How to deal with a concept you do not understand
- Breathe. If you are starting to feel flustered, stressed, frustrated, take a break. The more angsty you feel, the less likely you’ll be able to focus on the actual concept. Take a break, study something else, but make sure when you’re trying to tackle a difficult concept, you are calm, cool, and collected.
- Re-read your notes. This one is obvious but ask yourself if you’re actually re-reading your notes or if you’re just glancing over the page. Sometimes it helps to rewrite your notes in a different way.
- Read someone’s else’s notes. Sometimes reading something in a different way can help you understand a concept you are struggling with.
- Ask someone but make sure whoever you’re asking won’t confuse you further. To be safe, ask a TA, your professor, or an experienced tutor. I cannot count how many times I’ve casually asked someone to explain a concept and I end up leaving 10x more confused. Make sure you’re asking the right people.
- Google it. Seriously. There are many amazing resources out there that may be as close as the click of a button.
- Re-watch a lecture, if possible. Some professors webcast their lectures and going over your notes while listening to them is really helpful when you can’t quite grasp a concept.
- Be patient. Sometimes, you’ll need to work at a concept over a number of days and that’s perfectly okay. The most important part is that you try your best to understand and that you realize everyone learns at different paces.
- Do NOT wait until the last minute to tackle a difficult concept. Procrastinating on this kind of stuff right up before an exam can increase your anxiety and deplete your self-confidence. Make sure you tackle these difficult concepts as soon as you encounter them so you can take your time to understand everything.