Common sense: the art of passing with flying colors.

After repeating myself umpteen times like a broken tape recorder, I have decided it is time I jot down some of these common sense ideas in a permanent and perpetually accessible space – the internet.

Common sense 1: In my opinion, this is the most important of all. Ask yourself one crucial question, and perhaps two if the first question does not give you a wake up call. First question is “why do you want to do well?” And second question is “who are you doing well for?” Whatever it takes, you’ve got to find the answers to these questions as they are the precursor to the success of you passing with flying colours.

Common sense 2: You need to have the right mental attitude. The road to success is long and strenuous. You need real mental stamina to last the journey and claim that victory flag at the end point. Thus, it is counter-intuitive to tell yourself that you’re no good and you can’t do it. Life is already tough as it is, there is no good reason for you to beat yourself up further. Just a word of caution though, self-encouragement is different from self-praise (euphemism for boasting).

Common sense 3: Setting goals – short and long terms. You need to be specific and realistic. I am sure you remember about SMART goal taught in class. However, it is important to reward yourself, celebrate your success for achieving even the short-term goals. And when I said “celebrate”, I don’t really mean a full-blown party. You don’t have time for that! Be realistic! Reserve it after you have achieved your END goal!

Common sense 4: Our worst enemies are ourselves. Fear is a state of mind. Fear is no good for grades. Through the years, I’ve seen hard-working students failed to achieve their predicted grades or even underperformed. Managing anxiety is as important as spending time studying. We’re wired in a way to perform best with a bit of stress, but not too much. So, remember to celebrate each little success you have to calm your nerves. Don’t forget to laugh! As what Reader’s digest put it forth – laughter is the best medicine. When you are tired and sleepy from studying, if you can laugh wholeheartedly about something funny, you will find yourself recharged and ready to resume.

Common sense 5: Why do teachers seem to remember everything? Perhaps, they only deal with their subjects. Nope. It is because they teach you! Yep, you can take the initiative to teach your friends what you know and by doing that you will become the master of that content. It’s a win-win situation.

Common sense 6: Be active! Active recall! Active listening (especially during lesson and those revisions that your teacher conducted for the class…important information is going to be emphasized and you want to get all of it)! Active note-taking! Most students spend a large amount of their academic times being a passive learner. Do you know who is best at being passive learner? Robot. Let’s be honest and don’t kid ourselves; we pale in comparison with what machine can achieve when it comes to recalling and repeating a task.

Common sense 7: urgent vs. important. There are things that are urgent and require your immediate attention. However, you should spend as little time as possible doing those urgent things. When it comes to something important, you need to spend more time doing it, doing it right. For instance, you need to call your mum to tell her to pick you up 30 minutes later than scheduled, that’s urgent. If you don’t do it now, your mum will be waiting for you for a good 30 minutes. However, you don’t have to spend ten minutes talking to her to complete that urgent task. Revising your work on a daily basis is important towards your academic success. That’s important and you should spend more time doing it right.

Common sense 8: Conditioning. If you only do 2.4 km on a daily basis, you will probably not last the entire marathon. Before your exams, you need to give yourself the required practice. Set time limit for yourself and make sure that there is no distraction when you’re tackling those questions. Phone is a big distraction. As you practice, you will gain the momentum and know how much time you really need to complete the paper and how long your concentration (duration that you can stay focused before you start day-dreaming) and the structure of the paper (how many questions and if you need to do all the questions). Don’t sabotage yourself by not giving yourself the right preparation.

Common sense 9: Be early for your exam. Sometimes the venue for your examination is unfamiliar to you. This is especially true for tertiary education. You don’t want to go into panic attack mode because you couldn’t find where your exam is supposed to be held. Your brain should not be subjected to such unnecessary stress! Keep your brain prime for the paper.

Common sense 10: Keep fit. No matter how smart you are, you cannot perform to your potential if your body cannot handle it. It’s like installing DOTA on Pentium II PC. It’s gonna lagged like hell. Exercise regularly while you’re working your brain muscles. When you are fit, you will be in a better mood too and that’s gonna be a lot useful when you have to deal with difficult subjects.

That’s all for now! Common sense is not so common nowadays but it does not mean that it cannot be acquired. All the best in your future (academic) endeavour.