Cool Ways to Study That You WON'T Mind

Studying for a test, or, more likely, tests, is really an art and a profession. There are better and worse ways to do it. Studying can be improved by using tools and a setting a strategy, and can be harmed by a poorly considered appraoch. We all know the drill: fill out index cards, highlight definitions, re-write notes. While these are unfortunately necessary, it is not a smart way to use ALL of your time. These study habits, "the grind" that is, loose their effectiveness after the first few hours and are not helping you get the grades you want. The following are a few, clever, painless ways to diversify and improve your study habits and easily improve your performance on tests and in class.


Youtube Can Teach You Anything

So many students reference Youtube as one of their biggest distractions from studying. This makes Youtube seem like a problem for would-be scholars, but that is not so. It is one of the most valuable tool a student struggling to grasp a problem or concept. 

It should be obvious already -- just search for what you need to learn and start watching videos. Maybe your teacher didn't explain it well. Or maybe you didn't pay attention. Or missed a day. Or didn't get all the notes. Well, you can go watch any number of teachers, many of them likely better, teach that same lesson in all of the different ways each one teaches. There will also likely be other videos, perhaps with virtual graphics or real visual content to help understanding, and other things that you didn't learn in your class that will help you remember and expand your knowledge even further. Just by sitting there watching. Or even just listening. You can study and have this on in the background, or look up a video on the ride home on the bus to make a great, productive use of that time for getting a better grade on your next test. It has to be the easiest way to study. I would even be willing to propose that you could study entirely this way and, provided your reasonable attentiveness and effort, do as well or honestly even better on your next test. 

Teaching Someone Else Will Make You An Expert

This isn't necessarily (at least in principle) a new study technique emerging out of Web 2.o, but it is definitely an underutilized appproach and is ridiculously effective. This isn't something most students are inclined to do; maybe they don't want to bother people, or feel wierd asking someone if they can teach them some material from an upcoming test. However, this really isn't as taxing a method to incorporate and it becomes clear as you start to do it.

First of all, you must identify at least one but hopefully 4-5 people you can teach your material to. Obviously, schoolmates are, perhaps with at least similar majors/classes, an ideal option. You can offer them the same attention you need from them, and it can be a very productive way to learn. If it is someone studying for the same class or subject, you can teach them half of the material, and they can teach the other. You can also utilize younger siblings or cousins and what have you -- they will likely have more questions and need more explanation which will help you remember and understand the information by recalling it in different ways and having to think through their questions and confusion. Of course, worst comes to worst and you can't make anyone sit and listen to you, you can always force your parents. They will do ANYTHING to help you achieve success in school, right?

If You Can Only Have 4 Hours of Sleep, Why Not Have Them BEFORE You Study?

Yes, you will perform better if you get a full nights rest -- and better yet if you always get a full nights sleep. 

That's a pretty funny joke, right? The simple fact is, rigorous classes often make that 8-hour holy grail of sleep a laughable suggestion. Seriously, whether they are right or not, any student will say that just can't happen. This isn't about whether or not you can manage your time better, but about managing your sleep better.

Instead of staying up until 2 a.m. and only getting 4 hours of sleep (or however many, maybe you aren't that crazy and get a little more -- just a number), why not go to bed at 9 or 10, get the same few hours of sleep, and wake up at 3 or 4 (or whatever, of course, depending on your schedule), and study then for however long you would have the night before, and maybe even longer if you allow yourself the time. The optimizing effect this can have is exponential: Not only are you refreshed for your studying by starting at the beginning of a day rather than the end, you are also studying the material closer to the test time. Furthermore, getting that sleep before you study will definitely improve your cognitive processes (brainpower) and help you understand and retain the information better. Plus, you will probably be in a much better mood. This positivity will lead to more motivation and more productivity -- AND you won't even mind it.


Various Tips

  • Prioritize the material. Don't study chapter 1 for two hours if it is the simplest content, make sure you get to the most complex stuff first and give it lots of time. Just make sure you leave yourself time to look over everything.
  • Nutrition is important. Eating a worthwhile dinner and getting at least something in you in the morning are crucial. If you feel better and have less things on your mind (like food) you will do well.
  • Really, really, really try to get started a few days ahead of time. This is as laughable as 8 hours of sleep, I know. But studying a little bit overtime makes things way more manageable and can really lend you some control over your ability to understand the material. You will identify your knowledge-gaps sooner and be able to address these problems with more than 12 hours until test-time. 
  • Do everything you can to make it more enjoyable. If getting a delicious coffee will help you get through the hours of studying, then go get one already. The only caveat of this rule is to be careful about doing things that will discount your studying efforts. Drinking beer (for those of age!) may make studying more fun, but it probably won't help. (hmmm... I wonder...). But if there is something that can make the experience of having to sit and prepare for a test for hours on end any more tolerable then you better use that to the absolute fullest extent that it can help.
  • Reward yourself. If you set a reward for yourself for doing well on your exam/assignment then you will have this sort of "light at the end of the tunnel" thing to look forward to. You can reward yourself after meeting all of your studying goals, taking the test and feeling good about it, or actually getting that grade you wanted. There is nothing wrong with celebrating each of these small victories -- it simply helps reinforce each individual behavior and accomplishment.

 As mentioned earlier, studying is definitely an art and a profession. And you can be fully prepared for your tests, quizzes, papers, and all other forms of valuation with much less textbook highlighting and note card memorizing. Learning things in different ways can do wonderful things for your understanding of class material. One little thing you hear from another teacher or one question you never thought of from a peer could help you grasp those last few things you just can't get. The most important thing to remember is that your goal isn't, unfortunately, to learn ALL of the material, but simply to get a high grade on the test. Yes, you should learn everything you can, that is why you are there. Of course. But if you are studying for a test, you have one goal. Do everything that will help you achieve that goal, and nothing else until the test is taken. 

And don't try that beer thing. Really.