There are many reasons why an individual may not be successful in school. Some of the “obvious” reasons parents and teachers attribute to poor academic performance include not doing the assigned work, not studying, poor motivation, and inattention.

My 12 years as a special education teacher and 5 years in private practice as an educational therapist and coach has taught me to look beyond the obvious if I wish to actually serve and help my clients.

The reality is that many of the “obvious” reasons why someone is unsuccessful in school are actually symptoms of another problem:

Poor Basic Study Skills

I have worked with many parents over the years that attribute their child’s poor academic performance to “not studying hard enough.” Fair enough, not studying can certainly result in poor test grades, no argument there. However, upon closer inspection it quickly becomes evident that the child has no idea how to study.

Its not just the constant video games that are preventing this individual from performing well on his tests, he probably couldn’t do very well even if he tried since he doesn’t know how to study.

Below is merely a sample of skills or practices that successful students regularly utilize and implement in preparation for exams:

  • Accurately predict what will likely be on the test
  • Be able to differentiate main ideas from details within the content the test will cover
  • Create study aides to help either memorize or practice concepts and ideas the test will cover
  • Take good notes during lecture and regularly review and consolidate them
  • Develop awareness of the concepts the test will likely cover that are not currently mastered but need to be prior to a test
  • Identify patterns in the manner their teacher\professor constructs their tests and use those patterns to help prepare for subsequent tests
  • Analyze what went wrong in previous tests to better prepare for future tests
  • Create self-tests by converting their notes into a question\answer format and test themselves on the material
  • Begin to study for major tests at least 4-5 days in advance

For those of you that regularly perform poorly on tests or are the parent of a student who regularly performs poorly on tests, I want you to ask yourself how many of the skills above you (or your child) currently practice or possess?

Better yet, how many of the skills above were you not aware were necessary for consistent and successful test performance? Be honest.

Beyond The “Obvious”

If you or your child regularly performs poorly on tests, there is a good chance that they do not adequately possess good study skills beyond the “obvious” reason you suspect (i.e. video games, inattention, poor motivation).

Looking at it from another perspective, if they put forth effort to do well on a test but don’t have the appropriate study skills, they would likely still underperform on the test.

Give yourself or your child the benefit of the doubt and work with someone who can teach you the basic study skills required to consistently perform well in school.