"Teach thyself to study" - The art of studying effectively

in learn •  last year

Here I am, done with today’s portion of material to study. I´m so thankful for having a working strategy for getting the information into my head and I decided to share it with you guys. Everyone knows the struggle of not being able to study effectively, especially concerning topics you don’t fancy. The more you stagnate in early stages of life, the harder it is to “come back” later on. Now let me tell you. I´ve stagnated a lot. And with this post I will try to help YOU with your stagnation.

I was lucky enough to go through the high school easily. I was happy with my average grades (B-Ds) without the need to study at all. The grades weren’t anything special but I had so much time to do what I felt was fulfilling me, so it was worth it. Well I actually needed to study for the finals and I struggled a lot, but I managed to, more or less, understand the issues at hand, while the charisma was supposed to cover the blank spots. It worked out. With average grades.

University is completely different territory. I was unfortunate to choose first university, which´s system was set up in a way, where it tried to kick many students right from the bat. Job well done in my case. It was then, when I realised, that I can’t study for shit.

Truth is that the amount of documents that needed to be studied was overwhelming, but also I realized that my technique was just bad. The quote from my first class master, which sounded “to teach thyself to study”, rang the bell that time. It obviously didn’t help me when I was 11 but double that time is enough to comprehend its meaning. 

After my failure in school I was introduced to a Less Wrong community through my teammate @hr1. There I was part of a discussion that changed my view on studying for good. 

How does the system work?

You all know the card system of learning languages right? On one side you have a word in language you understand and on the other one in the language you’re trying to learn. Now imagine that you have a virtual notepad with all the data you needed to learn. You decide which parts of the notepad are going to be the questions and which part is the suitable answer for that. All the questions/cards are shuffled (either all together or sorted by topics) and pop up accordingly to the algorithm. If they are shuffled all together its more effective, since you have to realize the context every single time a question is given. You yourself measure how well you knew the answer on scale from “No idea” to “Trivial”. The closer to “No idea” you are, the sooner the question pops again. It’s trying to present you the question right at the moment, when you are forgetting the answer, so you can immediately renew it. My friend has programmed such a software in XHTML, but the project seems to be stuck in permanent beta version, so sadly, you would need to find suitable replacement. 

Personal approach

I have adopted that system with great success. I haven’t failed a single examination more than once since then. I also learned that it takes me 3-4 weeks to prepare all the questions with a really broad answers concerning one subject. By the end of fourth week I should be able to pass the exam with great grades. When the time pressure is real, I can manage it in 1, 5 week, but the quality significantly drops. I also don’t have enough time to let the algorithm do the wonders for me and I need to study harder. What’s awesome though about this strategy is that I effectively spread the total time of studying. Instead of studying for one week 10 hours a day, I study for one month 0, 3-2 hours per day (depends whether you’re just answering or setting up those questions), while letting the algorithm to do the hard work for me.

I divide every day into 3-4 sections.  

1. After I wake up I immediately answer the given amount of questions for day. Then I eat and when I’m tired, (2) I have my power nap.  

3. When I wake up and get my senses together I work on the creation of the questions (I never answer them the day I create them and on the scale from “No idea” to “Trivial” I always choose one less than I would normally do, resulting in earlier appearance of newly created questions). So next day I’m awaited by questions created the day before and by those that algorithm selected for me. 

4. I reward thyself.

Rewards

Unfortunately the vision of finishing university isn’t a sufficient motivation for me. We don’t know much about brain, but neuroscience provided us with the knowledge, that the brain needs to wind up in order to effectively process all incoming information during the day. First I was like “studying time! When you finish all your exams you will have your free time!” That my friends couldn’t be more wrong. I wasn’t able to fall asleep during the time I studied hard. Heavy symptoms of information overflow were ever-present even throughout the day, since I didn’t get good sleep. That’s when I decided that I’m not going to restrict myself anymore. I established my regular reward time, which for me, is a little joint. The reward time is my every single days motivation + the brain has extra time to wind up. Keep in mind though that reward does not stand for party time! You have to be ready for next day’s studying. You can substitute my reward for anything you know works for you. Play PC games, have a vine or beer…or a shot, do physical activities and so on. The point is you need to enjoy the rest of the day. And if you responsibly follow your plan, you will have plenty of free time each day!

Downsides

Even the best plans have their downsides. The two here are pretty obvious.

1. If you fail to recognize an importance of any part from your sources, you will not create a question concerning it, thus having no idea later on, about what the fuck is it the professor wants to know from you.

2. You will spend more days studying. If you suddenly miss few days for any reason, the significance of the algorithm is diminished, because you stack all your questions anyway.

Let me know guys what is the best strategy for you!  

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I had a system of taking notes in class as best I could. I enjoyed drawing and illustrating so I made detailed copies in multiple colors of my class notes later at home. Using my textbooks and other resources I would study the material as I made more accurate copies.

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So basically the very old school - illumination like method:P That never worked for me. I could barely read the text i have personally written...

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I guess that's why I had to make a second copy!

Interesting approach. The card approach reminds me of a language app I tried once. I think it was Memrise. I wasn't too disciplined though. I'd learn a bit whilst waiting for the bus for example. Eventually, I quit because my motivation to learn that language had dropped. But the system was certainly useful to get started.

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Yea you hit upon the main "obstacle" for most of the users and that is the discipline. The system doesn’t really work if one decides way to often not to study that day:)

The key to knowing the right answers to by asking the right questions.

best regards for you, hope to be friends with good

thank you for giving us something nice for you you are great to help us

I've used the flashcard system to study in the past and it has worked. The difference between you and I is that I would create the cards after I read the books, wrote my notes and reviewed the material. The cards would serve the purpose of capturing and reinforcing any material that I didn't know or couldn't remember from the other study methods.

This was a great article. Good luck. Would love to share strategy and discuss. You can find me here. on the Steem School's Discord. Thank you.

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I see...well I also had to read the materials of course, but since there is the risk that one will forget what he has read, i created the "cards" even for the stuff I knew. The algorithm would take care of it and would show it often soon anyway:).