Study Hacks Blog Posts on Tips: Studying

Anatomy of an A+: A Look Inside the Process of One of the World’s Most Efficient Studiers

May 18th, 2011 · 88 comments

Scott Young’s Graduation Gift to Study Hacks

I have to give credit to Scott Young: it was talking blogs with him back in 2007 that helped convince me to start Study Hacks. The fact that I link to Scott’s material again and again and again and again should tell you that we think in similar patterns.

The reason I’m bringing up Scott today is that he’s about to graduate from university. One of the things that intrigued when I first met him four years ago is that, like many students I profiled in the red book, he had the ability to score top grades without needing to study much.

It turns out that he kept this up: He will graduate this month with a GPA that hovers between an A and an A+, even though he almost never studied for more than a handful of hours.

In honor of Scott’s graduation, I asked him if he would share his secrets. I don’t want vague philosophies, I told him. Study Hacks readers are more interested in a blow-by-blow case study of exactly how he studied for a specific test, including screenshots of his notes and a careful accounting of his time.

Fortunately for us, Scott agreed. Below you’ll find the details of how he scored an A+ on a corporate finance exam that had a 50% failure rate at his university. His total time studying: 3.5 hours.

Take it away Scott…

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I Got a C on My Orgo Exam! What Should I Do?

April 1st, 2010 · 71 comments

Note: Though my new format focuses on publishing in-depth articles twice a month, I still reserve the right to occasionally publish one my classic-style student advice articles. 


The Pre-Med’s Lament

I recently received the following e-mail:

“I’ve failed both of my tests in Organic Chemistry 2…I don’t know what I’m doing wrong…no matter how much I review or study my class notes, nothing seems to work.”

This is a familiar lament. I recently reviewed the student e-mails I’ve received so far in 2010, and discovered that I average around one “I failed my Orgo exam!” e-mail per week.

That’s a lot of unhappy pre-meds.

I decided it was time to write a definitive answer to this common issue.  This post details my famous three-step plan for turning around a chemistry disaster.

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How Ricardo Aced Computer Science Using His iPhone

January 13th, 2010 · 33 comments

Midterm Prep Small Size

From 30 Minutes of Studying to a 4.0

I recently received an e-mail from Ricardo, a sophomore majoring in computer science at the University of Maryland.  For the past three semesters he has maintained a 4.0 GPA — a feat he accomplished “without stressing at all.” At the core of his success is an unconventional technique that makes use of a wiki, his iPhone, and my infamous stealth studying philosophy. This technique is so effective that he dedicates only 30 minutes to review on the day before his computer science exams — yet still aces them.

In this post, I detail Ricardo’s method, including step by step instructions and screenshots…

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How to Study for Non-Technical Science Courses

November 17th, 2009 · 27 comments

A Sinful OmissionPaper Writing

The red book splits academic subjects into two groups: technical and non-technical. The former covers any course with problems to be solved. The latter describes subjects that have you express your knowledge with essay questions and papers.

This taxonomy, however, has a gaping hole: non-technical science courses. These include biology, psychology, or any other subject that requires you to learn lots of technical information, but tests you predominantly with multiple-choice and short-answer questions.

I thought it was time to put together a short, canonical guide to tackling this type of material…

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The Definitive Guide to Acing Your Schedule

September 14th, 2009 · 26 comments

Peer PressureCommon Studying

In the summer of 2000, a Dartmouth economist named Bruce Sacerdote published a paper titled Peer Effects in Randomly Assigned Roommates. His premise was interesting: Incoming students at Dartmouth are assigned to rooms at random. He knew, therefore, that when two roommates first arrive on campus, their behavior should have no more in common than any other pair of students.

Sacerdote’s insight was to wait until the end of the year and then look for traits that roommates had become more likely to share than random pairs. The idea was that these shared traits would be due to the roommates’ influence on each others’ behavior.

Sacerdote found that for some behaviors, such as major choice, roommates didn’t affect each other. But for one trait in particular, GPA, they had a lot in common. He attributed this finding to a simple idea: students’ study habits are heavily influenced by their peers.

It’s important that you recognize this reality, because these peer influences shape more than you might imagine about your own habits. Like a pair of behavioral blinders, carefully slipped into place without you noticing, peer influence may have prevented you from seeing a variety of radical strategies that could greatly simplify your student life.

In this post, I want to describe one such strategy…

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The Power of Demolition: Why the Best Study Strategies are New Strategies

May 18th, 2009 · 13 comments

Assuming the Worst

I recently received an e-mail from a student who was struggling in his calculus class. “I’m out of options,” he told me. “I practice the problems in the book again and again, and I still do poorly on the tests.” He concluded that he just didn’t “get math.”

I told this story because it highlights a common problem. I’m not talking about math difficulties. Instead, the real issue here is the danger of hidden assumptions. This student was confounded by his assumption that reviewing practice problems is the way to study for math. He decided, therefore, that the only way to improve his grades was to spend more time. Not surprisingly, this did little help — leading to his catastrophic conclusion that he simply couldn’t handle the work.

He needed to change the foundation of his study philosophy, but couldn’t see beyond the surface.

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The Shadow Course: A Simple Technique to Produce Extraordinary Work

May 4th, 2009 · 11 comments

Better AutopilotsThinking by water

As longtime Study Hacks readers know, I’m a big promoter of the autopilot schedule. In case you’re new, let me briefly review: The autopilot schedule is a set of fixed times and locations for finishing your regular work each week. For example, you might decide to always tackle your history reading assignments Monday morning, from 9 am to 11 am, in the study carrels found on the 6th floor stacks of the main library.

The shadow course, described below, is a simple optimization to the autopilot schedule that can generate huge benefits.

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4 Weeks to a 4.0: Create Project Folders

April 20th, 2009 · 11 comments

4 Weeks to a 4.0 is a four-part series to help you transform into an efficient student. Each Monday between 3/30 and 4/20 I’ll post a new weekly assignment to aid your transformation.

Welcome to Week 4Time to Change

This is the fourth and final post in our four-part series 4 Weeks to a 4.0.  Let’s do our review. In week one you gained some control over your schedule. In week two you mastered taking notes in class. And in week three you streamlined your assignments. In other words, we’ve covered all regularly occurring academic work. This leaves us only to tackle the big infrequent stuff. I’m talking about studying for exams and writing papers.

Week 4 Assignment: Create Project Folders

Your assignment for this week to adopt the project folder method, which I describe below. This simple method streamlines the process of studying for exams and writing major papers. I used it throughout my time at Dartmouth, and swear by its effectiveness. You can also see aspects of it in action in our ongoing finals diaries series.

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