- Studying is more about motivation than memorization.
The vast majority of students never actually learn the joy of studying. They spend years and years of their life trying to make the grade but that should have nothing to do with studying. In school, studying is all about learning what other people want you to learn. In reality, studying is about learning what you want to learn.
The human memory was not designed to learn arbitrary facts. It was designed to learn information that’s vital to survival. That’s why, if you do something repeatedly it becomes almost like second nature. The repetition tells the brain that this is something important to know. There are a number of different ways to tell the memory what’s important. One of the easiest ways is to just WANT to learn something.
The sad truth is, most people don’t really want to learn. They’re interested in getting better grades but they never are all that motivated to learn the information.
It can be difficult to get the motivation to try and learn something but it can be done. Absolutely anyone is capable of learning absolutely anything if they expose themselves to the information correctly.
You need to find a way to be motivated.
- Find Reasons To Want To Study (or don’t study.)
No person should ever sit down with the intention to study without first finding a reason to do it that’s important to them.
The average student studies so they can get good grades. Those same average students usually don’t worry excessively about their grades. They just think that grades are a good thing to worry about. That’s the reason they have average results.
Some students study to get good grades but seriously worry about how well they do. These are the students that are always stressing themselves out to get the A+. They’re seriously motivated to get good grades and that’s why they usually get extraordinary results (at the expense of their time and stress levels.)
While these are the most common reasons students study, there are better reasons that could get better results with less stress, studying, and worrying.
What if you gave up your stress about grades and focused instead on learning things that you love?
Outside of school, people don’t need teachers or grades to motivate them to study. Some of them study.
Some of them don’t. The difference between the ones that study and the ones that don’t is the reason. Some people are able to find reasons to study that are important to them. Maybe they want a promotion? Maybe they want to try something new? Maybe they study out of curiosity.
Students can always find good reasons for studying if they work at it. If someone can’t find a reason than it’s not studying that’s the problem, it’s motivation.
If you want to be a teacher, then study so you can learn information to teach other people.
If you want to build a business then study so you can run your business better. Heck, if you want to become a criminal mastermind then find your criminal escapades by learning what others know.
Information can always be related to a real reason for learning. Find that reason and you’ll never struggle staying motivated.
- Why Do You Multitask?
Multitasking is a clear sign that something isn’t right in the realm of motivation. If you feel the urge to listen to music, or talk to friends, or do absolutely anything other than studying then you’re not motivated enough to be studying. Get yourself motivated or don’t study at all.
Multitasking is never as effective as the sum of its parts. It’s better to study half the time than to split your attention between two different things.
This is mostly because of how stressful it is for the human brain to alternate between tasks. You cannot have a good conversation with someone while you’re effectively studying (unless it’s related to the subject.) That means, either your conversation is going to suffer or your studying will. I’m sure you can guess which one usually suffers worse.
Since people are usually struggling to be motivated to study in the first place, even a simple distraction like a text message could completely ruin any effort to memorize. It’s best to just avoid the challenge of staying focused on studying in the first place by not giving yourself an alternative.
This can be a challenge for most people but it can be done. To help yourself follow through with single tasking, you might even want to cut down your study time. If you used to study for an hour while multitasking then try only studying for a half an hour without multitasking. The results will surprise you.
- Habit Is More Powerful Than Motivation
As much as motivation can help a person make the best of their study time, there is always a much more powerful option.
It can be good to hype yourself up by reassessing your reasons but you don’t need to always be hyping yourself up. The absolute best way to get studying done is through habit. Habits don’t require motivation to continue.
Motivation comes naturally to people stuck in a habit. In fact, when you get in the habit of studying you might even catch yourself studying without having to even think about it. Your body will just naturally go do it when it’s the right time.
You’ll need to work hard at getting yourself motivated for the first few days of developing a habit but after the first few days everything will become easier. One of the best parts is that the motivation comes naturally after that because you’re habit is to be motivated. That means you get the best out of yourself without needing to stress about it excessively.
Developing a study habit is most effective on a daily basis. It’s better to pick up the textbook for a few minutes a day than an hour only once a week. That allows the habit to fit into the same time and mentality faster and easier.
- The Lazy Solutions Are (Sometimes) Best
A lot of the information about studying that you’ll learn in this guide is the exact opposite of what formal education authorities spout out about studying. The mainstream of education is about teaching sets of facts based on certain standard. This guide is not about those standards. It’s about making the best of your life, studying, and results.
One of the most common lessons that authorities on education try to teach is that hard work pays off. Certainly hard work can pay off but they rarely take that any farther.
Hard work is not the best possible solution. Oftentimes, it’s one of the least effective solutions.
The difficulty of a task doesn’t change the results your going to get.
If I told you I was going to dig a hole with a shovel while barely working or with a spoon while highly working hard, which would go faster? Naturally, there are a lot of factors but that spoon would have to be working hundreds of times faster to keep up with the shovel. Hard work means little to nothing when the tools are wrong.
The lazy solutions are often about finding the right tool for the job. The word lazy isn’t perfect but it’s a clear way of illustrating the value of finding the most efficient solution.
Don’t waste your time working hard at something that a tool or change in strategies could get done easier.
- Personalize Your Study (Your time, your place, your rules)
Despite all of the claims to the contrary, studying has never been an exact science. Some of the most telling science having to do with the subject of studying has revealed that every individual learns in a different way. While some people love to study in complete silence, others struggle to study without white noise in the background. Some people prefer to study before bed, others prefer to study in the morning.
You’ll notice that this guide is filled with specific details on effective studying habits but none of them mean more than what you can figure out on your own about yourself. No set of study instructions is relevant for every person out there. It’s your responsibility to make sure that the study style you use is the best one you can use.
If you know that you study best in the morning then you need to make that decision for yourself. You’re not going to always match up with the “average” person. When you don’t match up with the average person, no one is going to know other than you. That means you need to be the one to decide.
- Don’t Fake Love What You Study
This is a mistake that I see all too often in schools. Students are often taught to care about the things that they study. To most students (and most schools,) that means having the students fall in love with what they are forced to study.
Students in a math course are expected to learn to care about the math that their supposed to be doing. English students are supposed to care about Shakespeare. The examples are endless but this kind of thinking is just insane. No student can honestly care about every subject that their required to participate in.
Many of the students that care about things the most are the ones that suffer the most from this idea. Students that care about almost every subject they study usually find one subject that they just don’t enjoy. Instead of accepting the fact that they can’t enjoy every subject, they instead try to pretend that they care about the subject.
Pretending to care about a subject is worse than not caring about the subject.
When you pretend to care about a subject you leave yourself completely closed to ever caring about any aspect of it. It’s better to just admit that you don’t enjoy a subject and focus on a different aspect of it.
- Find What You Love In What You Study (Focus On That)
After admitting that not every subject is everyone’s cup of tea, it becomes a lot easier to look at a subject objectively. Every subject can have important connections with other subjects. Some of the connections are obvious, others are a little bit more complicated.
If you know that math isn’t your kind of subject but you love to think about baseball then instead of going to math class to learn about math, go to math class to learn about managing baseball statistics. Naturally, that won’t make every second of math class easy to focus on because, at times, the connections would be weak but that’s okay. Certain aspects of math will start to come easier than ever. When you find the ones that still aren’t clicking you can do your best to find something else you love to help you get through those parts.
Often you’ll need to find multiple different topics to cover every class that you don’t enjoy. The better you’re able to find strong connections between what you enjoy and the material that’s being taught, the better you will do in the course being taught. Instead of learning to care about the subject, you’ll already care about the information you’re learning.
- How To Look At School (ideal way vs the real world way.)
Many school administrators have this idealized image of what a student is supposed to be. The ideal student is one that looks at every class like they’re learning something that will be helpful for them in life. The student will be motivated in the subjects related to school naturally. The student will ask questions but never any questions that are beyond the scope of the course because somehow students are supposed to stay within the scope of the guidelines. As much as the school administrators dream, these student have never, and will never exist.
No student cares about everything they’re “supposed” to care about. Truthfully, if they did care about all that then it would be a disaster for the student. No one can survive off mastering the information taught in schools. Schools take up hours of every day and if students wasted those hours only learning the subjects in the syllabus they’d have no real world skills.
Students that don’t talk when the teacher is talking may be being polite but they’re not learning interpersonal communication. This “perfect student” would never dare talk out of turn but 6 hours a day of silence would lead to nothing but a terrible communicator. I hate to say it but communicating is 10 times more important than most subjects in school. Schools are too busy trying to squeeze the information into specific subjects that the important stuff gets forgotten.
You might enjoy school. If you do, that’s wonderful. You are the kind of student that schools dream of but read the following paragraph and keep it in the back of your mind because school does not often relate with the real world:
The only place that people care about grades is in school. Grades have absolutely no productive value for the world. A person that produces something is always more valuable than a person that can regurgitate information. People that produce physical products or ideas make the world go around. Grades are neither. Grades are the judgment of other people. Grades are a fashion statement. It’s similar to an artist producing a work of art for the critics. The critics might love it but is it really original if it’s just what the critics wanted? In fact, grades are even less valuable than that because at least the artist has something objective to show for it.
School can be used to produce original ideas. That should be your goal. The best thing of all is that original ideas don’t require that you worry about your grades. Unfortunately, regurgitating facts is usually enough to do well in school. What are you doing with your time in school?
- How To Be Motivated
Motivation is a whole lot easier when you completely give up the idea of pleasing the critics (your teachers.) You should not be going to school to get good grades. Grades mean little to nothing in the real world. While it might get you into a nice college, unless it gets you into one of the best in the country, after college, you’re on your own.
You should be trying to connect what you love to what you’re told to learn. Then you should be trying to learn everything else you love. It requires no discipline to study something that you want to know anyway. That means that motivation comes naturally.
Some of the greatest moments of motivation that you should have are from your own original ideas.
The greatest thing about school is the introduction to ideas that you might never have learned about. Once those ideas are introduced your capable of making connections that no one else could have ever made. Some of those connections will mean virtually nothing but they will still give you a bit of a rush.
Some of those connections might just change the world.
That’s where the real magic happens. Even if you don’t know it now, two completely unrelated subjects might just add up to be your contribution to the world.
It can look like nothing today but it could mean everything.
- No Pressure Allowed
During moments of stress, memory is usually not the human body’s top priority. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes a lot of sense. If you were being chased by a lion, the last thing that your body would need to worry about sending blood to optimize your memory. It would much prefer to send blood to the rest of the body to escape danger. The body naturally prioritizes the factors that increase your chance of survival in that situation. Sure, remembering how to avoid the situation again can be helpful but that is only a tiny amount of memory required (and if you’re running then it’s probably already stuck.)
You need to keep that in mind while you’re trying to study.
Never let yourself get into a high pressure situation while studying. That causes major problems for most people. The more a person has to worry about their memory, the less effective their memory is able to work.
Most of the time, high stress situations can be avoided by planning study time in advance. It’s hard for a person to keep themselves relaxed when they’re studying for the first time and only have a few hours left. It’s easy to relax when someone is studying with weeks left to get the information memorized. Planning in advance is the most effective method of preventing stress.
Naturally though, since we happen to live in the real world, their will be times when limitations in time restrict study time to right before the test. In those situations, it often requires keeping track of how stressed you are while studying. When you’re stressed, close your eyes and relax ten minutes (you might want to set an alarm if you’re a sleeper.) After you get some breathing time you can return to studying.
It will mean you’re specifically “studying” less but you’ll get much more out of that study time.
- Time Isn’t Always A Plus
Planning your study sessions in advance can help reduce stress levels significantly but there are situations that benefit from less study time. Complicated subject that require a deep understanding benefit significantly from investing time into the subject. Other subjects aren’t quite as suited for having plenty of excess study time.
One important example of this is with plain old memorization tests. When there is absolutely no depth to a specific subject and all the information needed can be memorized, significant study planning isn’t always required (and can sometimes be detrimental.)
Consider all these conditions:
– You don’t care about the subject.
– You don’t need to understand the subject for future courses.
– The test has been virtually completely outlined.
– If the test was open book, it would be difficult not to get a great grade.
If a test meets all or some of these conditions you might want to put off the study time until days before the test. Days before the test you can use some memorization tricks to lock the information into your mind. After the test, you will lose some of the information you memorize but passing the test can be very easy.
If you invest to much time trying to prepare for these kinds of tests, it’s easy to get stressed out. It can feel like you’re not getting anywhere when you’re just stressing yourself out about the test worse. Being able to distinguish these kind of tests will make a major difference in your academic future.
- Do A Little Bit To Beat Procrastination
The number one enemy of most students today has nothing to do with class material. This enemy can steal hours of study time away without the student even noticing. Procrastination is the most underreported cause of failure in high school and college.
Procrastination can come in a number of different forms. The obvious form is in the student saying, “I’ll just do it later.” It also comes in some more hazy forms that are significantly more dangerous. Have you ever told yourself, “I’ll be able to study better if I wait until…”? That’s just another form of procrastination because the perfect time for studying never comes. Studying is not about having the time. It’s about making the time.
Procrastination’s number one enemy is habit. Habit can practically be thought of as the opposite of procrastination. When you’re in a habit, procrastination often comes too late because, by the time you get to thinking about procrastinating, you’re already busy doing it.
Doing stuff is the number one way to stop procrastination. The next time that you’re thinking about putting something off, just tell yourself that you’ll just do a little bit of studying. Tell yourself you’ll study one textbook page. At that point, you can decide whether or not you want to put studying off longer.
It’s kind of like you’re procrastinating your procrastination. You can tell yourself, “I’ll procrastinate later tonight.”
After you’re studying, you’ll virtually never stop only a few minutes later. If you can stop then you probably weren’t studying that effectively anyway.
- Picking Classes Right
Studying right is not a decision that’s independent of picking the right classes to take. Sure, there are going to be classes that you’re going to have to study for that you don’t want to take but whenever you have the option, you need to pick the right classes.
There are going to be classes that you’ll never have to worry about studying for. These are the kind of classes that you just naturally enjoy. You should be surrounding yourself in these kind of classes as much as possible. Yes, school is about expanding your horizons beyond this but you don’t need to intentionally force your horizons outwards. Those horizons expand without you even having to try.
You’re also going to want to select classes that aren’t too easy or too difficult for you. Many students feel the need to take courses that are too hard or too easy. This is a quick way to set yourself up for failure. If you select an easy class when you should be in a harder course, you will end up falling behind. If you select a hard course when you should be in an easy one, you will end up falling behind. Either way, you’re going to struggle more than necessary.
Selecting the right course has everything to do with studying appropriately.
- Picking assignments Right
One of my greatest discoveries in school was learning that I didn’t have to do every assignment.
The good students reading this right now are probably pretty confused. You might be thinking, if I don’t do assignments then I get zeros! That sounds devastating to most people but it actually isn’t always true and oftentimes, even when it is true, it still doesn’t affect a good students GPA negatively.
I used this strategy (and a few others) to take a course load that was double the credits of my fellow classmates through college.
Before investing anytime in any assignment for any course, you need to identify what’s valuable. In most course syllabuses, this is made easy. For example, if a course load bases 90% of your grade on test scores but provides assignments for you to work on every night for an hour, you might not want to complete the assignments nightly because theoretically, you can get an A without ever completely any of them.
You have to consider how efficient it is to complete an assignment and how valuable it will be to your learning.
That will make studying significantly easier. Imagine cutting 5 hours a week off your workload, suddenly it becomes a lot easier to find time to study. It can also help make a good incentive to study.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t do any assignment you can do but every one you skip can be valuable in stress levels and study time. If you can learn something then you should do the assignment. If you already know the material and the grade is going to mean virtually nothing then it might be worth skipping.
- Know The Relative Importance of Everything
Virtually everything you spend your study on needs to be prioritized appropriately. Whenever you have the opportunity to rank things based on their relative importance, you need to take the time to do it. Every time you’re given any information about upcoming tests you should be figuring out what the most important things to study are. Whenever you’re facing multiple tests in multiple classes you need to be figuring out which classes you should be studying for most. Everything needs to have a relative priority.
This needs to be based on a number of factors. One of the most important factors is your personal motivation. You’ll have a natural tendency to focus on the things that you enjoy but it usually should be the opposite. When you don’t enjoy a subject at all, that probably means that you need to be making it a higher priority (and finding out how you can enjoy it more.)
You also need to consider the value of the specific things. The most valuable activities needs to be given the most time. Too many students spend useless hours learning things that hardly make a difference in their grades. You have only so much time. You need to know what is most important.
Everything needs to be prioritized for studying right.
- Meeting Teachers Right
We’d all wish that personal relationships wouldn’t affect a teachers ability to grade a student fairly but it’s just not true. The way your teachers look at you makes all the difference in the world to how they grade your papers.
If the teachers think that you’re slacking then they will give you the grades of a slacker (even if you’re doing amazing work.) I’ve seen the results repeatedly. I’ve had a number of my papers handed in with another students name on it (I was making a little extra cash. I wasn’t considering the ethical implications at the time.) The grade that they end up receiving usually has everything to do with the normal work they produce. Lazy students got A+’s. Good students got B+’s.
When a teacher likes a student, the student’s grade is higher. When the teacher dislikes a student, the grade is lower. Teachers tend to like students that act like the theoretical perfect student. Naturally, no one can be that exact student but everything you can do to improve the way you come off to your teachers, the better off you are.
Treat your teachers with kindness and make them feel good about their job. Even the bad teachers usually have good intentions.
- Study Time ROI
Return on investment is a major concept in finance. They call it ROI. It’s pretty much asking how much are you getting from the amount you give.
It’s usually most clearly explained with examples. If I was to spend $100 to make $200 I would have a 100% ROI. Compare that to if I spent $1000 to make $1500 dollars for a 50% ROI. Which would be better?
Naturally, there are more factors involved but despite $1500 being more than $200, the 100% ROI would be a better investment because you could make more by investing less.
You need to think about your study time in the same way. Given the choice between spending 10 hours learning all of the material or spending an hour to learn most of the material, you need to make the right decision. In just about every case, I highly recommend you pick the more efficient way to study.
It’s better to study in a way that makes more material stick with less time studying because the more time spent studying, the more problems you can have. With every minute you spend studying, you’re mind will increase the amount of stress it feels over a test. That will instantly reduce the effectiveness of any study effort you attempt.
Your time is valuable. Don’t waste it doing low ROI studying.
- Know What You Want
When you’re studying you need to keep your goals in mind. If you’re just looking to pass a test then you should be studying in a completely different way than if you’re studying to remember for the rest of your life.
Some classes are unbelievably valuable for an individual while other have a much lower value. If you’re taking a lower value course then it would be absolutely ridiculous for you to waste time mastering detailed information that doesn’t matter to you anyway.
When you know what you want you’ll be able to make the right decision about how you spend your time.
You should also consider this from a much broader perspective.
- Putting School In Perspective
School can lead many students to stressing themselves out excessively. It can completely take over a students life by infecting every second of the day with education worries. Students worry whether or not they’re good enough. They worry whether they passed or failed a test. They worry that they might not understand the next thing they need to learn. It’s all ridiculously high stress worrying for some people. Often these are the same people that get amazing grades.
Thinking about school this way is a clear way to make everything significantly more difficult than it has to be. Most of them just don’t realize there is a better way.
Nothing in education is worth worrying about despite many a school’s attempt to stress its students out. Your life is not on the line with a grade. There is always another test. There is always another way. Some of the most successful people in the world were terrible students. Some of the most successful people in the world were also amazing students. The point is that it probably doesn’t matter too much how well you do in school.
Doing good in school can provide good opportunities but it’s not even close to the most important thing in life.
The way you think about school means so much more. A significantly more important factor than schooling is the ability to keep relaxed in stressful situations. Consider this an opportunity to learn that.
- Make Your Own Life Priorities
“I just have to get through this class for my parents. Then I’ll worry about what I want to do.”
I get a little depressed every time I hear someone beginning to go down this path. It’s one of the surest paths to spending years of your life to please other people while barely getting an education. Education slowly becomes something that’s dreaded. People force themselves to do things that they hate and suffer the consequence of associating school with it.
I’m sorry to tell you but if you’re putting off the education you want more than a few days, you’ll probably never follow through with it. I know, I know, you are, of course, “the exception to the rule” but really you need to realize this. Everyone thinks they’ll follow through learning the things that they love. Almost no one does it.
Teachers, parents, and friends all care about you but they cannot know what you truly care about (or will care about.) When they tell you which classes are best for you, they might as well be throwing darts at a dart board. Sure, they might have some experience but they will never know more about you than you.
If you don’t want to learn something then DON’T LEARN IT. (However, there is always a reason to want to learn something. If you find yourself repeatedly avoiding certain subjects then you probably need to look into the real reason you don’t want to learn it.)
If you want to learn something then do whatever it takes to learn it.
- Science Class Actually Applies To Life
Not all students are lovers of the sciences but there are some unbelievably important lessons to be learned for every student.
The scientific method is one of the best problem solving methods available to the average person. We may not all have keen intuitions or close friends that know the answers but we all can use the scientific method to narrow down solutions to problems.
I remember testing and tweaking thousands of memorization methods throughout my schooling. I would experiment with music, without music, with singing, and even with hopping on one leg (really… it’s kind of sad.) While most of the experiments led to less-than-stellar results, every single one of them gave me a little bit of a leg up in my learning.
The scientific method requires a hypothesis. Try to take everything you learn and see how it might relate to your studying. When you think you’ve found something it’s time to design an experiment.
- Design Experiments
Designing experiments for different methods of studying can be a bit of a dirty science. (I know the science students must hate that.) You are only one human being. That makes the sample awfully unreliable but it can still be used to catch simple trends.
Do you want to know if you actually study better with classical music playing in the background?
Run an experiment to find out. Try memorizing random words over five minutes with classical music. Then try memorizing a different set of random words over five minutes without the classical music. The results of one trial wont stand up to any scrutiny. That’s why you should make it a habit.
Try the same experiment a few times. If you don’t find any consistent results then you need to find a different method of testing or you might just want to move on. If you find consistent results then run more tests to verify them.
Keep changing up your experiments (try rock music perhaps?) and you will be continuously improving your study habits.
- Try Everything.
This guide provides information that works for the vast majority of people but you are not the vast majority of people. In many ways, you probably are, but don’t take anything ANYONE says about studying as fact without trying to prove it yourself.
There are no silly studying experiments. While I may have wasted my time on a number of silly experiments, over all it gave me hundreds of hours of entertainment and saved me thousands of hours I would have had to spend studying.
The greatest innovations you’ll discover in studying will come from the weirdest experiments you do.
For example: Try the hopping on one leg thing. You might surprise yourself with the results. (It’s not magic but it improved my recall for a few weeks after I learned it. Eventually, like many methods, my brain got used to it and it became less effective.)
- Measure Everything.
If you’re taking the time to study then it’s worth taking the time to measure how you’re studying. You should be keeping track of every minute that you spend studying. You should also be measuring the effectiveness of the studying you’re doing.
There is no way to know if you’re making measurable improvements or just wasting your time if you don’t measure your results with some accuracy. You don’t need to track the seconds but if you spend time studying, you should be looking at the clock before and after and writing the minutes down.
Doing this alone can provide amazing insights into your own personal methods of learning. One of the first observations I had was learning how ineffective long hours of studying was. I saw almost no measurable improvement between studying 1 hour and 3 hours straight. When I studied 3 hours spread over a few days (1 per day), the results were way better.
You can take that insight and use it but you’ll NEVER know how many insights your missing by not looking into your personal study results and habits.
- Evaluate Your Results
Evaluating results of your studying experiments can be another inexact science. Looking at your grades alone can provide some insight but can’t be counted on for consistently accurate results. That’s because some tests are difficult and some are easy. Teachers are rarely consistent in their test difficult. So, you may have scored a lower grade but you may have remembered more than the last test.
You can use grades to notice trends but you can’t have too much faith in them for your experiments. It’s sometimes even better to use your gut instincts to measure the effectiveness of your studying. How confident did you feel halfway through the test? If you were more confident than the last test then you’re probably on the right track.
That being said: There is no substitute to a good randomized self test. Set yourself up with some flash cards, or a deck of cards, or a random number list, or anything that you can’t control and keep track of how well you memorize them. The results of these experiments are usually the most accurate projection of your real studying effectiveness.
- Use What You Learn
All the experimentation and results in the world won’t help you if you don’t take the chance to use it. This might sound a bit obvious but once you get seriously interested in experimenting with your study habits, you could easily get distracted experimenting when you should just be using the things you learned.
Experimentation is not what you should be focusing on before the big tests. It’s what you should be focusing on for the smaller ones. For the big tests, you should take what you learned from the smaller tests and use it.
The results you’ll start to see when you take the time to apply information you learned yourself will surprise you. The mere act of proving a study ideas effectiveness yourself can make studying significantly easier and more effective.
- Learning The Less Obvious Skill
Studying is an important skill but in most cases, there is a much more important skill to learn before taking a test. Most people spend hours and hours of their life studying for a single test. This usually leads to high stress levels and sub par results.
What if I told you that you could increase your grades by 10% for every test for the rest of your life with only a little bit of practice? In fact, 10% is an understatement once you start to automatically increase this skill.
Most people look for the skills they need to pass a specific test.
It’s much better to focus on the skills that you can you to pass any test.
Learning to take tests successful will change the way you look at testing forever. (You might even start to enjoy them.)
Spend the time it takes to learn how to take tests. That involves stress, strategies, and many other important details.
- Reading The Test (What Do You Need To Know)
Before you even open up your textbook to start studying, you should know what you’re looking to prep for. Most teachers virtually provide the answers for the test in their class handouts. If you learn to start looking, you wont waste a second of your time studying something that isn’t on the test.
Gather every source of information on the test you can find. Every word about the test could provide the information that you need. Read through everything the teacher provides for studying. Remember, most teachers want their students to get high scores. That means they usually provide a lot of insight on the test.
In some cases, you’ll have very little information to work with. This can make studying significantly more difficult. In those cases, you have take your best guesses.
In most cases, you’ll have lists of information that the teacher handed out. Don’t just read what’s on the list but also try to figure out what’s not on the list. Many students distract themselves studying small details that aren’t on the test anyway. If you have a bulk of information, anything not listed, is probably not worth studying.
If the teacher is generous enough to provide scoring information for certain sections of the test then use it to your advantage. Study what’s most important most. Sometimes, if a section is scored really low, you might not even want to spend your time studying it.
- Study Early, Excessively Relax Late
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the cliché of a student that doesn’t pick up their textbook until the night before the test. Then they stay up all night trying to study. I’m sure you can guess this: Don’t be that student.
Spending a whole night studying before a test can help you pass the test but any student doing that is wasting hours of time studying, tossing out a good night sleep, and, usually, sacrificing a huge chunk of their final test score.
I’ve personally found the exact opposite study strategy more effective. In fact, I hardly ever pick up a textbook the night before a test.
It can depend on the subject and goals but getting information to stick is best started at least a week in advance. If you get started early, you can spend a whole lot less time studying and still get better results. 12 hours of studying straight through is usually less effective then 3 hours studying spread over a week.
There is rarely a good reason to wait until the last night to study. In fact, when you learn to let yourself relax about the test the night before, you can expect your grades to go up.
- Stress Kills
The fastest killer of great test scores is stress.
Too many students spend their whole time taking a test worrying about the results. This ends up causing their mind to blank when they need the information the most. The best test takers are the ones that are willing to accept whatever happens during the test.
Try to set this rule for yourself:
When the test hits your desk, worrying about the test is over.
It really is over. You can’t study anymore. Every second that you worry is just going to make you lose information. Keep your mind focused on answering the questions to the best of your current ability. Most of this comes down to discipline.
It’s easy to get caught up thinking in ways that get you stressed. It takes strength to stop it when you need relaxation most.
If you happen to find yourself underwater in a test then you can just take it as a lesson. Learn from it and move on.
- Confidence Made Easy
Confidence in test taking can be broken down into 3 simple factors:
The first factor is your preparation. If you’re not properly prepared for a test then you will not be confident about your results. It doesn’t necessarily go the other way though. Just because you’re not confident about the test, it doesn’t mean you haven’t prepared appropriately.
The second factor is your self-talk. By that I mean, the words that you tell yourself during the test. Take note of the thoughts you have during your next test. One specific hangup that many people have happens when they can’t remember something. They suddenly start to ask themselves the same question over and over hoping they somehow can come up with it. Listen to your self-talk like you’re talking to someone other than you. If it would be rude to talk to someone else in the same way you’re talking to yourself then you probably need to refocus.
The third factor is the perspective you have. If you think you’re taking the biggest test of your life then it doesn’t matter how much you study, you’re going to be stressed. If you think you’re score doesn’t even matter then you won’t be the slightest bit stressed. Of course, neither extreme is always productive. You need to find the right perspective for the right test. In most cases, people assume their next test is way more important than it really. Just ask yourself, “would I really remember these results 10 years from now?”
- Simulate The Test (Announcers Anyone?)
How confident are you in your ability to tie your shoes?
I hallucinate that you’re probably pretty confident. Why are you so confident? Did you pass the tie your shoes test? Did you win an award? Most likely you’re confident because you’ve done it tens of thousands of times in your life.
How often do you take a test?
Even the most busy students only take a couple of tests a week (other than the test taking times, of course.)
If you want to develop the same confidence you have in tying your shoes in taking a test then you have to take tests a whole lot more often.
No, you don’t have to take another forty classes this semester. Just go home, and take a test.
Set yourself up like you are in school. Make sure you have no ways to cheat and no distractions. Then practice taking the test in your head. If you’re anything like me you might enjoy a little color commentary in your head to make it more fun. (Yea. I know. I’m crazy but it helps.)
- Be Physically Prepared
Mental preparation is most of what I’ve discussed so far. Over the years I’ve gained a ton of experience getting my mind prepared for a test. I would still, occasionally, have mediocre results. That got me curious about why that was. Surprisingly, I was missing something blatantly obvious.
I found that I wasn’t unprepared for the test intellectually or emotionally. I wasn’t prepared for the test physically. In all of my deep test prep strategization, I would still occasionally forget a pencil. Or I would show up late. Or I would forget to eat that morning. All of the most obvious things physically were having an impact.
Preparation for a test in not only in your head. Being physically prepared, not only improves your ability to take the test but it also improves your confidence significantly.
- Don’t Waste Time On The Test
I was always the first person to hand in my test during my second semester in college. That’s because I realized something essential to staying mentally grounded. Every second that I wasted trying to find an answer locked deep in my brain was pointless. In just about every case, I either knew the answer or I didn’t.
That realization allowed me to breeze through tests like they were nothing.
(I later learned the challenges that come with that strategy. Teachers don’t like it and you can’t spend the time to double check the stupid things.)
I may have changed my strategy a little over the years but when I first see a test, this is my go to method. After I “complete” the test, that’s when I start to worry about the details. You can proofread your information after you answer every question. You can try and think of that one obscure answer you can’t remember right now after you get the rest of the test out of the way.
The simple point is: Don’t dilly dally. The longer you wait to finish, the harder it will become.
- Open Book Can Be Harder Than Closed Book
Never underestimate the difficulty of an open book test. Open book tests can be some of the hardest tests to prepare for.
While there are some open book tests that just require going through the textbook for the relevant information, many open book tests rely on a deeper understanding of the material. By that I mean, it’s often more than just the information that you need to know.
Usually, the difficulty of an open book test relies heavily on the teachers personal testing style. If you know that a teacher usually has easy open book tests then you can put studying for it as a low priority. If you don’t know the teacher makes easy tests then you probably need to prepare extensively.
Studying for an open book test appropriately should include thinking about how the information you’re learning relates to everything else that you’re learning.
- Master Multiple Choice
Multiple choice tests are one of the easiest forms of testing to pass consistently because you can dramatically increase your odds of getting the correct answer by just having a little information on the subject. If you can rule out 1 answer then you have a one in three chance of getting the right answer (for the typical 4 option multiple choice.) If you can rule out 2 then you have a 50% chance. You can’t get odds that good when filling in the answer yourself.
Ruling out the wrong answers can have a major impact on the final score.
By sheer luck alone, anyone can get 25% of the questions right.
That being said, don’t completely underestimate some of the challenging parts about a multiple choice test. Look at all of the potential answers before you select one. Teachers often intentionally put decoy answers that are close but not right.
The first time through the test it can help to skip any multiple choice questions that seem to require deep thought. Answer the easy ones. After that, you can go into the harder questions one by one. That allows you to not lose any easy points from high stress levels that come from the harder questions.
- Double Check Your Answers AFTER (Unless…)
There is an exception to this rule listed below.
Only check your answers after you’ve given every question on the test a shot. Checking your answers directly after answering the question is a sure way to develop a bias or get stressed from frustration.
In most situations, your checking should be unnecessary. When you know what you’re doing, checking is only helpful for around 1 in 10 questions. That usually means that it’s more efficient to finish all the questions and then spend the time checking the answers.
The exception to that rule is with math tests (and some other procedure based tests.)
With math tests you should check your work immediately after completing the question. While it can lead to higher levels of stress, it can prevent you from making the same mistake repeatedly through the test. That can devastate a test score.
- Read All Questions Carefully
Many tests turn out to have more critical reading requirements than memorization. Teachers often have trouble writing tests. They attempt to ask certain specific questions but it’s easy to accidentally lead the student down the wrong path. Unless there is some reason to believe otherwise, if the teacher mentions something in the question, it’s probably relevant (excluding some math word problems.)
One easy example of this would include, “Check All That Apply.” This will generally presume that more than one of the answers should be selected. While it COULD be only one answer, it’s usually more effective to start with the assumption that it’s more than one. Otherwise, most teachers would ask which is the correct answer.
Read every question very closely. They may provide hints at the right answer.
- Be Happy With ANY Result
This is going to be one of the hardest tip for most people to accept.
To get the most out of yourself during testing, learn to be happy with whatever your test score might be.
When you go into a test worrying about what your score might be, you will suffer the consequences. Confidence can help but it’s not always easy to maintain during stressful situations. It’s much easier to avoid the stress in the first place by knowing that you’re going to be happy with any result.
How can you be happy with any result?
Decide now that you’ll learn from whatever happens. Education has absolutely nothing to do with the grades you receive on a test (especially any single test.) It might say that you’re a talented test taker but there are people that know twice as much as you that would have failed the test.
If you worked hard to learn and gave everything you could during the test then you should go home proud of any score.
- Distractions Just Slow You Down
If there was one personal experiment that I could have changed the results to it would have been this one. I tried it once. The results weren’t favorable. The next day I tweaked the experiment. Again, the results weren’t favorable. I ended up repeating this process for nearly a month before I took a break from it. That is, until a month later when I tweaked the experiment and tried again. Eventually I had to learn the message: Music does not help me study.
I tried so hard to make it a reality but no matter how many times I tried, music hindered my scores on my memory tests.
I found this to be one of the most consistent killer of good scores on my tests. The vast majority of people’s scores suffer dramatically from distractions. Distraction differ from person to person but just about everyone has their bad habits involved with studying. Some of the most common distractions include talking to friends, listening to music, and watching television.
If you’re like most people, this is the point that you’re going to be saying “You said the VAST MAJORITY of people. Not Everyone. I’m the exception.” Proceed at your own risk. Experiment on yourself to be sure. Just one more point to help prove my point:
Three months after my initial experiments I tested (on multiple people) to see how much longer it took to get the same results studying while listening to music. It took around 4 times as long to get equal test scores for my small sample.
The point is clear: It’s much better to study less time with less distractions than more time with distractions.
- Have The Tools You Need To Learn
So many students try to slide by in their studying. They treat their studying as if it’s a boring hobby. They tend to put no real effort into growing or preparing their process. This can lead to physical laziness in the study process.
You need to have certain tools to study effectively. In every class, those tools can be different. Some obvious examples of tools are textbooks, and class tools. You also need to consider personal tools for studying. Do you need to write to remember? Then bring what you need to write. If you need to sip south African mango juice while studying then you better darn well get some in advance. Of course, every individual’s needs are personal. You need to know what you need.
When you don’t have the tools to study well, you aren’t going to study well. This is particularly true if you don’t enjoy the subject.
Slacking in your physical preparation for your studying is the perfect way to set yourself up to fail.
- Positive Associations
A lot of the habits we develop in life are based on the emotions we develop during an activity. If you absolutely despise a certain activity and every second you do it you’re uncomfortable or depressed, you’re not going to make it a habit. If, on the other hand, you’re comfortable, relaxed, and enjoying other details about a situation, you might turn it into a habit.
It’s a very simple concept but very few people associate it with their study habits. They sit in uncomfortable chairs. They suffer through dim lighting. They force themselves to do it and they just learn to hate studying even more.
You don’t have to hate studying. You can set up your studying process to be relatively enjoyable. You need to find ways to associate positive things to studying. Whenever you force yourself to study, you’re associating negatives. Instead you need to find real reasons to open the book. Once you start associating the right things to studying, you’ll never have to force yourself again.
- Noise Isn’t Always A Distraction
I’ve spoken pretty harshly about listening to music while studying. Most people do not benefit from music. Background noise is a little bit more complicated a subject.
Some people actually benefit from having a little bit of background noise while they’re studying. It can help the brain focus in on the details better. That’s not the same as music. Music has a rhythm. Music can be much more enjoyable than background noise. That means it can steal focus. With any background noise, you need to worry about it stealing your focus.
Studying in a room full of close friends while they’re talking is a bad idea. Studying in a room full of strangers usually isn’t so bad. (This is particularly true if the strangers sound devastatingly boring.)
Not everyone benefits from background noise. It’s usually not all that difficult a decision. It’s best to test but most people already know how much noise they like in the background while studying. As long as the noise doesn’t steal any focus, it can be effective.
- Have All The Information You Might Need
Studying effectively, when it’s not about memorization, is all about curiosity. The more you want to find the answers to questions that you have, the more effectively you’re going to be able to study. One of the easiest ways to dull this curiosity is to know that you’re unable to answer some of your questions immediately.
When you know that some of your questions will go unanswered, you’re going to start losing interest in the subject. To avoid this, make sure that you have every bit of study material that you can get your hands on. That should include all of your notes, books, and handouts.
It can also include Internet access but I highly recommend you avoid this until you’ve become very disciplined in your study habits. The Internet can raise hundreds of other questions and lead you down a rabbit hole of unrelated inquiry. That won’t help your studying. The more you stay on the material for the test, the better.
- Get Comfortable
Get a comfortable chair to study in. Studying shouldn’t require suffering through subpar working conditions. I know some people that study in fold up chairs. That is not the way to get yourself to enjoy studying. The way to get yourself to enjoy studying is to find every excuse to make it a positive experience.
You need to get comfortable in every way that you can reasonably try. If you can make your room hotter or colder then do it. If you can put on your favorite feety pajamas then do it. Anything that you can do to make your study experience more comfortable is helpful.
Just make sure that your comfort doesn’t go to the point of distraction.
Also, make sure you don’t use lack of comfort as an excuse to break your positive habits. Many people start thinking, “I can’t make my environment ABSOLUTELY perfect so I’ll just skip studying.” That’s a sure way to never studying.
Plan in advance and this will never be a problem.
- Your Not Made To Remember Your Study Material
Students have asked me why it’s so difficult for them to remember things for class. I always have to laugh a little bit because school has a tendency to teach children everything but the important parts.
Remembering study information is difficult because it has very little evolutionary backing. For thousands of years, people didn’t need to remember the names of the state capitals (ignore the time absurdity there.) People couldn’t care less about little details that didn’t effect their lives.
Memory evolved for survival, not pointless facts. When you’re trying to remember pointless facts, you’re not doing what your memory was intended for.
Memory is good with landmarks and memory is good with physical movement. It’s not so effective at the things school tries to teach it. One way to quickly improve how effectively you study is to connect it with landmarks or physical movement. In fact, many of the most effective memory techniques around use this.
- Associate What You’re Learning To What You Know
I try my best to never learn a new subject.
That might sound funny but let me explain. I realized years ago that learning something completely new is challenging. That’s because the brain has no associations about the information. It’s a lot easier to learn something that you already know a lot about. Your brain knows how to navigate the associations more effectively.
With that in mind, instead of trying to learn new subjects, try to get a deep understanding of new subjects by linking them to subjects you already know. This can happen in many different ways and there is no right way. You might want to associate your Roman history assignment to baseball by comparing Rome to the Yankees. That leads to some interesting questions. Who would the Red Sox be in that comparison? That random connection makes the new subject into a branch off of a subject you already know.
Naturally, no two subjects fit together perfectly but they can help you learn faster and more effectively. You can correct the details as you learn more.
- Reading Is Not Memorizing
One of the most common mistakes people have with memorizations is thinking it’s a bit of a passive act. People think that they can just read their textbook and the information they’re learning will stick. Reading has virtually nothing to do with memory.
Have you ever accidentally memorized a fiction book that you were enjoying? I haven’t (not the whole thing at least) Not many people do happen to memorize.
Memorization is a process separate from reading. You can’t expect reading to help you remember much.
Memorization requires you ask yourself questions without the answers sitting right in front of you. One of the clearest examples of this is with flash cards. You need to have to dig in your own brain to find the right information. That is memorization.
- Memorizing Is Not Understanding
Some people go down the opposite route of studying. They just memorize all kinds of data but never connect to the deeper information. Memorizing and understanding a subject have very little connection. Memorizing can be a great way to pass most classes but it has its hang ups.
Some teachers prefer open ended questions that require a deeper understanding of a subject. If you focus on memorizing info, you will end up suffering during these complicated questions.
Memorizing is also not very effective for lifelong learning. You cannot memorize information by thinking about it only a few times over a short period of time. A couple years from now, the information you memorized will be gone.
Those that took the time to understand the subject may not remember every detail but will catch back onto the subject a lot faster later on.
- Short And Dirty Memorization VS. The Long Game
There are two distinct categories of memory that you need to understand. The names themselves are pretty descriptive of their meaning. You can memorize something for the short term or you can memorize something for the long term.
Memorizing something for a long term requires a deep commitment to the subject. You have to invest the time in reading the books. You need to be curious. You need to study multiple times over a longer period of time. This is the kind of studying that teachers like to imagine all their students are doing. Unfortunately, with all the information presented by schools, it’s virtually impossible for any student to invest enough time for long term memorization in all of their courses.
Short term memorization is actually one of the most effective ways for surviving school. Subjects and information is presented so quickly that long term memorization would require the student to have no free time at all. Short term memorization can take virtually no time at all.
Many memorization techniques are intended for the short term.
When you start developing patterns for short term memorization, you may come to realize that most of them seem like cheap memory tricks. That’s because, they are. When you’re using short term memory to take a test, you are not doing what was intended by your educators. You’re just using cheap tricks. There is very little wrong with that if you’re in a class that you don’t think you’ll need for your future. The techniques can become addictive though. Make sure you know when you should be studying for the short term and when you should be worrying about the long term.
- Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic devices are one of the most commonly taught memorization techniques. For the most part, it’s the easiest and most effective memorization technique you can use when there isn’t much depth required in the subject.
Mnemonic devices come in a couple different common forms:
They can include using the first letter of a list of words to create an easy to remember word.
This can be a very difficult list of cities to remember but there is an easy mnemonic to help remember them all. All you have to do is remember “Ham Sandwich” and you have the first letter of each city. Once you know the start of each word it becomes much easier to remember the rest.
The second type of mnemonic can be just as effective but is used significantly less.
How could you remember “L8MMBCEDS”?
Yes, that is only a random set of letters and a digit. It means absolutely nothing.
Instead of trying to remember a random set of letters you can remember “Larry 8 (ate) My Marlon Brando Collectors DVD Set.”
Despite the second option providing more information, it will still be easier to remember because it includes the information in a more brain friendly fashion.
- Loci Method
The loci method is a very effective (but sometimes overrated) method of memorization.
The loci method uses our natural ability to remember landmarks and helps connect information into our brains in a systematic way. It is one of the most popular memory techniques used by memorization champions.
The secret is to connect the information you’re studying to a location that you know in your head. The location needs to be a place you know inside and out. Most people use their home. They imagine themselves walking from room to room. Inside of each room they see something related to the information they’re studying.
The something they see can be virtually anything but there are a few simple rules.
First of all, you need to look at something that you can logically connect to the information you’re studying. For example, if you’re memorizing the city “Houston,” you might find miniature version of your house sitting inside the room next to a big “One Ton” weight. That would make you think “House-Ton.” That’s close enough for your brain to make the connection to Houston.
That might seem a little strange but that actually provides the benefit of making it easier to remember.
The second rule is making it easier to remember. If you are remembering words by picturing the words inside the room you’re imagining, you’re not going to get very much help. It’s better to think of something completely outrageous or completely taboo. Your memory likes to remember the crazy things. The normal things are much harder to have stick.
To make this most effective you need to deeply imagine yourself walking through the room. You’re not just teleporting from room to room in your home. You need to step carefully around whatever you put in that room. Heck, if you’re remembering a clown on a unicycle then you can really help it stick by imagining the clown tripping on your foot at you leave the room. That would cause a humorous crash and sound that will get it sticking even better. Make the memory stronger by seeing, smelling, and hearing anything notable that might happen.
Loci is often treated as a bit of a magical form of memorization. It’s not. It’s just a regular memorization technique that’s very interesting and effective but it requires a relatively large investment of time.
- Study The Story Instead Of The Facts
The people that truly fall in love with a subject often don’t actually care deeply about the “subject.” they often care more about the story.
Most people love a good story.
Just about every subject has some kind of a story that you can fall in love with.
History is one of the most obvious examples. While the test may check your ability to remember certain dates, your studying probably shouldn’t focus on that. Knowing when a certain event happened is good but it’s much easier to understand the drama behind why it happened first. After your understand why something happened, you’re more able to connect the date to something important. Then you can connect the drama to the dates. (How long was it between this event and this event? Does that seem long? These kind of questions can make memorizing dates come more naturally.)
Science is another example. You may not understand what’s so important about a certain piece of information on an element but there is a story behind everything. Who discovered it? What can we use it for? Do you already use it in your life but not know?
The raw data, in deep memorization, can usually become more of an afterthought.
- Or Just Create The Story…
Some subjects aren’t so direct with their stories.
If you can’t find an interesting story behind a certain subject then you might want to try and make one up.
This might seem a little crazy but it’s one of the easiest ways to make a subject more interesting. You may know the story isn’t real but that doesn’t matter. People understand that the television shows they watch are imaginary. They still love to sit down and watch the stories. Why can’t you do that with the subjects that you’re struggling with?
You can even put yourself into the story to make it more interesting.
In math class, create a story about you being on the team for the next space shuttle launch and your test is a vital aspect that needs to be checked for launch. Or, maybe you’re fighting off an alien invasion with your geometry homework. The story can often be more important than the subject.
- Multiple Methods (Read out loud, write, sing, etc.)
The best methods of memorization aren’t only about one specific strategy. They’re about using an effective combination of strategies that work for you.
When you memorize something using a certain strategy, your brain doesn’t store the information in the same way as it would have if you memorized it a different way. Each memorization strategy has it’s own advantages and disadvantages to think about. On top of that, not all information is best remembered using one particular strategy.
The best way to make sure that the information is sticking is by including multiple strategies and senses.
When you use flash cards you can say the answers out loud so you get to hear them too. Sing your textbook while you’re reading if you want to. These are ways to multiply the strategies without multiplying the time you need to invest. Take advantage of them.
On top of that, when you don’t have long to study, don’t use one strategy too often or long. The brain can become desensitized to certain strategies. You’ll get more results for less investment if you change it up once in a while.
- Enjoy or Memorize. Pick One.
Most students unintentionally run away from the idea of memorizing information. They end up reading their textbooks repeatedly and pretending they’re memorizing. The truth is, reading a textbook is easy. It’s the easiest way to pretend that you’re actually studying. It’s often an excuse to be lazy.
Memorization isn’t always an enjoyable process. It requires investing a ton of energy. If you’re not investing the energy then any results you see from attempting to memorize will be horrible. Reading makes it easy to slack off. When you get lost in thought reading you might even enjoy yourself.
Make a decision. Are you preparing for a test or do you want to enjoy yourself? If you can’t invest the energy you need to study then you might as well not pretend that you are.
Reading your textbook could be essential but never mistake reading for test prep. Reading is something you do to learn the subject. If you want to score high on the test you should be taking the time to memorize.
- Do Your Teachers Like You?
Being an unlikable student is one of the most effective ways to damage your grades.
Most teachers reading this would say, “NO! That’s not true” but I’ve seen the results time and time again. Teachers base their grades on significantly more than the output you provide. That excludes solely right or wrong scoring. Most teachers wouldn’t be bold enough to directly change a grade unfairly but…
Teachers do judge students more harshly on subjective grades if they don’t like them.
One of your most important goals as a student needs to include not being directly rude to your teachers.
You don’t have to agree with the teachers or even like them but you need to make sure you, at the very least, pretend to respect them. Don’t speak when they talk. At least pretend to pay attention. Most important, show up to class.
- Being A Favorite Student (without being a pet)
Being liked by a teacher won’t help your grades quite as much as being disliked would hurt them.
That’s because teachers actively are trying to help you when they grade your papers more harshly. The teachers are thinking, “If I judge this student more harshly, they’ll become smarter than if I let them get away with less than their best.”
Being liked can still help though.
There are plenty of “teachers pet” strategies that I won’t go over. Teachers will typically see right through that.
One of the best ways to gain the teachers favor is to show that you care about the class (even if you don’t.)
When the teacher speaks, you need to at least act like what they’re saying matters. You might even benefit from forcing a “perma-curious” face on whenever the teacher talks.
Yes, this sounds manipulative to many students but it’s just as natural as any good manners. Just like you don’t talk with your mouth full to be polite. You don’t zone out in class while the teacher is talking to be polite.
Consider it a courtesy.
- Not All Teachers Are Worth Being Liked By
Eventually I had to get to this part.
You’ll run into many teachers that you don’t like in your schooling career. For the most part, this shouldn’t matter. As long as you stay polite and fair to them, they will stay polite and fair to you.
Eventually though, you might run into a real stinker.
If there is a teacher that’s treating you poorly despite you being polite to them then you shouldn’t let them drag you down. Stay polite to them. In fact, become more polite and friendly if you want to get back at them.
If you get the chance to switch out of that teachers class then take it.
If you can’t switch out of the class then be sure you don’t give them any excuse to cause trouble for you. That means, study more and treat them like dynamite. Be polite and be careful and you’ll make it.
- Value The Teachers Lessons (or don’t be rude.)
Every teacher thinks that the information they’re teaching is valuable. That’s why they teach it. A science teacher thinks that science is essential. Math teachers think that math is essential. That is probably why they started teaching it in the first place.
The truth is, not everyone needs to learn every subject. If you intend to make a career in writing then you probably don’t need all that much math education to make it. (Certainly there could be some advantages but given the choice between improving writing or math, writing would be much more important.)
Teachers rarely account for this when they look at their students. Teachers assume that what they teach is the exception.
If you don’t indulge this belief then teachers will use often use it against you.
Even if you don’t plan on using a subject. Don’t use the class time to study for something else. It might seem efficient but it’s just as efficient as a person not paying your taxes. You will probably end up suffering consequences in the long run.
- Study Buddies! Do You Need Them? Do You Want Them?
Studying in groups can be very effective for some people.
One of the things that can make it so valuable is social pressure. No one wants to embarrass themselves in front of a big group of students. That makes them focus more on getting the answers right. Depending on how comfortable a person is around people, this can have a positive effect. That extra pressure simulates testing conditions significantly better than sitting in a room alone with no pressure on getting the right answer.
The social pressure can end up leading in the wrong direction too though. If the friends you’re studying with are slacking then you will probably end up slacking to.
If you’re going to study in groups then make sure it’s a group that makes a real effort at it. If it doesn’t seem to focus much on studying then don’t count on learning anything. Treat it more like a social event. (In that case, I usually prefer bowling.)
- Share What You Learn To Those That Want It
Einstein suggested that you don’t understand a subject until you can explain it to a five year old.
That’s a good way to gauge how well you understand something.
If you can teach the information to someone else then you get the opportunity to learn the subject even more. That’s because you have your own methods of understanding that limit how you look at the information. Other people have their own methods too. When you’re trying to teach someone something, you need to stretch your understanding to a way that fits with that persons strategies.
A five year old typically has fewer things to relate what you’re teaching to. That means you need to be able to stretch your understanding much farther than you would for a fellow student.
Teaching is a great way to learn. The more you get to teach others, the more you will understand the material.
- Be A Class Act
Being a successful student is not really all that complicated. Most of it just comes down to this simple phrase:
Be A Class Act
A class act is a person that’s reasonably friendly, honest, and fair. Don’t treat your teacher or classmates harshly. Don’t break rules that you agreed to. Lastly, don’t expect that you will get something for nothing.
This can change the way you live your life. It’s a bit of a cliché but it’s often best used as a caution.
Whenever you start to question if what you’re doing in class is appropriate, ask if it’s something a class act would do.
- Anything Worth Doing Requires Growth
Sometimes in your study experiments and sessions you’ll start to get stressed out. You might even start to question why you’re putting so much effort in. You could probably slack off and still pass your classes if you wanted to. Heck, you could probably fail out of school and get a low-paying job that will let you survive.
Why wouldn’t you want that?
Of course, the obvious answer is that it seems rather unpleasant. No one wants to rot away at a job they don’t love their whole lives.
When you’re starting to question the point of it all, refocus your energy on this:
You’re pushing yourself. You wouldn’t be stressed so much if you weren’t really improving. This is a question for you. If you keep working you’ll continue to grow. If you give up (and you can give up) then you’ll stay right where you are.
That’s the choice you make every day. Challenge makes you grow. You can try to avoid the challenges or you can face them head on and grow stronger.
- Study Better Everyday
When you put this book down and start studying, you will notice some things that work a little better with your studying. You might learn more faster or enjoy yourself more.
Don’t let that be the end of your growth.
You need to focus on improving your study habits every single day. The results you see tomorrow won’t even be the tip of the iceberg of what you’re capable of. You’re capable of miraculous things if you invest the energy in always improving your ability to study.
Keep track of how you study and do everything you can to get more and more focused daily.
- Prioritize Better Everyday
Prioritizing what you study needs to be a lifelong challenge as well.
If you assume that your priorities today are still in line with your priorities of yesterday then you’ll spend most of your life heading in the wrong direction. Every day that you put any energy into any class, you need to consider how your priorities are working, and how they could be improved.
This is one of those things that can’t be mastered in a short period of time.
You need to always be looking out for new information on your life. Then you need to use that information to make the right personal decision for you.
You also have to be on the watch for others putting their priorities on you.
This requires a constant effort to improve.
- Never Stop Doing What You Can’t Do
I’m a big proponent of focusing your energy on the subjects that you excel in. There is no better way to get ahead than to use most of the energy and momentum in a single direction. For example, if you want to be a mathematician then you shouldn’t worry excessively about a B on an English test. It’s better to spend your time getting a deeper understanding of math.
Don’t use that as an excuse to run away from a subject. You may not enjoy a particular subject but there is always something to take from it. If you’re struggling in a subject then it means you have more to learn. That adds ups to an amazing opportunity to build confidence and grow.
Don’t miss this chance when you can take it.
- Don’t Use This As An Excuse To Bang Your Head Against The Wall
Working on improving your weaknesses is great but many people take it a bit too far. They work on their weaknesses even more than they work on their strengths. This is a sure way to achieve a stressful and lack luster life.
You need to work on improving your weaknesses in moderation.
There will always be things that you can’t master. As long as you can improve on them over time, even the slightest bit, you’ll be on the right track.
- You’re Allowed To Be Wrong
School often teaches students how horrible it is to be wrong. You’re graded on a certain scale that’s decided very directly by the teacher. There is very little fudge room for teachers. Even if a teacher hated a student, there are only so many points that a teacher can take. On top of that, making sure the student gets a grade is part of the teachers job. They’ll never just say, “No grade for you.”
Life isn’t quite as direct a teacher. Most of the time, being wrong is one of the best things that can happen.
When you find out that you were wrong you get the opportunity to improve something. When you find out you’re right you learn nothing. Naturally, you want to be right as often as you can but there is a worse alternative. It’s many times worse than being right or wrong. That is not knowing.
Life will often teach its harshest lessons through not providing the answers. You might spend your whole life wondering about certain things. Consider being wrong a privilege. At least you have the opportunity to get better.
- Changing Who You Are Is Okay
One of the greatest lessons that any person can learn is that you are allowed to change. Some students believe that they’ll never be a good student. Other students believe that they’ll never get less than an A. The A students get scared when they think about cutting back their study time. They start to believe less than an A is the end of the world. The students that struggle sometimes fear any studying because they don’t want to stop being the person they are. These are not necessary fears though.
You have the right to change what you value and who you are.
If you’re an A student, make sure you know that at any point you choose, you can stop. If you don’t believe yourself then prove it. You don’t need to invest your whole life for grades that will ultimately be arbitrary. In most cases, the more you accept the grades as arbitrary, the easier you’ll find studying and getting higher grades anyway.
Students that don’t already have the great grades: You don’t always have to struggle with school. Most of our limitations come from our own beliefs. As long as you think of yourself as a poor student, you’re going to be a poor student. The day that you start to see yourself as a good student, you will see improvement.
- Cheating Your Way To Success
There are many methods of cheating in school that you’ll virtually never get caught. You can carry hidden notes. You can pay for signals from a student with good grades. With a little bit of creativity you can get away with it.
Do you really want to do that?
Cheating is very very very easy for a creative student but I’d highly recommend you reconsider your options.
Cheating can get you the grades that you want but it limits you in a number of different ways. First of all, the classic answer, you won’t learn anything. You have to be in the class. You might as well learn something while you’re there.
Second, you’re not getting practice on that particular test. That means when you’re stuck taking a harder test that you can’t get away with cheating on, you’ll be worse off.
Third, are you really going to value the grades that you get? What’s the point of the grades if you’re going to have trouble sleeping at night thinking about.
Fourth, if you get caught, you will have to suffer some consequences.
Every person needs to make their own decision but it’s an easy no for me.
- Better Than Cheating (Use The Rules To Beat The Rules)
Whenever someone sets a rule for you, they’re also setting up advantages and disadvantages for different strategies to work around that rule.
The sport of wrestling has a great example of this. Wrestling has weight classes for competitors. So, if there were three weight classes at 120 pounds, 130 pounds, and 140 pounds, a 132 pound competitor would go in the 130 pound weight class.
That wouldn’t be to that competitors advantage though. That’s because there are plenty of competitors at 139 pounds in the weight class. That makes a measly 132 pounds have to struggle. That’s why the 132 pound competitor would try to cut his or her weight to 129 pounds. That way, the competitor is as heavy or heavier than every competitor.
If it weren’t for the weight class rule, all competitors would be struggling to become the heaviest and biggest. With the weight class rule, it’s sometimes advantageous to get smaller.
Many classes have rules that can be adjusted to in a similar way.
For example: Lets say you have a test and an essay due the next day of school. You unfortunately didn’t prepare as much as you should have. Thankfully, you keep a close eye on the class rules.
Lets say the teacher cuts 10% off the essays grade for every day it’s late. The essays worth a tiny portion of your grade. The teacher won’t let you take the test later and the test is worth 25% of the grade. Which should you do, the essay or test prep?
Considering the test prep is worth 25% of your grade and the 10% off the essay will have virtually no effect, the answer should be easy. Prepare for the test.
There are hundreds of simple ways to use the rules like that to your advantage when you start looking.
- Use Evidence In Your Decision Making
Anyone can make decisions. It’s a relatively easy process for most people. Usually the problem comes when someone tries to make the right decision. That’s because the right decision is usually not cut and dry. Learning all the facts in the world won’t let you make every decision effectively. That’s because it requires more than data.
That thought often leads people to underestimate the value of data.
When you’re taking a test, you’re going to often have to make a decision between trusting your gut, or trusting some kind of fact. When you’re trying to decide which to trust, try and find the one you have the most evidence to back up.
Why do you think a certain answer is right? Is it because you studied it excessively and think that’s what you read? That is a sign of evidence. If you don’t know why you think it’s right then that’s not evidence. That’s just your gut.
Try and trust evidence when you have it.
If you’re stuck between two answers even after looking at the evidence then your gut’s the way to go. If you find that happens often then you’re going to want to learn to dig a bit deeper when you’re thinking about it.
- Your Contribution Should Probably Be What You’re Good At
One of the greatest uses of school is cultivating the skills that you’re good at. You’re probably going to be around for decades to come. That means you’re going to have a lot that you can contribute to the world. There are millions of people with millions of different skills.
The people that end up contributing the most to the world are the ones that focus on the things that they’re good at. While you’re studying and preparing for a class you should keep that in mind. You’re born with certain “gifts.” Those gifts are the best way that you can really make a difference in the world around you.
When you’re studying, those gifts will progress faster than your other skills. They’ll grow at multiple times the speed of everything else. That means you’ll be able to do more than you could ever do focusing on a different skill.
Don’t ever lose sight of what you’re really good at.
- You Only Have So Long To Live
Your number one concern in life should not be the grades you get. It should be the time you have.
Every time you think about studying in a particular way, you need to consider whether or not it’s worth the time you need to invest into it. Some study techniques takes only a few minutes to complete. Other study techniques could take months of dedication. The real question isn’t which study technique will provide better results. The real question is whether or not either study technique is worth the trouble of implementing.
Even if you have the time to study, is it really worth sacrificing your life for. I like to think of it this way. If I were 80 years old on my death bed and someone offered to sell me the chance to return to this day, I would pay virtually anything to get it back. So, am I really willing to give up the same time I would pay anything for, in exchange for a slightly higher score on a test? Sometimes I would. Sometimes I wouldn’t. That’s the whole point.
There have been tests where I didn’t even waste my time studying. Some people would never do that. I knew that I could pass the tests with a good grade. I also knew that studying any reasonable amount of time would only give me a small boost to my final grade. That made the decision easy.
Make your decisions about time investment consciously.
- Don’t Just “Manage Your Time”
Managing your time can be one of the most depressing ways you can live your life.
That might sound a bit strange based on number 76 but it’s absolutely essential that you know the difference.
Many people try and manage their time by creating an unbelievably tight schedule to follow. Then, they use that schedule to fill every free second of their life with some kind of productive activity.
I believe that is a truly effective plan… assuming… you’re a robot.
If, on the other hand, you’re a human being, it can be a horrible mess for a number of reasons. First of all, most people will always be failing to follow their schedule. That makes it virtually irrelevant. Life is too fast to follow a schedule. You never know where you’re going to be and what you’re going to need to fit in.
The second reason is, if you succeed at following the schedule, you’re not going to feel any better. Most people would actually feel significantly worse. Life becomes more an more monotonous every day the schedule is followed.
Schedules aren’t bad in relaxed and relatively flimsy fashion but they often change over time. That means you need to be careful with them.
- To-Do Lists
Most people that start to worry about time try and manage their time using to-do lists. That usually just leads to completed to-do lists and unfulfilled lives. When you have a to-do list, your life begins to revolve around it. Your brain zeros in on the things you need to do. That again makes you feel more like a machine than a person.
It’s better to just stay conscience of what’s important. Some things might not get done and that’s okay. If they are truly important then you’ll make up for the mistakes in the future, or remember to do it from the start.
While to-do lists can help during particularly hectic periods, don’t make them a lifestyle habit. If you always feel the need to have a to-do list then you probably need to manage your life a little bit better to have fewer commitments.
To-Do lists lead to more harm then good. You are not a completion machine. You’re a human being. There is much more to life then getting things finished.
- Effective VS Efficient
This is a point that was hinted at earlier but it’s one of the most important points in the book and worth the mention.
You need to manage your study time and life focusing on efficiency to get the best results. Every second that you waste doing something in a less efficient manner is a second that you can’t do it in a more efficient manner. That means the time you waste stacks up on itself fast.
If you get half the results from one method of studying then you’ll need to spend twice the time to get the same results. The average student ends up wasting hundreds of hours a year spending that extra time studying.
That’s hundreds of hours that could have gone into studying more efficiently. That can be the difference between failing a class and getting an A+. Or, in most cases, that can be the difference between getting an A with absolutely no free time, or an A with tons of free time.
Efficiency adds up in life. Keep it in mind with everything that you do. Can you get the same results from less time investment? That extra time can make a huge impact on your life.
- Time Goes To What You Value
The more limited on time you feel, the more you need to focus on spending time on the things that you value. I know a number of college students that spent hundreds of hours in school, just to make their parents happy. Some choose a major they hate just to get their parents off their back. This is just insane.
This is your life and you need to be willing to invest your time in the things that matter to you. Do you really have this much of your life that you’re willing to sacrifice?
You need to spend as much of your time as possible worrying about the things that you value most. That sometimes means that you’ll have to have uncomfortable conversations with people but other people cannot know what is best for you.
When you do something to “not rock the boat”, you’re setting yourself up to rock the boat a lot worse later on when you realize that you have to leave.
Make the decision of what’s best for you yourself. Spend your time focusing on what’s important to you.
- Relax More Than You Study
If there is one way to maximize your study efficiency in life it’s to limit the amount of time you do it. Studying can be an unbelievably effective method of preparing for class but it can also become a major waste of time if you don’t do it right.
The more time you spend studying without a break, the less you’re going to be learning per minute invested. Many people get caught up studying for hours straight in a subject hoping to see a major improvement. They often end up disappointed when they get lack luster results.
Those lackluster results are coming from you missing one of the most important steps of memory. You’re missing the required period of rest. It’s not until you start resting that you’ll see the real results of your studying. That’s because while you’re studying you can use your short term memory. When you take a break and relax doing something else, remembering again needs your long term memory. That rest period lets you commit the short term memory into long term memory if you do it right.
If you do it wrong then you’ll be locking lots of information in your short term memory but end up getting virtually none of it to stick.
- Like Any Good Runner Watch Your Pace
It’s absolutely essential that you are aware of how fast you’re studying. Whether you’re studying too fast, or too slow, you’re going to be suffering from mediocre results. The key is finding the pace that works best for you.
If you get caught up flipping through flashcards at lightning speed, you can very likely get stressed or commit information to your short term memory. That won’t help the study process at all. It will just hinder your ability to get it to stick.
If you end up relaxing while you’re studying by letting your brain wander, you might as well not be studying at all. Many people stare at their books and aimlessly daydream. Don’t let that happen. You need to push yourself to learn. This is a habit that can steal your life away slowly. On top of that, you’ll just get more bored with the information you’re studying making it harder to remember anything for the long run.
A good pace can make all the difference in the final results of your study session.
- Use Class Time (Pay attention)
The time that you’re sitting in class is the best time to learn the material. In fact, most classes can easily be passed without studying if you’re willing to focus through the teachers discussions. Teachers naturally guide their students in the direction of the tests they provide. That means that class time can be significantly more valuable then any text book.
Keep this in mind: The textbook was not designed with the specific teacher and classroom in mind. That means it can talk about hundreds of things that the teacher or test considers completely irrelevant.
Teachers rarely base their tests specifically on the textbook. They usually try to make their tests a combination of the book, and their lectures. Given the choice, most teachers choose to focus more on their lectures. That means most of what you need to learn can only be learned from the lecture.
Paying attention in class can be difficult but it can be one of the most valuable ways of improving your test scores. Just think about it this way, for every minute you’re distracted in class, you’ll need to dedicate two minutes to studying outside of class.
- Take Good Notes
I was never a note taker in my early academic career. I certainly tried it but I found out a few things fast. First, I found out that I have trouble writing down what the teacher said and listening at the same time. Second, I learned that teachers talk a WHOLE LOT.
As I progressed I realized how essential note taking is to improving scores. That’s when I started devising a different approach to note taking.
Instead of trying to write every point that the teacher makes, try to write only the non-obvious points. There are many things that a teacher mentions that the student already knows. That’s the kind of information that you should skip. If you still have trouble keeping your notes up with the speed of the teacher you may have to cut out more notes.
At the very least, try to write down absolutely everything the teacher emphasizes. Teachers emphasize things for a reason. They truly believe that it’s valuable.
- Don’t Take Too Many Notes
Taking too many notes is one of the biggest mistakes a student can make. The teacher says way too much for the average person to catch all the nuances while writing notes. I know, some of you probably think you follow along perfectly while writing a tome of notes but the vast majority of people are just unaware of what they’re missing.
The lessons a teacher teaches is not only about the facts they provide. It’s also about the questions they raise based on the facts. You might catch all the facts but without the time to sit and process information, you will be missing some of the questions you should be asking.
Teachers often leave these questions to go unappreciated. If you don’t find these questions then your ability to remember the information is going to be reduced. The questions are usually some of the easiest information to remember once you get them.
- Party VS Study: The Big Challenge
Sometimes the hardest part of getting amazing grades is fighting the temptations that come up daily.
It happens more times than most people like to admit. They set out a time. They prepare themselves excessively. The get ready to start their amazing study session. Then… they get a text or a call or a telegraph (okay… probably not the last one) about a great party to go to or anything that takes them away from studying. At that point, the greatest successes and failures in school are made.
There are times when it’s okay to pass on studying. When you have plenty of time to study or you’ve already studied excessively, it can be in your best interest to not study and enjoy yourself. It can help you relax and get more confident in your ability to pass the test. On the other hand, if you haven’t studied much and find excuses to not study regularly, you are setting yourself up to fail.
Most of solving this problem comes down to discipline. You just need to be willing to stick to your studying schedule. When you set a time to study, you need to know how important that study session is. Important study session must be kept.
You are responsible for making that decision. You will face the consequences of it.
- Train Your Brain
It’s possible to improve how effectively you think with the proper training.
The human brain can be trained like a muscle. When you challenge your brain, the brain will grow and improve it’s ability to solve problems. The harder you challenge your brain, the more improvement that you’ll be able to see. That is, up to a point.
This is a metaphor that you may have heard before but there is one factor that is usually left out. You need to worry about the brain’s recovery like a muscle.
Just like a muscle, you need to give your brain time to rest after the challenge. The brain can’t magically handle as much pressure as you can throw at it. At a certain point, it just slows down and doesn’t improve. You need to give yourself time to stop thinking after challenging it excessively.
You also need to give your brain proper nutrition for recovery.
- Fish Oil (and other health products)
Omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish oil, have been linked to a number of different brain health benefits. There are many other products with mild links to brain health.
Should you use them?
Well… That depends.
Keep this in mind. There is no magic pill to help improve your memory. Even the best studied products on the market have a very marginal effect in controlled experiments. That means, you shouldn’t expect major results. Even more important, you shouldn’t waste money on brain supplements unless you have that extra money to waste.
It wouldn’t hurt to take supplements to help your brain but don’t think that they’re needed to see real results. In fact, be careful not to use them as an excuse not to put in real work. Taking a pill will not cure your problems. Only discipline and practice can ensure that.
- Your Brain Foods (Carbs? Proteins?)
I studied brain foods for years. I was always looking for the perfect combination of foods to make studying a breeze. Like a lot of things, I dug myself deep into the research and experimentation.
One of the oddest things about my research was the absolute complete inconsistency in theories. Some resources said carbs helped memory. Others said protein. Others said fat. Some of the most credentialed suggested different balances of nutrition.
The inconsistency led me to experimentation. Time after time I saw the results really didn’t change much. The only real consistent result was with the amount of food I ate and how comfortable I felt. When I ate a lot of food I tended to take longer on tests. When I ate less food, I finished the tests faster. When I was comfortable I did better than when I was uncomfortable.
Are there any solid results that can be taken from my research or the research of others?
I believe it suggests one of the most powerful things of all. You need to eat what makes you feel comfortable.
- Cardio For Your Brain
Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to be one of the most consistent means of improving brain health. Exercise helps bring the blood to your brain and that allows it to clear toxins and get the resources to grow.
Many people can feel the difference the first time they work out. For some people, it takes a little more practice.
Cardiovascular exercise can include any of a million different options. It can be low impact like walking or swimming. For those more inclined to challenge themselves and there bodies, it can be running or biking.
Any kind of cardiovascular exercise is significantly better than none.
- Weight Train For Your Brain
No. Cardiovascular exercise isn’t the only way to use your body to improve your brain functioning. Lifting weights can also help deliver nutrients to your brain. It also has a number of smaller benefits.
First of all, it’s a great stress reliever. Lifting weights can help your body and mind relax like it’s never relaxed before. There is nothing like a good workout to make your muscles feel much more relaxed the rest of the day.
Second, it can be a great way to practice focusing on the moment. With many cardiovascular exercises, your brain has plenty of time to wander. That means you’re not getting all you could be getting out of the moment. When you’re lifting weights, you should be lifting enough that you can’t focus on anything but the weights.
Getting your body in shape is one of the most effective ways of increasing your mental capacity.
- Online Brain Games
The internet provides one of the greatest classrooms in the world. You can learn absolutely anything that you want. More importantly, you can learn it in a fun way.
There are many resources online that can help you train your brain in a systematic and easy to measure way. Some of the sites charge a small fee to register. These sites can be very effective in getting you to follow through. While many of the games aren’t the most effective methods of training your brain, the measurements and systems can be very effective at getting you to follow through. (Following through is the number one problem that most people have.)
I personally prefer the free alternative websites for training my brain but I am compulsive about tracking my own results. If you know you’re disciplined enough to track yourself then you have plenty of options online or offline. If you don’t know if you’ll follow through then it might be in your best interest to join one of the paid brain training sites.
(You might notice I don’t mention any by name. I’m intentionally avoiding endorsing any specific websites. Most have their own advantages and disadvantages and they change regularly. Be sure to research the sites on your own.)
- Sleep Or Study (Pick Sleep)
One of the hardest decisions for the average college student comes when they made a mistake in not preparing enough in advance. They’re up the night before class and need to pick between studying all night or trying to get a good night sleep. The right answer for most people is easy.
You can stay up and study all night. You will probably look over the information you need to know significantly more but do you really think you’re going to be working efficiently? For most people, an overnight of studying will increase their grade by only around 5%. Most people can’t focus effectively during the study time and go into the test too exhausted to test effectively.
The worst part about that 5% advantage on your final score is what you’re telling yourself. When you stay up all night studying, you’re accepting that you didn’t study effectively for the past weeks. You were lazy. Now you’ll stay up all night, get a slightly better grade, and think you did alright.
Forget that attitude. You’re accepting mediocrity.
You could have studied the same amount of time and increased your grade by 50% by spreading it over a week. You didn’t do it. You already failed the test. Your grade is not going to be what it should be.
Go to bed. When you take the test, don’t be happy that you got a slightly higher grade than you would have. Be upset that you failed yourself significantly more than you could have.
Take it as a lesson learned and make sure not to do it again.
- Study Before Sleep
One of the most effective ways to study is before bed. Studying before sleep has been shown to be more effective than studying through the day. The information sticks in the memory better that way. It comes with a number of disadvantages though.
First of all, studying works best on a regular schedule and most people refuse to go to bed at the same time daily when there in school. If you’re not going to bed on a schedule and try to study before bed, you’ll have a very inconsistent study period. Some days you’ll want to study for hours. Other days (most days) you’ll barely get ten minutes in.
If you do have the discipline to study and go to bed at the same time daily, you’re going to also need to fall asleep AFTER studying. Depending on the course, you may want to fall asleep during the study period or maybe you’d never want to go to sleep. This also requires a significant amount of discipline.
If you have the strength to follow through. This is definitely the way to go but don’t lose sleep if you prefer mid-day studying.
Caffeine can be unbelievably effective at bringing short term improvements to your ability to study and take tests. It will get your heart racing and that will keep everything you’re trying to do moving. It will make sure your brain is working hard.
It’s not all good though. I personally choose to avoid caffeine these days because of the disadvantages.
Caffeine is a bit of a high risk method of achieving your goals. There are some days when you use caffeine that it just wont help. It’s a drug. That means that there are times when you wont be able to consistently predict the results. Other days it will work for a while but you’ll eventually hit a wall of tired. At that point, you’ll need to either take more caffeine or suffer worse than having not taken it.
I’ve used caffeine as a bit of a crutch at times. It can work but it will always just be a crutch. As long as you’re using it, you won’t be improving your own abilities.
- Learn Relaxation
I’ve seen too many students end up pulling their own hair out because of their obsession with getting the grade. As soon as the distress starts kicking in, the effectiveness of the study time kicks out.
It’s pointless to waste your time studying if you’re negatively stressed out. (Positively stressed is great though. For example, excitement is a form of stress that makes your studying even more effective.)
There is no way to completely prevent yourself from stress in all situations but you need to know how to relax your way out of stress.
There are a number of schools of thought on relaxation.
Some people can mediate their way to relaxation. They just sit in silence letting there mind clear until they feel better.
Others prefer turning their mental stress into physical stress by exercising their body.
Maybe you love blaring your music and singing it at the top of your lungs?
What it ultimately comes down to is you. You need to do what helps you relax. If you don’t know what lets you relax then it’s time for you to figure it out. Make it a priority and experiment.
- How To Memorize A Textbook
Caution: This is a strategy that many students fall in love with. It can make test taking as easy as filling out a personal survey. It can give an amazing rush as well but… it is usually overkill. Please only use this strategy when you really need it.
I learned the lesson the hard way. I memorized a textbook only to have my teacher completely ignore virtually everything in it. It was three weeks of hard work wasted.
Memorizing a textbook is surprisingly easy. The only factor that makes it difficult is the time that needs to be invested. While you might not get the textbook word for word in any reasonable amount of time, memorizing the facts, order, and most of the words is straight from the classic memorization strategy handbook.
When you’ve dedicated yourself to memorizing a textbook, I recommend you skip right to the important content. Many textbooks start with long and pointless introduction. If you don’t need to know the introduction then don’t memorize it. While time is an important reason to skip it, the more important reason to skip it is motivation. You’re going to want to have as much new material hitting your brain as possible to keep you working in tip top shape.
Start reading by reading the first sentence and the first word of the next sentence. Then immediately close your eyes and repeat the sentence to yourself. After repeating, open your eyes and read the first sentence again and keep reading until the first word of the third sentence. Then, close your eyes and repeat the first and second sentence.
Most people can memorize the first few sentences easily. Eventually though, you will make a mistake. At that point. Start again from the beginning of the paragraph.
At the end of each paragraph, after completely repeating it with your eyes closed. Start the same pattern on the second paragraph. After the second paragraph, try and repeat the first and the second paragraph. If you can’t, feel free to peek at the first few words of the first paragraph and see if you can do it. Keep trying until you get it right.
The pattern then continues onto pages. At the end of a page, feel free to reset your repeating at the start of the next page. This can help save time.
Never try to memorize more than a page in one sitting unless you happen to have a genie nearby. Take at least an hour break between every page you memorize. Having no breaks will significantly cut down your overall recall.
After completing a chapter, try to repeat it from the beginning faster for deeper and more precise recall.
Saddle up, this is going to be a long ride.
- Never Wait For Test Scores Again
When I first discovered this strategy, I was able to truly understand what it meant to not worry about a test after taking it. I was able to hand in my test to the teacher and feel absolutely confident in my good grade. I didn’t even know all of the answers but I knew that I was going to be getting a great score before I even handed the test in. It was almost like I had the test score in front of me. In fact, I knew that my score would only be higher than my estimate.
If a test that you complete tells you how many points a question is worth then you can do it too.
After you complete your test, go through your own answers. As you go through them, you’ll probably recognize there are three categories of answers including ones that you know you got right, ones that you think you got right, and ones that you don’t have any confidence in at all.
Put a small check next to the answers you know you got right. Put a small slash next to the ones that you think you got right. Don’t put a mark on the ones you’re not confident about.
Now add up the points of the answers you know you got right. Then add up the points you think you got right and divide it by two (to guess that 50% of them are right.) Add up the two sets of points and you have a very clear estimate of your MINIMUM likely test score.
At that point, most people can confidently walk out the the test knowing they got a good score but it you’re pushing for better than you can step it up and spend some time improving that grade with any time left in the test.
Once you start using this, you won’t believe the confidence and comfort you have leaving a test.
- How To Pass A Test Without Answering One Hard Question (answer easy first)
I had a few years of college that left my teachers very unimpressed with my “motivation.” The problem wasn’t really in my lack of motivation. It was coming from my excessive motivation to find ways to make my tests go faster and more efficient.
After one particular math test my teacher asked me to stay to talk to her after class. I obliged and she handed me the test I took the class before. She told me that she wanted to talk about the test with me. I looked at the score on the top of the test and was thoroughly impressed (it wasn’t perfect but then again, I didn’t pick up a textbook for that class.)
After class the teacher pointed at the last question of the test. It was a complicated calculus question that all of the students struggled with. (I even heard some of my friends complaining about it being too difficult after class.) She then told me, “No one in the class got an answer for this. So, I understand why you didn’t answer it but did you do your work on another sheet? I can’t give you any points at all if you don’t show your work on it.”
I laughed a little and shook my head.
I didn’t show any work because I didn’t do any work.
“I saw the question was worth only five points. I knew I got the rest of the test right. I studied hard. I didn’t want to stress myself out over it.”
Most teachers don’t like that attitude but it works. It works really well.
- No-Stress Test Strategy
The best way to improve your score without any studying is using the “No-Stress Test Strategy.”
When you are going in to take a test, you need to train yourself to relax. You don’t get yourself to relax by thinking about all the stuff you studied. You get yourself to relax by telling yourself that your fate is already decided.
Tell yourself that your time is up. The information that you know has already been decided. While that’s not completely true, worrying about the test even more poses a serious risk out ruining the information that you already know.
While relaxing excessively right before a test can cost you a couple points, staying stressed about a test can end up costing you a passing grade.
The next time you feel your heart racing for the big test, you need to practice getting yourself into a low stress state.
After some practice, I was able to get my test taking state of mind to be even more relaxed than my daily life. I would walk into the classroom and feel relieved that the test was there.
Your fate has already been decided.