H and I are good friends. We are in Form 6 (though in different classes), and we frequently stay back after school hours for group study sessions.

We usually study Economics together, as H is weak in the subject. H is not that fond of calculations and graphs, he is more passionate about stuff like world history and politics.

However, since we are both in the Arts stream, the choices of subjects that we can take are limited, so we had to include Economics in our lessons.

H is also a hyperactive person; he loses attention easily in our group study sessions. He’ll just look else where or start talking about something off topic, making the rest of us lose attention, too.

To make learning more interesting during the sessions, I included some terms and examples taken from PC games and applied them into Economics. That worked quite well for H, but sometimes he would still get distracted by some things that I just cannot control. He always has lots of things to say, which interrupts our studying.

I don’t want to cut him off while he’s talking either as I don’t want to be so rude. However, I do feel that our study time gets wasted by pointless talk, sometimes.
We just went through our STPM trial examinations and H hardly passed his Economics paper. I may not be the best Economics student, but I feel like I did my best to help H and yet failed. Our STPM is only a month away, and H has no choice but to really work hard to at least pass his Economics paper.

His classmates and I are very concerned about H. I told him that self-discipline is the key to excel in STPM, but H doesn’t take heed of my advice.
How can I help H? He is still willing to learn, it’s just that he’s easily overcome by boredom. And also, in your opinion, what type of career fits H’s personality traits and strengths? — Concerned Buddy

Su Ann

Everyone learns differently and has their preferred styles or methods of studying. It is perceptive of you to realise that linking H’s interests to economics will help him study better, and it seems that this method is showing some results.

Do continue using the same method, but also try to identify how H studies for his qualitative classes such as history and politics. If he dislikes calculations and graphs but has a good memory, perhaps you can break down the study of economics into frameworks and step-by-step guides for him.

It might also be helpful to read relevant texts and papers by economists, which sometimes paint more of a story using real world examples, history and politics.

I find that many people learn best when they have to teach others the same material. This is a method that works especially well with people with low attention spans. Try it with H.

It will make him responsible and accountable for more than his own learning, which hopefully might eradicate his tendency to distract himself and the rest of the study group.

Also, he will have to go through the material twice – learning it for himself in order to teach others, and then strengthening his understanding once again when he is teaching it.

As his “student”, you should try to help solidify the material in his mind by asking the right questions. Get him to explain concepts and theories in ways that you believe he will understand and remember them best. As he teaches you, he will also teach himself.

And lastly, you are a great friend with a good heart – H is very fortunate to have you as a friend!


As much as you try to help H, you cannot make his decisions for him. He has to realise that what he’s doing isn’t working, and that the way forward is better discipline and focus.

This may take longer than you expect. In fact he may have to fail his exam in order to realise that he’s got to change. Sometimes the only way people learn is when they fail miserably. If that happens, make sure you stick with him. We all need support when we screw up.

When he does go off topic during your study group, you should steer him back – it’s not rude. Lay down some ground rules before you start studying.

Say that everyone should respect each other, and that the next few hours is used for studying only. When you go on breaks, then you can talk about other stuff.
Being firm and making decisions for your classmates doesn’t mean you have to be rude. You can do this by being calm, and direct. Stick to the goal – are you there to waste time, or to study?

It’s hard studying things you don’t like, but tell him that there are subjects that you just have to get through. Once he does his best in Economics, he can concentrate on what he loves most.

H seems to like humanities and the arts. He’d do well in the creative or communications industry where he can express himself. For someone who likes to speak, he’ll do well in careers where you meet people.

Have you thought about what to pursue for a career? You’re a patient mentor and insightful educator – you’d be a great teacher!

Tell us what you think!

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