Case Study: Ineffective Work Habits

Case Study: Ineffective Work Habits


Caitlin, a junior in college, came to Signet because she was working as hard as she could in three humanities classes (history, philosophy, and sociology), but was not performing well on her papers and exams. Although Caitlin understood all of the material, she felt like the way she was approaching studying and writing was not effective. Signet worked with her to identify where her study habits were falling short, and gave her a targeted strategy to improve her performance.


At first, Caitlin thought she was just having trouble with the material. However, when she reviewed her coursework and concepts with her professors and teaching assistants, she realized the problem was more about process than about content. Caitlin’s academic coach worked with her to analyze how she took notes, studied, wrote, and prepared for her exams. Caitlin’s tutor identified that she had a very “flat” approach to everything; in other words, Caitlin studied everything the same way, and gave all of the reading and concepts the same amount of weight. She was effectively trying to memorize everything, rather than internalizing and synthesizing what was important and disregarding what was not.

The Signet Solution

Caitlin and her coach worked to develop specific note-taking, reading, writing, and studying strategies, based on how they found Caitlin could best understand and retain the different information from her classes. Instead of reading all of her materials over and over again, hoping to absorb everything necessary, Caitlin began to work on identifying what was important and what was secondary. Using several specific study techniques, Caitlin unearthed the important concepts, saw how they connected with other concepts in the course, and synthesized them into her own comprehensive understanding. Caitlin also learned how to identify what topics were important for her tests and papers, and was able to then prioritize her study and understanding of those. More than anything, Caitlin began to really learn her material instead of simply memorizing it.

Using these techniques and working with her coach over the course of several sessions to customize them to her specific needs, Caitlin was able to turn her semester around. Early in the semester she was scoring between 60–80 out of 100 on her quizzes, papers, and tests, but by the end, she was consistently in the 90–100 range. Through hard work and strategic studying, Caitlin was able to improve her grades and regain confidence in her academic abilities.

Picture of Jay B.

Jay B.

Jay Bacrania is the CEO of Signet Education. As a high schooler, Jay won awards for chemistry at the state level in his home state of Florida, and at Harvard, he initially studied physics. After graduating, Jay spent two years studying jazz trumpet at the Berklee College of Music.

More Resources