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How to Deal with Difficult Subjects

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Even the smartest student has had at least one subject that they initially struggled with, perhaps even continued to struggle with. And if this hasn’t happened to you, you probably need to stop taking the easy options.

Sometime the difficult subject is compulsory, like Maths or English, so we don’t have the option of leaving. Sometime it is the prerequisite for another class that we want to take next semester. Either way, we need to do reasonably well in this class if we are to continue our education.

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So how do we approach that difficult subject?

 Read the basics first. There are introductory guides to almost all subjects. Ask the teacher for a recommendation. Sometimes we can clear up a few basic concepts, and find the rest comes together with only moderate effort.

 Remember that learning curves are different for each subject. Some things are difficult at first, but start to come clear after we get past the initial stages. Some things are easy at first, but become more complex as we progress.

 Keep in mind that other students probably find this difficult too. If the whole class is struggling then you may end up doing well by comparison, if you are prepared to put in some time and effort.

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 Once you have some understanding of the topic, look at past exam papers. This is a reasonably good indication of what is expected of you.

 Ask if you are approaching the subject the wrong way. We might find visualisation helps, or charts, graphs. Is lateral thinking going to help, or is this a logical/analytical subject?

 Look at why the subject developed. Briefly study the person who discovered/invented or made the subject famous. What was their breakthrough?

 As with any subject, divide the work into smaller sections and tackle t a few of them each day. Sometimes this can lead to a solid understanding after a week of consistent work.

 There is probably some rote learning in any new subject, and a few new concepts. Get these mastered early on, perhaps use some mnemonics memory aids. Then you will find the rest starts to make at least some sense.

 Almost all subjects are interlinked. It is not a series of disconnected facts, but a series of patterns. Look for patterns beyond the basic information.

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 Start the difficult subject early on, right on the first day of the semester. Keep steady progress, and keep checking with tutors that you are getting things right. By the time of the exam you should be doing far better than when you started.

 Practise writing on the subject and explaining it to others, and get some feedback. If you can get to the point where you can teach it to others, you will be doing well.

 Write down your first impression when you first open the textbook, and continue to write these impressions down. You view will change over time. But even the first impression on the first day is worth memorising. Sometimes that first impression is something we lose as we accumulate the details.

 Put the difficult subject in context. It has a use, it relates to other subject you learn. Get a broad and narrow perspective

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