Number. 15 © CDTL 2003
Motivation in Studies
Mr Mathew Linus
Lecturer, NUS Business School

Motivation, or the enthusiasm to continue doing well, does not apply only to work, but to your studies too. To be motivated, you have to first understand these barriers, and then the strategies to overcome them.

  • Time Wasters, such as going out with friends and watching TV or the movies. These appear to be so attractive when you’re at your books. But reading anything can also be pleasurable and enjoyable. So displace these short-term transitory goals with long-term and lasting ones (e.g. career success and joy at a future point in time). Incessantly couched before a TV also has ill effects. Do some serious study, assignment or project for 2–3 hours, and then reward yourself with a TV program.

  • Difficulty with subjects. When you encounter difficulties in a subject, ask a close friend who knows the solution; or ask different people at different times. Your lecturer or tutor will also be most willing to help. Sometimes, you may turn to the additional references cited in your lecture notes to understand a portion or chapter better. Alternate between difficult and easy chapters or projects to read or do, to ease the strain and refresh your concentration.

  • Inconsistent (extremely opposite) grades. Ask yourself, “What kind of grades do I want? Why am I not there?” You may have lost marks because of errors. Or your friends may have given better answers. If it is due to poor time management, work out and follow a schedule. Give more time for weaker subjects, not just for your favourite ones.

  • Learning from failures. If you’re disheartened with a recent failure or weak grade, ask yourself: “Where did I fail? Why?” Try the same paper again. If you find it easy, then you’ve learnt and improved. Your failure can be a blessing and strengthen you.

  • Seeking help. You may find good sources of help within your family or from close friends, top students (even though you don’t know them), lecturers and university counsellors (please consult the Office of Student Affairs’ Personal Guidance and Counselling Service at or 6874 2376). Or check out CDTL’s website containing learning resources for students at

  • Role models. Especially after the major local exams, the media frequently highlight students who excel in their studies despite their unfortunate circumstances (often worse than yours!). Ask yourself: “How did they do it? Why can’t I do better than they did?” Also, look at your lecturers and the authors of your textbooks. Ask yourself, “How did they manage their difficulties, and what made them specialise in these subjects that I find so difficult?” You are not alone in your struggle. Remember, success comes at a high price of diligence, determination and sacrifice. But understand your limits, and don’t go overboard.

Your struggle to do well is an investment of time, with career success and satisfaction as potential rewards. Look at the people you consider successful. They are all around you. Tell yourself that you can be what they are or even better, if you push yourself to your limits.

Your career path is like a flight of steps. To reach the top, take one step at a time. Getting your degree is one big step in that direction.

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