Have you ever had one of those “head bobbing” moments where you’re trying hard to fend off waves of sleepiness while your lecturer drones monotonously on about marginal distributions and central limit theorems?
It’s OK — it happens to the best of us.
Sitting through a painfully boring class is (unfortunately) part and parcel of college life.
But before the problem escalates into something bigger (such as failing the class), here are some steps you can take to not only survive a mundane class, but thrive in it!
#1. Review the lesson the night before
When you don’t understand the lesson or the discussions being held, a class is likely to be boring. One way of combating this is to be more engaged during class by reviewing the lesson the night before.
Spending a mere 20 minutes Googling terminologies highlighted in your textbook, or reading through some CliffsNotes about a topic that your lecturer will be discussing in your next class, can go a long way towards helping you understand the material more quickly.
This way, you can avoid the panic that arises when you’re called to answer a question about the chapter in class. You may also find yourself participating actively when the class is discussing or debating the topic.
#2. Get an energy-boosting beverage
If you need something “extra” to keep you alert, why not treat yourself to some coffee, tea or a smoothie before heading in?
It’s the oldest trick in the book, but moderate doses of caffeine can increase your alertness for 4-6 hours. This will keep the sleepiness at bay and give you enough energy to sit through the hour of class without falling asleep.
#3. Prepare yourself for a mentally-draining class
Do find yourself dreading the hours leading up to your statistics class? Instead of mulling over how much you dislike the subject, the lecturer or how early the class starts, try replacing your negative thoughts with positive ones instead.
According to this study, the way you talk to yourself affects your performance, so it’s important to be motivational and positive. Talking in the third person can also help tremendously!
“Kat, you can get through this class. Just pay attention, copy some notes and you’ll figure out the parts you don’t understand later.”
It’s also useful to remind yourself about the importance of the class (e.g. you can’t graduate unless you pass the class) or how much you, or your parents, are paying for it!
#4. Play a drinking game
Does your lecturer have a tendency to overuse words such as “you know” or “awesome”?
Use this “opportunity” to play a little game by yourself, or with a few close classmates, to turn a boring class into an entertaining one!
Each time your lecturer says a trigger word or phrase, take a sip of water. It’ll be your own inside joke. On a side note, it’ll force you to concentrate on what your lecturer is saying and encourage you to drink plenty of water!
#5. Sit with an enthusiastic classmate
Birds of a feather may flock together, but in this instance, it may be useful to sit with a classmate who is enthusiastic about class, as opposed to a friend who is equally bored of it as you are.
Sitting next to a classmate who often interacts with the lecturer can help you improve your attention span in class, as opposed to sitting next to a like-minded classmate, which may result in an exciting game of tic-tac-toe or hangman, instead of either of you paying attention.
#6. Keep calm and doodle on
Here’s some great news for those who love to doodle.
Neuroscientists and researchers believe that doodling may help you to stay focused, learn new concepts and retain information.
If you’re wondering about the logic behind this, a study published in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology hypothesised that “doodling aids concentration by reducing daydreaming in situations where daydreaming might be more detrimental to performance than doodling itself”.
So, if you’re a non-doodler, go ahead and experiment to see if doodling works for you.
#7. Ask plenty of questions
Some classes are understandably boring because they’re pin-drop silent. All the talking comes from your lecturer who is too busy explaining matrices and linear spaces to notice the need for interaction.
So why don’t you and your friends step up to encourage some interaction?
If you’re uncertain over what was said, simply ask your lecturer a question about it. Don’t worry about sounding stupid, because it’s better to clarify what you don’t understand than pretend to know something you don’t.
Your classmates are probably wondering the same thing, so you’ll be doing everyone a service.
To boot, lecturers like an inquisitive student because it shows that you’re paying attention and helps them to notice you.
#8. Do your homework!
At the risk of sounding like nagging parents, completing your assignments and worksheets can help you pay attention in class as you’ll want to know what answers you got right during the discussion.
It can also help you feel involved in class, as opposed to if you didn’t complete your homework, which might make you feel tempted to skip class altogether or encourage you to space out while they discuss the answers.
Alternatively, if you’re struggling to cope with the academic workload of your class, consider joining (or forming) a study group. You’ll feel less alone while a little support can go a long way. Who knows, your classmates may have a few tricks up their sleeve when it comes to studying, such as creating funny mnemonics to remember certain facts.
#9. Figure out the root of your problem
Is your lecturer’s teaching style not working for you or are you simply uninterested in the content?
If it’s the former, consider arming yourself with a personal tutor to improve your understanding of the subject. Alternatively, you could also borrow a friend’s notes to help you follow the class better.
However, if it’s the latter, all hope is not lost. There are always fascinating things to learn in every subject — all you need is a different perspective. For starters, try making the topics relatable and find out how they apply to daily life. Even a dry topic like vectors and matrices have very practical applications, such as how they play a huge role in computer-generated movies.
While boring classes are inevitable, your grades don’t have to suffer because of it! Give these hacks a trial run and incorporate them into your routine whenever possible. After all, a successful student is one who knows how to adapt to situations despite their disdain for it! So start making positive changes to a negative situation — you won’t regret it.