needed to be in my room, music on, highlighter in hand, absorbing the information. Again, this approach is what helped me obtain distinctions in most of my modules at university – at least, those that weren’t Computer Science.

When I made the decision to postpone Computer Science for one year, effectively adding an extra year to my studies, I did not do it on a whim. As I had started school a year earlier, back when we were still allowed to, I matriculated when I was 17, not 18. As a result, I had an “extra” year due to me anyway, so I would graduate a year later than I was supposed to, but I would be 21.

I could not, in my mind, link the theory of CS with the practicals we were doing. When I failed the 2nd year Data Structures & Algorithms module, the only subject I have ever failed, I was furious. This was something I could not study my way out of. So before I retook the module the following year, I prepared. I went through all the previous exams and tests, I drew up detailed notes, and started practicing on the old assignments. I went from failing the first class test the first time with 30% to getting the 3rd highest mark (above 70%).

My point is, I have never been able to work in a group when it comes to studying. This is why I can’t take the fact that most of the MOOCs I want to join on Coursera seem to have a discussion forum/peer assessment component. This is also why Unisa is the best institution for me right now – no contact time at all, no classmates, online submission of assignments, and lecturer available via email if needed. Bliss.

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