Under Cover: Book Reveals Secrets of Straight A Students

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9781440552465cvr.inddIf you are the parent of a high school student, you probably know that finals are just around the corner. Most likely, your student falls into one of two categories: the über-responsible self-starter who willingly studies for each test and quiz and simply needs a quick review, or the procrastinator who – while just as intelligent as student number one – adheres to the motto, “why study today for what you can cram for tomorrow.”

If your little darling falls into category two, or simply falls a little short of category one, as most do, I recommend checking out the new study guide “Straight A Study Skills:  More than 200 Essential Strategies to Ace Your Exams, Boost Your Grades, and Achieve Lasting Academic Success” by Cynthia Clumeck Muchnick, MA, and Justin Ross Muchnick.

Written in a straightforward, easy to read style, “Straight A Study Skills” is unique in that it was co-authored by the two Muchnicks, a mother-son team. While Cynthia is an educational consultant, and has previously authored several books on the topic, Justin is, himself, a high-school student, who has an insider’s perspective on what does and doesn’t work.

Cynthia credits her son with having a very strong voice in every topic discussed in the book. She says that writing with him gave her the opportunity to stay current, and produce a book with tips that work for every student, from middle school through college. Identified by her as someone with “inherent study skills” who is a self-motivated achiever, he is the type of category one student you definitely want to be taking pointers from.

These pointers cover the full spectrum of academic advice, and offer insight on topics including: managing time efficiently, taking good notes, studying effectively, and excelling beyond the classroom, among others.

Since my own high school student falls a little closer to category two than I would like, I gave him my copy of the book and asked him to look it over. Once he had given it a good read, I asked him to share one practice he learned from the book that he could implement right away to help him be more on top of his organizational skills.

He referred me to chapter four, “Manage Time Efficiently,” and shared this perspective:

“The section I can probably get the most help from is where the authors speak about time management. One idea I could use to improve my studies is to make a simple schedule of my day and what needs to be done. This can help with all aspects of life, actually. For example, my next-day schedule could include everything from ‘I need to do my math homework, or study for my big test,’ to ‘tell mom I need money for the movies.’ Another great idea was to use alarms to help plan out how long I need to work on each task.”

While I agree that my student, in particular, needs help first and foremost with time-management, each student that reads the book will come to it with his or her own set of strengths and weaknesses.

I contacted the senior Muchnick and asked for her top suggestions to ensure academic success, and she gave me the following list:

1. Build meaningful relationships with teachers. They will be your advocates, confidantes and resources for so much during your school years.

2. Sit in the first three rows of EVERY class, lecture, and any time in your life when you will hear a speaker. Proximity is key and important!

3. Do extra credit ALWAYS. It is like free money!

4. Keep a distraction-free study space.

I found, while reading through the book, many ideas that I am planning to implement at home, in order to help make my children more efficient students, and more engaged learners.

I definitely recommend reading this together with your children, to discover ways you can help them take charge of their own education.  Here’s to hoping these ideas can be mastered in time for mine to ace his exams!

For more information on the Muchnicks’ book, and for others of Cynthia’s publications, please visit www.cynthiamuchnick.com.

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