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How To Learn Statistics Without Fear

Why so many students struggle with statistics in college? What can you do to overcome the fear of numbers? Check these tips below.

Reliable data analysis is the bedrock of science. Therefore, statistics has a important role in the development of scientific knowledge.

Many university students are caught by surprise with the amount of mandatory statistics modules they are required to pass in order to complete their degree. This is particularly common amongst students in social sciences, health sciences and business. 

If that is your case, this is for you. One of the most unproductive things you can do is to study for hours without a break . Trust me, it will make you tired and frustrated and you might feel tempted to procrastinate even more. Another common behaviour is avoiding asking questions in class for fear of  being judged. Some of you might feel intimidated by your peers and lecturers perception of your academic ability.

It is important to know that just because statistics might seem confusing at first, it does not mean you can’t learn it. It is perfectly normal to feel uncomfortable learning new skills. This is not a reflection of your intelligence and cognitive abilities. You are perfectly equipped to learn anything you want – except, of course, if you have a genuine learning disability. In most cases, it is just the fear of numbers hindering your learning experience. Have a look at a few tips on how to approach statistics learning:


Stop thinking that statistics is too difficult for you

The first battle that you have to win, even before opening your statistics lectures notes, is in your own mind.  As a psychologist, I can attest that your thoughts will influence your feelings and behaviour. 

Simply put, if you already have in your mind that stats is hard and you can’t learn it, there is no course or lecturer in the world that is going to work for you unless you change your mindset first.


Keep an eye on your attendance

Attending your lectures is important. Period. Don’t give in to the temptation of avoiding lectures as a coping mechanism. As a smart person that you are, you should use your best judgement to assess this situation: do you really think this is a recipe for success? The sad reality is that the more you avoid it the more difficult it will become.


A little bit goes a long way

That means that you should avoid my initial strategy of working long hours on a statistics problem or topic. Believe me, that will do you no good. What I feel that is more helpful is studying a little bit every day. Just remember that once your brain gets tired, leave it for the next day.

Never allow yourself to feel exhausted during a study session. When you start getting too frustrated about a topic, it is time to take a break, go for a walk or try another time. Consistency is key, though. A small dose of statistics every day will do wonders to your progress.


Practice makes perfect

Remember what I said about consistency, right? Try to get your hands on as many exercises as you possible can. You need to treat every problem like a puzzle that need to be solved. Every time you engage your brain in a different exercise, you become a little bit more faster. Variety and consistency are crucial. Do yourself a favour and take your brain for a little workout!


Use the resources available

As you probably know, there are many books and online resources that are available to you. When it comes to learning statistics, everybody has a favourite learning resource.

If you are unsure where to start, pay a visit to your college library. You may find some useful books to help you. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, just ask your lecturers. They want you to succeed as much as you do and will give you the best guidance to make sure you excel. Alternatively, you can check our Statistical Analysis For Beginners course and we will be happy to help you on your learning journey.


Don’t suffer alone: thrive together!

This bit is quite important and I want you to pay attention: if you ever experience feelings of anxiety and helplessness while studying statistics or any other subject, please talk to someone. Sometimes we feel embarrassed because we are afraid that we will be judged. The truth is, no one knows everything. Not even your lecturer!  Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something. It is perfectly normal and there is nothing wrong with it.

Talking to your lecturer and classmates will make a huge difference. However, if you feel that you can benefit from talking to a counsellor or therapist, please check the students services at your university. If you reach out, you will soon discover that people are there to support you.

I hope you may find these tips useful. However, please remember that everybody has a different learning style. The best strategy is always the one that works best for you, whatever that may be. Good luck with your studies!

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