>> Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I love the site! I am in need of your help DESPERATELY. I know this might not have to do with religion but you guys give great advice on everything Masha'Allah! I can't study properly. I know that seems silly but I can never concentrate...EVER. What can I do? I have a exam next week worth 30% That I need to do well on and then another worth 35% that I need to do REALLY well on in order to pass the course. I don't want to give up on university, and sometimes I feel really down because I feel like I'm behaving like a good Muslimah (I pray every day, read certain surahs everyday..) but all I ever do is fail at I'm being punished. And people who don't know Allah do that silly to say or think? Please help sisters.


Dear "In Need of Some Studying Help",

First of all, you are not a failure. I don't care if you're getting F's or not- that doesn't make you a failure. You have to realize that your grades are not a reflection of you as a person and that you're putting yourself down when you label yourself a failure…. So yeah, I won't have you doing that to yourself. Not on my watch :P

As for your question, hey, we're "under cover teachers" (in real life/ offline :D), so I'm more than happy you sent this question in. But I think I should warn you a bit. I was a total loser smartypants in high school and university. I didn't enjoy studying but I accepted it as a 'means of a brighter future'. So I studied. And I studied. And I ate a lotta chocolata between all that studying (hey- it's called "fuel energy"). And I studied some more.

The truth is, I would start studying for my final exams a week before each exam. A day before the exam, while everyone else would be cramming their minds, I would be completely done studying- I figured, 'expect the unexpected' and always be prepared….

With that said, though, I will be the first to admit that there is a huge difference between studying a lot and effective studying. Effective studying begins even before exams week. I'm going to tell you a bit of things to do (even though it's too late now, but for the rest of university) and then address exams specifically.

  1. Be on time. Don't be absent or late to class. It sounds really 'basic' but trust me....a lot of people slack off in that area and they end up missing important information.
  2. Take notes. Let me tell you some insider information. As teachers, we tend to stress, if even unconsciously, what matters to us….the stuff we're most likely going to quiz you on. So pay attention to your teacher's voice, gestures, etc. What is she 'stressing'? Highlight it/ underline it/ whatever. 
                         The other reason why you should take notes is because university textbooks are usually (to say the least) a little boring and very long. And while you may understand what you're teacher is saying and it all makes perfectly sense to you during class time, chances are, after class time, right before exams, the information might resemble some sort of cryptic message. That's why it's better to jot down the main ideas on the sides of the pages. In fact, for me, when I'd look at the notes, I'd actually *hear* my teacher explaining it again.

3.  After two weeks of the semester, you should be able to know which course you might find the most challenging. You need to treat that course differently than you treat the others. It needs even more of your attention. And here comes the nerdy advice…..

For that course, especially, you should skim the material before even coming to class and taking the lesson. Otherwise you might be completely lost with whatever you're teacher is talking about.

And then, guess what? At the end of the day, after taking the class, you should review the material. You can just go through the notes (we mentioned in point 2), but the idea is to spend 5-10minutes reinforcing whatever it is that you learned.

Spending 10 minutes each day beats cramming 15 hours before the exam, don’t you think?

4. Don't be shy to ask your professor questions. You know what drives me 'nutsy' (crazy)? It's when I see a student struggling in my class but refusing to ask any questions….We already know when a student doesn't understand the material…so just ASK away. Most teachers/ professors don't mind explaining it again. If something doesn't make sense to you, chances are….it's not going to go away. It could even come back in a later course to haunt you (haha). So ask, ask, ask.

5. Ask for 'bonus/ extra credit projects'. If your grades need a boost, it doesn't hurt to ask!

^So, that's the general stuff you should be doing 'through out the semester'.

Now, what to do before an exam?

1. Get rid of useless distractions. You said you find it hard to concentrate. Where do you study? Are you studying in the living room? (I hope not, LOL). Is the t.v. on? Is your computer next to you? Are you finding yourself on facebook every 10 minutes of studying? If that's the case, you know what's coming…..yup, hit, deactivate. (You could also) write a status "I need to study. If you see me on, tell me to get off." Tell your family you need to concentrate and you'd appreciate all their help.

2. Sleep habits….Studying isn't about pulling all nighters. Really. It's too hard to concentrate when you're snoring, I mean *dozing off*. So during exams week, you need to make sure you're schedule is not 'wacko' and that gives you enough sleeping time. Remember, you can always start studying a few days before the exams so that you have 'more time'.

3. Try studying during the 'early morning' time. I know I told you to sleep well, but this time is unbelievably blessed. With the house very quiet and still, and the Prophet's prayer for the people of his Ummah in this time, you're bound to succeed, inshaAllah.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asked his Lord to bless his Ummah in the mornings, as is reported in the hadith of Sakhr al-Ghamidi, who said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘O Allah, bless my Ummah in the mornings.’ Also, whenever he sent out troops or an army, he would send them at the beginning of the day.”

4. Go over all the key concepts and new terms you learned. Write a summary in your own words of each unit/ chapter. If your book lists all the objectives for each chapter, be sure you can fully do them.

5. Use organizers and charts. Compare and contrast the information you read. How are X and Y similar? How are they different? Use colors.

6. Test yourself. While you read the information, make your own questions. Ask yourself, "If I was a teacher, how would I test this concept?" You can also pair up with a friend and make each other tests.

7. Use the amazing resources on the Internet. Try practice tests and exercises. If your teacher sounds Chinese to you, check out youtube videos that explain the material. (Btw, a great website for high school students is the khan academy).

8. If you answered questions in class or as homework, it's important that you don't just 'read them' but do them again. Do any quizzes you took. Look for any older versions of the exams. (Some universities will keep them and allow you to access them….)

9. Stock up on foods that help boost your concentration. Eat healthy and well balanced meals. Make sure you drink plenty of water and you're not dehydrated because our brains really need water. Read more: here

And as for the fact that you're a 'good Muslim' and you're trying so hard, just remember that each of us has something we're talented in. There are different kinds of intelligence and talents you know. Maybe you're depressed about your grades and that 'academic' smart girl in your class is depressed about her 'looks'. Allah gives each of us something special- beauty, artistic ability, public speaking skills, etc. etc.

Also,  just because someone isn't "Muslim" doesn't mean that they don't try hard, right. Allah subhanoo Wa' Tala is fair. If someone studies well and does the right things to get good grades, Allah is Fair to them.

And don't forget that we can't see the future. Maybe that kid who 'does really well' by cheating (for example) will end up becoming a total failure in the workforce. Maybe the extremely intelligent person will not actually find a good job. Or maybe they'll find a job but become obsessed with money and miss out on the important stuff...  Whatever it is, Allah subhanoo Wa' Tala is always fair and always looks for the best of His servants.

Remember…. you've got two tests that you're working for – the dunya tests and the akhirah. If you continue to do good on the akhirah test, inshaAllah, you really don't have to worry about the dunya tests. As for those people who don't know Allah, well, they're failing the 'real test', if you get me. And just because they 'get amazing things' doesn't mean that Allah actually is happy with them. Take a look here!

Whoever desires the life of this world and its adornments - We fully repay them for their deeds therein, and they therein will not be deprived. (15) Those are the ones for whom there is not in the Hereafter but the Fire. And lost is what they did therein, and worthless is what they used to do. (16) (Surat Hud)

And lastly, instead of thinking about dropping out of university, if you still find it very very difficult, consider switching to a different major. Take some personality quizzes/ etc. that kind of thing and make sure you are in the right field for you. Maybe that's the whole problem =)

These are some small tips. InshaAllah our readers can share their tips, too! And inshaAllah you will do super fantastic on your test :)

P.S. Check this book out-- ...Maybe it will help you: 9 Steps to Achieving Your Destiny (By a Muslim Woman)


AsalaamuAlaikim Aunties! 
Just wanted to update you! I took your studying advice. And remember that test I said I had worth 30 %---I GOT AN A-!!!!!! Subhanallah I was very happy, the marks were just posted! Jazakhallah Khair for the advice. I moved into the library and every time when I got distracted I would remember your advice! =)
I have two more big exams in the next 4 weeks and Inshallah I will keep up the habit. Please remember me in your duas! Once again, thank you! You have no idea how much you sisters helped me!
- No longer a failure! 

^We're thrilled to hear that, sis! I'm soOoooo proud of you. Readers, make dua with us for her, inshaAllah =) 

5 wonderful sprinkely thoughts:

Shireen Baig March 16, 2011 at 3:33 AM  

DLA's I wish I could get all this advice when i was way back in college :P too bad i am done with it.

Questioner : Do you really think that people who don't really know Allah do well? I speak from experience I was a namesake muslim and yet I didn't do well. okay my bit of advice will not contain any tips but just little bit of my experiences so be prepared to read a long comment.

I studied 3 years of university and I was a brilliant student in my highschool. But in the university I failed in my year 1 & 2. In year 1, I could not understand anything of basic statistics, I mean hardly anything. SO I hated that subject enough to never give it time. Eventually, I failed in the final exam. year 2, I studied too hard but I failed in accounts due to unexpected questions. I didn't fail in the 3rd year, I got good grades and you know what I have discovered? In my year 1 I was over confident 'cause I always scored so well in highschool i presumed i could get through exams like I did before. In my year 2 I was so pessimistic after my first failure that I had literally labelled myself as a failure.

In my year 3, I changed my outlook studied weeks before the exam and alhamdulillah got done with it. So, if you keep thinking you are a failure it gets embedded in your mind conciously or subconciously and you will take an action as per what's embedded in your mind. you know what im sayin?

Try to study with friends, If your best friend can study better than you do then you two can have combined studies together. Thats how i got through..

Being a good muslimah really helps, you know why? I got more close to Islam after i had finished my year 3's exams. I knew If I ever had a chance at passing university then I've to depend on Allah swt. And I did. Result? Good marks. No more failures. And today, I am working and compared to the girls who were So smart back then I've been blessed with a really good job. So, grades ARE important but thats not what they would ask during interviews.

So work hard, Practice the suggested tips and make lots of Dua. Allah swt alone can give you success so do not let shaitan play around with your brain. ok?

Asma Khan March 16, 2011 at 11:03 AM  

Allah makes us special and compelte in every sense...
Insightfull post... :)
Stay Blessed

Fida Islaih March 16, 2011 at 2:41 PM  

thank you for this post! It definitely will help =)

As for tips: I pick a friend and help me walk through the lesson. It helps me and maybe it will help you too =)

Misha March 16, 2011 at 4:25 PM  

Wow, I'm surprised. This was really helpful! I feel energized and ready to study now :)

Iqra,  August 1, 2011 at 7:03 AM  

Great advice, and I am so glad to hear that it worked out :) My study advice is to pray two nafl before every test, asking for success, and two nafl after every successful test, thanking Allah for it. Of course this doesn't mean you shouldn't actually study, but I find that doing this creates a feeling of blessing :)

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