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Studying Studying Smarter

  1. Mar 30, 2009 #1
    People on this forum have talked about studying smarter then instead of harder.
    Well, can you give examples? I am all ears.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2009 #2


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    This is a difficult question to answer in some ways because there is no universally applicable set of rules. Students learn in different ways.

    Ultimately, my advice would be to spend some time learning how you best learn. Rigor for rigor's sake can often reach a point of diminishing returns. Many students will solve problem after problem, putting hours on hours into studying, but run into problems studying because they spend too much time going over stuff they already know, rather than focussing on what they don't know.

    Other tips:
    - come up with a study plan that has specific, measureable objectives
    - as quickly as possible, identify your areas of weakness and correct them
    - read ahead and come to class/office hours with specific questions
    - maximize your study time - make sure study time is dedicated to just that - no internet, games, TV, or social distractions
    - make regular practice of thinking outside the box by questioning how the concepts you have learned can be applied outside of examples discussed in class/labs
    - make a best guess at the questions a professor will ask on an exam (often, when constrained by time, and number of topics to cover, by drawing on previous years' exams, and by learning the personality of your professor, you can come up with a pretty reasonable estimate of what would be asked on a given exam)
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2009
  4. Mar 30, 2009 #3


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    I would also add that you may want to tackle any work load a bit at a time. Don't try to grasp an entire chapter if one section is giving you a headache.
  5. Mar 30, 2009 #4
    Here are some stuff that might cut off some time if you need to rote memorize some facts for X subject:

    "Spaced Repetition" software that optimizes that time you need to look at a flashcard. I.e. Memorize a flash card on day 1, do it again in X hours or the next day, then 2 days, then 5 days, then 9 days, then 15.... 27.... 1.5 months.... 3 months, etc. The flashcard system schedules everything for you (based on some algorithm a psychologist that dedicated his life to research). You just need to be consistent with it and check your "decks" everyday so the cards don't pile up. Even if there are 200 cards due in the deck, assuming if you've found your "groove" you'll plow through them in like 30 minutes.

    http://supermemo.com/ (It is not at all about "memos") There are also quite a bit of interesting reads if you browse the site. You need to pay for this flash card system. This is the original.


    free version: Anki
    and also check out (free): Mnemosyne

    Both have google groups I believe, Anki is more popular. It has about 1200 members.

    Check it out for a a few weeks and see how it works out for you. Although, I wouldn't rely on it completely. I would still stick to your traditional methods and go "hybrid" with the supplement of Anki or Mnemosyne.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  6. Mar 30, 2009 #5
    Off the top of my head I can think of a few. Some might be obvious.

    Don't study with friends, this always leads to very little productivity. If you study alone you'll get done quickly allowing more time to hang out with your friends without books in front of you.

    Study in shorter bursts (30 minutes - 2 hours) rather than sessions of study that 3+ hours.

    Maybe it's just me but I always get more done around 9-12 rather than later in the day.

    Find a good spot to study in. Doing some boring history reading isn't so bad if you're outside. Make sure it's quiet too.
  7. Mar 30, 2009 #6
    I agree with a lot of what qntty said. Group studying does have its place though, mostly for me it is at the two extremes though. If I do not understand something at all, it is sometimes faster to ask a friend or two to explain it rather than pour through the textbook. On the flip side, right before midterms and finals, I like to meet with a few people because sometimes they pose situations that I have not thought of before. I agree though, if you have a good start, usualy solo is the way to go.
  8. Mar 30, 2009 #7
    As for a different tip, try to do whatever you do not like to do (or dreading) first.
  9. Mar 31, 2009 #8
    This is kind of an out-of-the-box suggestion, and something I've noticed for myself, but I don't know if it works in general.

    Try studying before going to sleep at night. Also, don't cut out any sleep. Sleep does wonders to improve memory. If you get your full 8 hours, you will be much healthier, both physically and mentally.

    A study was done where students were told to press a series of numbers over and over again. One group was tested in the morning, and then tested 12 hours later. A second group was tested at night, then tested the next morning after a full night's sleep. The group that was tested the next morning were significantly better than the group tested the same day.

    It's hard to explain, but sometimes, if I struggle with material at night, immediately before bedtime, I often wake up with a better understanding of it. Again, this may just be me. I may be the only person in the world this works for. I haven't read this strategy anywhere, but it works for me.

    EDIT: Just went hunting for back-up. Here is a link that describes the studies I've heard about. http://faculty.smu.edu/dcrow/First Page/why_not_to_study_all_night.htm
  10. Mar 31, 2009 #9
    Following up with what the guy said above, does anyone do a routine where you changed your student lifestyle in order to wake up 1 or 2 hours earlier so you could review the stuff you studied before bed in the morning? I'm thinking of doing this... I'm not sure if I have the discipline though.
  11. Mar 31, 2009 #10

    Dr Transport

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    You have to find out how you learn, visual, auditory or hands on. Then devise a way to get your information using that method. I found my best time was after a few hours of sleep, in the middle of the night, I'd get up do laundry and work on my research or homework. I might get more done in a week than any of my friend who worked and studied conventional hours.
  12. Mar 31, 2009 #11


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    That is a good practice. In fact, combine it with late night study before sleep; and then wake up a bit early to study for maybe half hour. Also, you might find advantage to beginning a short session of study immediately upon waking up in the morning. When I say "immediately", I mean "within one minute of awakening."
  13. Mar 31, 2009 #12
    You're not alone. I often study before I go to bed. I'm also a very light sleeper, so I wake up often throughout the night, and I find myself with equations running through my head.
  14. Mar 31, 2009 #13
    Agreed, that happens to me too. Usually the night before a test
  15. Apr 1, 2009 #14


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    The exact same thing happens to me! Especially when the study is intense. However, as for waking up and studying after doing so at night, I find, morning study is a no no. I can't explain it but somehow I just know everything is stuck in my head.

    I guess it is all subjective though. The human brain is indeed interesting =D
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