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How to Study (2016) (buffalo.edu)
314 points by colobas on Apr 11, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 71 comments



Ideas on "how to study" in the context of an educational environment fail on the outset because that environment is often the greatest influence that you really can't control.

Studying ability often becomes a factor of prior exposure, time availability, fluid intelligence, mental stability, and a bunch of other random factors that all need to align reasonably well. For a small fraction of the population, these things will align. For any given person, they're not going to align all that well. For some people, they're not going to align well at all, and they may not make it.

What ends up happening is that the person can't truly properly keep up, so they end up surviving instead. And they may succeed in doing just that, but learning will be damaged. Most studying techniques fall short because they do not properly account for this survival mode and are not really the techniques that help someone, well, survive.

Proper learning is not rushed and hyper competitive, but what the average student encounters is.

Taking very dense notes, for instance, can easily backfire if it takes too much time and if it's not truly needed. Knowing what to learn, how to learn it, what not to learn, etc., are all separate skills, and not everyone has them. And it's not something that can easily be summarized because it's more of a skill than a piece of knowledge, and most of it comes down to your personal strengths as well as weaknesses.

There are plenty of successful students who have broken all of these rules and I'm sure we all know a few.


> Proper learning is not rushed and hyper competitive, but what the average student encounters is.

Exactly. Unfortunately, I was way too idealistic during my studies. I was a "real" learner, meaning I had no problems actually explaining concepts to my fellow students. But unlike them (who often couldn't) I didn't focus my energy on "hacking" the GPA. I once witnessed a fellow student getting almost full points on a task for simply writing down a only slightly related exercise he memorized (including numbers not mentioned in the actual task!). I wouldn't have thought of that! Another time I lost points for using my own words to give an answer. I asked the TA how what I wrote was wrong. She said it was actually correct but not noted in the sample solution and thus: no points. Naturally, as a result of things like these my GPA is pretty mediocre now which makes job hunting a pain. :(


That sounds more like a bad school (/ bad teachers) than a bad study attitude, to be honest.


I have this random thought that there's something very important and often overseen in what you've said: "(...) knowing (...) what not to learn (...)".

We live in hyper-information times where there are multiple options for pretty much everything. This often leads to too-much-choice-paralysis. Learning how to deal with it may be very important skill.

For new programmers "simple" things like the choice of programming language, framework, style, whatever - can be overwhelming. It seems to me that often people go for dogmatism as a "tool" of choice for fighting over-information.

Learning how to evaluate things quickly, making a choice without falling into dogmatism hole, being open to other ideas and above all making steady progress are becoming, imho, essential skills.


Despite the fact that you can't control the environment there are definitely things you can do to deal with that environment. The environment isn't random; in fact, it's been honed for quite some time.

You are quite correct that students have individual styles- strengths and weaknesses. What works for me won't work for you and vice versa. Moreover, what works for me with math won't work for me with psychology.

But there are things that are more valuable to do than other things simply because of the way brains work. Rewriting notes, for example, is a waste of time. Re-organizing notes, however, is priceless.

This is one professor doing his best to help, and I appreciate that. But there is better information out there.


> Despite the fact that you can't control the environment there are definitely things you can do to deal with that environment.

That's not really how things like this work. Competitive, live-or-die environments will always have a group that will not be able to survive those environments. It's in the definition. If you create an environment which requires a near-perfect alignment of factors, there will be many people who do not have that alignment and those people will be at risk.

> You are quite correct that students have individual styles- strengths and weaknesses.

And some people have more weaknesses than strengths. For those people to survive, they need to have access to something other people do not, which is unlikely.

Professors should stop trying to help, and should instead ask struggling students, as well as students who used to be struggling but stopped, and vice versa. But I've never really seen anyone listen to a struggling student, they're usually just labeled lazy and ignored. Advice on studying coming from people who likely had very little issues with it due to the good alignment of factors is near-useless to people who do not have such an alignment. It's much easier to do your homework every time when you can quickly understand the material due to prior exposure or good fluid intelligence. It's a different story when it takes you 5 hours to solve problem #1 and there are 10 total. Something's gotta give.

Advice on how to study better is not needed. Studying better requires time, a nurturing environment, time, good pedagogy and/or structure, and time. It is known, it's just not done, because it's not the priority. There are techniques, yes, and different approaches, but they themselves require time to figure out, and time can smooth over such problems. When you take away time from people, you must admit the goal is less about teaching people something and more about trying to figure out who to toss aside. And you will notice also that in such an environment, the students can get better at studying all they want, and the filter will just get more stringent and narrow. The problem is the environment. If you ignore the environment, all you will see is better and better coping strategies combined with a mysterious lack of improvement of the overall situation.

And this is coming from someone who had it pretty all right compared to some people I knew.


Really appreciate your self awareness. I come from a lower-middle class family. I sleep on a couch in a small crowded house with a 3y/o niece constantly screaming at the top of her lungs.

The libraries near me are all really just rec-centers, my uni is a 70min bus ride away, so having a place to just "study" is incredibly difficult.

I still manage, but I can only imagine what having one's own roon must be like and the time saved from travelling to and from school...such is life.

Thanks for the reply, puts into words a lot of what I've been thinking about lately.


I wish I had an answer for you. To ease distraction you might want to try "brown noise." I use my mynoise.net (I'm not affiliated- I probably found it in a thread here on HN.) I also have some "nature" mp3s like ocean waves crashing and rainfall and such. It's remarkable how well it gets me in "the zone."

One word of caution: don't turn up the volume to drown out the background noise. You only need to be able to hear the brown noise, not overwhelm everything else. I did that and my hearing was off for a day and a half. I think that because the sound energy is distributed more evenly throughout the spectrum you're getting more intensity on your eardrum than you think.


My bus ride was an hour, riding a bike brought it down to half that [a], plus I got free fitness gains. Of course you trade the time gained for sweatiness etc. I don't know if that's an option for you, but just putting it out there.

[a] I only generalise because it's true for almost any chosen route in my town: bus time = 2x bike time = 4x driving time.


Competitive, live-or-die environments will always have a group that will not be able to survive those environments.

It's true- you can only do your best. The problem I have is when a student is capable but doesn't know how. If for exactly that student that I built studyswami.com

But I've never really seen anyone listen to a struggling student

Then you've obviously never been a struggling student in my class.

Advice on how to study better is not needed.

Yes- it is. There is a lot of info out there about how to do it that isn't filtering down. There is also something very weird going on that I personally don't understand. There is a reluctance on the part of the student to change what they do. That reluctance may actually be the root of the problem. Somehow, they will listen to a trainer tell them how to bench press, but they won't listen to a professor tell them how to study. Very weird, and something I'm actively trying to overcome.

EDIT to add: Indeed there are competitive environments, but most colleges that I'm aware of don't want to see their students fail.


>This is one professor doing his best to help, and I appreciate that. But there is better information out there.

It's also worth remembering that not all students have study skills, and so having an article that lists both reasonably useful advice (even if it isn't perfect) AND (even more importantly) gets the student thinking / reflecting about how to improve their performance can be valuable.

I'm gonna guess (since you're here on Hacker News) that you've got a paying job in the tech sector, which in turn requires a whole lot of self-management skills (like managing your time). There exist perfectly good people who are, say, 18 and terribly naive about what they'll need to do in order to get ahead. Maybe their high school wasn't terribly demanding, maybe they just didn't push themselves that hard. Sometimes they arrive at college, realize that they actually want to do better, and having something like this can sometimes help a light go on.

But yeah - if you're holding down a tech job then this probably all seems super-basic.


I've had a full time job in the tech sector for 4 years now.

I'm also studying part time. And I don't even know how I've made it this far. Studying has always been difficult for me. I have no problem understanding complex ideas or theories. I just suck at remembering them, and keeping a schedule to study so that I can do well in exams.


I'm the same way. Give me a problem, I'll find a solution or a workaround. Ask me to study for a project or a cert, I'm screwed. I'll forget what I have read and I'll have to start over again. It's quite irritating, changing the study venue doesn't really help me. So.....

Wat do?!?


are you in college?


I'm looking for people to check out my study skills website- hit me up (email in profile) if you're interested.


Thanks. I'll definitely check it out tonight when I get home.


Cool. You'll need a link to get in though- I'll send it to you via email.


Hi, sorry. My plans changed suddenly last night.

I have sent you an email.


Actually, I'm a former community college professor who has built a web site dedicated to helping people learn how to study, manage time, etc. It addresses exactly those people you are referring to.

I've been on all sides of the academic issue- good student, struggling student, and teacher.


Sounds like there is a complimentary skillset involved that takes bounded rationality into account.


Right but ask for help and attend office hours.


I disagree almost completely with the article. From my experience, it is almost always an over complication of learning to study a lot at home and to take notes in a special way or whatever.

What you should do, in my opinion, is to focus almost exclusively on the ideas explained and try in any way to oppose them, when you find something you feel shouldn't be how it is, ask. The mere exploration of the concepts gives deep understanding of them and will require you almost no extra work at home. Often it will literally need no extra work at all. Also, when the teacher answers your question, you will get even deeper insight and so will the teacher (especially when it comes to higher levels of teaching) and most other students who care to learn. Jotting down notes is a nice way to force yourself to formulate the ideas yourself, if you don't already do so, but most often, these notes needn't and shouldn't be read. They should just be written down.


This worked very well for me in grad school. Come to class with the mindset that the professor is to be presumed wrong and that the lecture has to defend an idea. Ask leading questions and see if the professor takes the bait. The intent is not to play gotcha, but to see if you can get the professor to clearly articulate a point you think is incorrect. (This is in engineering, mind you. From what I've heard about grad school in the humanities, I don't think you'd get very far with even an implicit challenge to the professor's authority.) In the end, you may still disagree with the professor's point, but at least you understand it.

With regard to notes, I found the same thing. Take thorough notes in a blank notebook. Disregard printed-out slides or other materials until after the lecture. Rarely return to your notes -- the value is in having written them down in the first place. (Who on earth has the time to rewrite notes?)

Note-taking in the real world is quite different. Keeping detailed meeting notes is my preferred strategy for staying awake. In one job, where we had a lot of meetings about the same subject, I did retype my notes, and then I took more notes on the printouts. Then I typed them up again and repeated ad nauseam. By the time I left that job, I had accumulated a 100 page book with minute details and history of our process.


I agree, this bit struck me:

"The key idea of taking good notes in class is to write down as much as possible."

I guess the post does mention to adapt strategies based on the teacher's style, but I found (some/most) lecturers I had were just speed-writing on the blackboards as fast as possible (95 perhaps?), in barely legible writing, while also explaining the concepts.

My calc & linear lecturers were like a weird, comical race where the lecturers were master speed-writers with a side of obfuscation, so not only couldn't I keep up sometimes with the notes, the actual verbal explanation/concepts were falling by the wayside.

As an aside I had this lady's father for calc:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary,_Crown_Princess_of_Denmar...


This off-hand comment sent me on a hilarious wiki tangent.

At some point you'll be able to say your Calculus lecturer was the Queen's father. Just think how different his life would've been if his daughter didn't meet the Prince at the Slip Inn bar (you can't make this stuff up).

As an aside, he put an \inf on his coat of arms.


Not that I'm condoning the speed-teaching, but I find that writing down stuff helps me learn it in a qualitatively better way than just listening to it. It could be a left-brain kind of thing but it definitely trips some alternate pathways. I don't need a lecturer to do this necessarily but it's an effective if expensive forcing function.


I can very well imagine note-taking helps with memorization, but I can't imagine that it helps with concepts, with connection the dots. Your mind has to be able to wander freely for that, when you are busy writing you have to concentrate on that particular task, which is the opposite of a freely roaming mind ready to explore ideas and connections. Just my theory, and I'm certainly biased, since I'm someone who very rarely wrote anything down at university At school we had to, and looking back the results I got from that education support my theory. I never had any trouble at school, but getting good grades and actually caring about the knowledge and connecting it all in my head didn't happen - only now, decades later, when I discovered online learning and took over 70 courses by now am I able to connect it all in a meaningful way. No, I certainly don't have a good opinion about note-taking as a basis for gaining knowledge. The results are too narrow, I think.

What I found that helps - which unfortunately doesn't scale very well given how much students have to learn in a given time - is to teach others. Become a TA. Answer other people's questions, explain stuff. It may be an individual thing, I always work better that way in all parts of life - doing things other people need, I don't have a lot of questions myself and I do much better under this system.


>...focus almost exclusively on the ideas explained and try in any way to oppose them, when you find something you feel shouldn't be how it is, ask...

Not picking on your comment, just wanted to share a little anecdote. We had this one retired guy in grad school who already had 2 Ph.D.s in other disciplines and this was probably his third. OMG he would incessantly ask questions in class. They were not even helpful questions -- very basic and mundane. In an algorithms class he asked the prof. how he came up with those numbers in an example even though he had already said that they were random. At which point the prof. rolled his eyes and said "magic!"

His actions were very annoying and slowed down the class significantly by breaking the flow. When asked privately why he would do that his answer was he was helping out others who may be too afraid to ask basic questions. I felt like banging my head on a wall.


That was always a tension for me at university. Do I ask a question, because I'm stumped, this may be confusing others, and most people are too scared to do it? Or am I just holding up the class?

No idea what people thought, or if I crossed the line. If they're too shy to ask questions they're probably too shy to reprimand me for it.


If you have a genuine question, I feel like it is fine. If you're holding up the class because they're all smarter than you, well, they can take up their issues with the admissions department.

But if you're asking basic questions even though you understand but you think the explanation might be confusing for others, you're probably just holding up the class.


No I never presumed that everyone was dumber than me and I had to fire questions off to prompt the lecturer to educate the plebs in the class. It was always genuine.


THats a selfish attitude.


I've found that the best way to learn something is to play with that thing. Doesn't matter if it's an essay, a sentence, a formula, a function, an algorithm, or whatever. The most essential thing is to play with it. Turn it around in your head, try to apply it to different circumstances - even ones where it would seem nonsensical. Everything is just a block or piece of knowledge in a certain shape waiting for you to see if you can fit it into some random kinda-round hole you found.

I feel like people approach higher levels of education more like a job than like a game to master. It's all the same.


I love the way you put this. Yes: the hurdle to get over is to get the information organized in your brain in a way that you can retrieve it. Playing with it is a great way to do that! Also: making concept maps, Venn diagrams, tables and so on.


Nothing is good, unless you play with it-Funkadelic


I enjoyed this article and this subject. A small anecdote to share.

I had a B average after my freshman year. During the break, I had dinner with a university professor. I asked him how I could improve my grades and he shared the following points of advice.

1. On the first day of class observe the students who ask intelligent questions and are engaged. Sit by and study with them.

2. Finish small assignments a day before the due date and large assignments a week before. This is a forcing function to 1) manage your time effectively (referenced repeatedly in the article) 2) befriend your TA's and professors.

This advice helped me improve my grades and I felt a massive lift in my learning ability.


With regard to (1), absent any other signal, try to sit near the front of the lecture hall. You can bet the students who seek out the back rows are not the most engaged with the material.


Also gives you bonus points with the professor, simply because they can't help notice that you did that and even subconsciously getting closer signals interest. My very first exam grade when I started studying CS (25 years ago) was an "A" with a very strict professor who rarely gave anything better than a "B" on a theory-heavy (algorithms) subject - who could have known nothing at all about me, only that I seemed to actually be interested in what he had to say because I always sat in the front. I don't think the oral exam itself was responsible, because there were few hard questions, it was more a back and forth talk about things not even the core subject of the lectures. I think he would have asked more actual questions to people he thought he knew less about. So I think I already entered the exam with a significant bonus.


This is a fascinating subject that I've spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about, as I've continually tried to improve my studying habits in these first two years of medical school.

There's some great points here. One for discussion that I'd disagree with is copying your notes. Here in medical school, it's literally temporally impossible to copy your notes and actually get to all the material. It's definitely an extremely effective way to learn the material, but unfortunately when you have so much material in so little time, it's just not feasible (FWIW, an average semester has 25 credits of courses for me).

I'd also add in spaced repetition studying - this has been an extremely effective method of studying for me, and I've learned more via spaced repetition studying of previously made flashcards than I have from reading the textbooks. And it does a phenomenal job of isolating the material you need to know from what you already know.


After a CS degree (2 decades ago) and many hundreds of hours and courses on medical topics over the last few years, I think studying medicine and fields like engineering or math are very different though, and what works in one may not be the best idea for the other. A lot of memorizing in medicine, like neural pathways, (bio)chemical pathways, location of nuclei in the brain, anatomy (of course), regulatory circuits. You learn everything to "debug" one concrete instance of a biological being, and although variations exist in comparison to all that could be (or even what there is, looking at all animals) it's very little, and it doesn't change (beyond the inherent variation, which only seems great because you are looking at only humans so any deviations appear greater than they are without the perspective of "all possible biological systems" for comparison).

Engineers learn existing systems - and many kinds of them - to be able to create new ones. Medical doctors instead work on only one already existing systems. Engineers can experiment and fail, many times. Medical doctors should "do no harm" first of all. So that limits the creativity and determines how you learn from the outset. Therefore which methods work will also be different.


Having studied both at this point, I'd agree. I think most of my learning in CS tends to be experimentation - write some programs, see why they don't work. Sure, there's some things you need to memorize and understand, but that knowledge is strongly reinforced through experimentation.


> Here in medical school, it's literally temporally impossible to copy your notes and actually get to all the material.

I second this. My med school strat is as follows: I write questions in Workflowy during lecture based on what I think could be tested from the lecture. Then I import them into a SRS app I built and drill them all the week before exams. Works pretty well.


I don't have lectures, so I have the tedious job of trying to pick out the relevant material straight from the textbooks. Let's just say Bro's cards (https://github.com/enlightenedchampagne/Brosencephalon) is a real lifesaver. (Unfortunately my school tends to test some not-board-relevant material and also not test board-specific material, so it's hit and miss, but I've been doing alright so far.)


Email me (in my profile). I have something I'd like for you to look at.


out of curiosity " previously made flashcards "

are you taking the time to make them yourself, or are you using source that made them for you?


I'm using previously made cards by another individual.

A reddit user named brosencephalon when through First Aid* (2015 I think?) and made about 13000 Anki cards for everything in it. It's been extremely popular on the r/medicalschool subreddit, with multiple people saying they did well on boards as a result.

--

* First Aid: First Aid for the USMLE, published every year. It's basically the bible for medical students preparing for the board exams (namely, the USMLE, or US Medical Licensing Exam, of which there are 3 parts. The first one is taken at the end of the 2nd year of medical school.)


The opening sounds to me a bit like "if you have to take a job in order to afford to be here, then you don't deserve to be here". I doubt that's intentional but it's not very well written - it sounds like accusing poor students that their main problem is not needing to be able to afford food and rent but "not prioritising their education enough".

> If you must work (in order to make ends meet), you should realize the limitations that this imposes on your study time.

What exactly is such a student supposed to do with this observation, other than conclude "education is not for people like me"?


Get loans? If you cannot justify the loans for a college education, you can't justify the college education.


Good article, but I think it's important to change study tactics depending on the topic - and your own personality.

Eg - when I was studying maths and physics, I found the best thing was to not take notes in class, but spend all my time trying to fully comprehend the concept.

When I was studying french, flash cards and memorisation schedules were key to the hardest part of it - vocab. I'm sure there is a better way to do this however, I am dyslexic, but I still only scraped through even though I put in the most effort.

When working on project based assignments (such as design), I found the best way was to ensure I was fully excited about my idea - that would power me through. And test early.

Basically - match the method to the subject, and yourself.


When taking advanced math classes/seminars--spend the time listening and following, unless you're the designated notetaker in which case you do your darned best to take the best notes possible, and type them up in the finest Latex fashion.


Indeed! Hence studyswami.com


What's with all the comics?

For anyone who's completed a CS degree, how much studying did you do per night. I understand working on projects etc can eat up hours but I don't really include that.

Back at college just now and starting university in Sept. I had never studied in my life until college (coasted of natural ability all my life) and I'm finding it difficult to even spend 1hr a night. (Average mark currently is 80%) 5hrs per night seems insane to me.

When studying I either understand the concept fully and fire through it rapid. Don't understand it and spend ages figuring it out/trying to find answers online. Or have no idea, can't find anything in the textbooks/online and resort to crying in the corner.


I barely put any time into my CS degree and I recommend everyone to do the same if given the opportunity. I studied for ~4-8hrs a week at home, and had ~16-24 hours worth of lectures, and I still graduated with a GPA of 3. The Dutch college system encourages cutting corners, so I did (along with most of the other students). Most of my college time was spent drinking and doing stuff with my fraternity, and I loved every second of it. I haven't worked a day in those 5 years either, just loaned a bit more money. I am of the opinion that if you get the chance to enjoy life like this, you should fully take it. You have more than enough time to live seriously after you graduate.

You have to relearn almost everything they teach you on your first job anyway. The contents of the courses were always horribly outdated, the only things I really needed were general programming skills, research methods and project management lingo.


> how much time

They usually say at least three hours study for each hour of class, I used that as my guide

> difficult to even spend 1 hour a night

The more abstract and mathematical the class, the longer I know it will last and I can use it. The more specific classes like learning C++ were immediately useful.

That said, I did have to kick myself to memorize dozens of species of fungi and their attributes for my science requirement class.

You never know what will come in useful. English writing class seems like BS? Not if it teaches you to write documentation, e-mails etc. better.

> can't find anything

I've been there too. It makes me skeptical of these people who say Coursera etc. will destroy colleges. I can always ask my professor after class or during office hours.

You're going to be rooting around in your work life as well, so aside from the class material, you're exercising this skill as well.


>They usually say at least three hours study for each hour of class, I used that as my guide

That would put me at 18hrs of studying a day :/

Due to years of posting nonsense online, English is easy for me (top of the class). Not looking forward to my 2 science requirements though as thats where I struggle to concentrate.


I believe they meant three hours per week for each hour of class. So if you have 6 courses, each with three hours of lecture a week, you'd spend 3x3x6=54 hours a week. That's still pretty rough but that's what happens if you need to study hard for 6 classes.


I just tried to read the next lecture's readings beforehand so that I'd know what questions to ask the teacher while I had them there.


I wish someone would have taught me how to study at school or in university. I somehow managed, but I'm still intimidated and slightly panicking whenever I have to learn/memorize something: I simply don't know how.


Memorizing is a learnable skill, like anything else. There are lots of tricks you can use that eventually become second nature. A good starting point might be the book "Moonwalking with Einstein" by Joshua Foer. If you want to remember names easily check out Harry Lorayne. There's a YouTube video titled "Harry Lorayne memorizes audience's names" where he demonstrates his abilities. I started using his method recently and found it works well. But as with anything else you have to explore and figure out which methods work best for you. Good luck.


Memorization depends on the subject - eg, are you trying to understand a concept? Or memorize a shit ton of content (say vocabulary). Different methods are needed.


What if learning "how to study" is just a way to distract yourself from learning the material? Finding a learning process might sound more fun and creative, but more than likely it will be a big waste of time. Fortunately, what you'll be learning from your study work is more likely to be useful and more fact-based than learning how to study, which is primarily opinion-based.

If I was to create a study guide I wouldn't tell the student anything they should be doing, but rather ask questions that lead them back to their source material:

* What are you learning about currently?

* Why do you find it challenging?

* Why is it important?

* What is the general idea?

Learning by applying some memorization technique sounds boring to me, in comparison to curiosity-based learning using socratic/thoughtful questioning. Instead of responding to study work with a fight-or-flight response, asking questions allow you to break out of that fearful mindset and start to examine the topic and as you ask questions about it you'll start to find little bits of interesting knowledge in it.


This has a lot of great stuff, but I hereby dispute the 'don't take notes on a computer' claims.

It is certainly true that typing out notes is generally a bad idea. I have and can take notes on a computer while basically unconscious and getting no benefit from them; transcription is easier than and a distinct activity from taking notes.

However, with pen computing, the computer becomes a very useful note taking tool. I can write out my notes in OneNote while recording the lecture. If I miss something or want clarification, I can go back and listen to the lecture, linked up by time with the notes I took.

I can go back and search my notes - they are useful for quickly reviewing a topic I may have studied in the past.

I like color coding my notes. I can write in any color, recolor after the fact if I want a different structure, and generally add multiple channels of cues for my studying.

Digital ink & paper have potential to replace physical notes without the negatives of typing.


I certainly hope this happens. It has always been frustrating to me that with note-taking I have to choose one or the other. I can take handwritten notes to help me remember, or I can type notes for later reading and searching. There are aspects to each that I regret losing when I choose the other.


If you have the time, choose both: write them out and then review and revise them as you write them up.


>...25 hours that you should be spending studying at home (or in the library)

>Dividing that 25 hours by those 5 days gives you 5 hours of studying per night

Haha. Final year PhD checking in. I've never, not in my entire life, never, done any more than 2 hours study (outside of classes, lectures or labs) on a single night. My brain would just stop focusing after a couple hours.

Plus, why would you need to study if you focus during classes and actively try to understand what's going on?


The article was brief and had some good advice, and it sets the issue straight of having priority of school over other activities. School is a full-time job and spending 40 hours/week should be expected. A lot of the advice are also just common sense.

I also strongly recommend Cal Newport's book "How to Become a Straight-A Student" (https://www.amazon.com/How-Become-Straight-Student-Unconvent...). I've read a lot of books on studying in college, but I think this one really is one of the best way to study.


The best advice in this article is IMHO in the bottom:

> Well, of course, you don't have to do all of it at once. Try various of these suggestions to see what works for you.

For me to learn, I heavily need to motivation. Hence I usually spend a couple of days pondering before doing anything productive.


Great cartoons! :D


I didn't see it mentioned anywhere on this page, but for memorizing, there is one very important insight. How well you remember something directly correlates with how interesting and important you find it. As if your brain is a cache that evicts data based on this priority. If you manage to manipulate yourself into believing that the study material is very important, you can memorize incredible amounts of data. Well, the optimal case would be if it's actually important stuff, of course! If you start thinking "why does this even matter", the memories instantly start to decompose.

Also, at uni, I learned that taking notes in maths classes is a recipe for disaster. How come? The mere act of writing down and arranging formulas on my sheet takes enough thinking power that I can no longer follow the lecture. What's better, having one single good shot at understanding things, or having not understood things and the incomprehensible scribbling of your notes also makes zero sense without the professor's explanation? The former for me. As long as I know the broad subject names, I can read up on my own.


One way to attend math lectures is to have already read the chapter in the textbook and attempted to understand it. That way, the lecture addresses the gaps in your knowledge and you can ask questions.

This time-intensive strategy might be suboptimal in the long run if it reduces the time available for doing homework / sample problems, which is almost certainly the most effective way to actually learn the material.


I had an otherwise excellent (if infamously uptight) calculus teacher in high school whose one mistake more than undid everything she did right: she insisted that everyone take extensive notes. She also moved quickly though materials and examples, making the problem worse. It ruined the class.




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