The crux of this tactic is that you actually understand how to apply formulas, so it of course presupposes you know the material.
I can't say whether or not his study strategies would work as well at a university that is not a "mid-tier, public Canadian university," or whether a student might have to study a lot harder at, say, MIT or the Indian Institute of Technology. Indeed, especially not knowing the exact name of the university from what I have looked up thus far, I have trouble knowing what the admission requirements are at Scott Young's university.
I have to fully agree with Scott Young's advice, "Befriend Exchange Students." That's a great way to learn about the world before accumulating enough money to travel widely.
A question for Cal Newport: how do we know that Scott Young is "one of the world’s most efficient studiers" if we don't know how challenging the courses are at his university? After edit: I see that Young writes, "This is perhaps my only regret in university is that I weighed interest too much over challenge in selecting my major."
Maybe some people who take more challenging majors are studying just as efficiently as Young did even if they take more hours per week to study their major courses.
But you'll have to realize that even between top American schools, course load and marking differs. My friend went to Oxford from Cornell, with a bunch of students from other top American schools for some program. I remember him saying how he partied all day while the others were complaining it was so hard. He described it like this: "At Oxford, if you're asked whether you'd rather do a problem set or get beaten by a stick, you'd take the problem set. At Cornell... you'd definitely take a moment to consider." I don't want to get into grade inflations/deflations here though. Feel free to contact me if you'd like to know.
Canadian universities also take 90% as the general A+. When he says he's getting an A+, it means he's getting somewhere between 90 and 100%. I don't think I can emphasize well enough, how easy this is. For one Human Resources exam, I studied 30 minutes the night before after getting drunk, and wrote the exam the next morning hung over. I got a 94%. That's the only reading/studying I ever did for that class. This isn't unique to this university either.
I personally usually just need to read, listen, or work through something once to get it, depending on what the material is. However, his methods make logical sense I guess.
If you don't believe me, take a look at all the free courses available on the web(MIT especially). The courses are not exceptional or exceptionally rigourous. Pretty standard undergrad fare.
However, Canadian schools are also not generally the elite institutions that the Ivy League+MIT+Stanford are either. The top Canadian universities are public institutions with larger undergraduate populations that to a reasonable extent serve regional demand and need, rather than attracting the best from across the land (with some exceptions). A more reasonable comparison might be agaisnt some of the top 10 to top 30 public schools in the US, instead of MIT or Cornell or Oxford.
the top-tier universities of united states cater to the top 1% of the world, have incredible research records, nobels, etc... yet by almost any measure, the US itself as a nation is beginning to fall behind canada on per-capita measures of wealth, education, longevity, and happiness. this isn't that astonishing, the US is also falling behind many scandinavian nations with apparently unknown universities
remember last week's nba final? the "superstars" lost.
In my opinion, the United States is the modern Rome, though , of course, way more powerful and advanced than Rome ever was, and will be so for the foreseeable future.
I had the same Study plan as you (I never once read a book or had to purchase one--hello "Xbox and booze monies!!!")and I did quite well.
I'm interested in hearing how much you actually retained from any of your courses--honestly I remember very little, and it's a testament of how bad the University system has become. I basically strove for a piece of paper and the benefits that came with it. The quest for knowledge seems to have taken a page out of a World of Warcraft quest--Skip over everything you read, do remedial task, then get reward.
i'm fascinated that all universities in the nation of canada have low workloads, regardless of program, and that you have been able to measure this against other institutions
but you already make it clear that you are extending this generalization from one anecdote about one chem class at two universities
I imagine UoM isn't as competitive as top universities in Ontario/BC & McGill.
His newsletter still is pretty damn good though, some pretty good content despite the sales pitches for his seminars/programs.
It should be noted, though, that there is a large array of course where pattern association and critical thinking aren't going to help you that much.
My Psyc180 Brain and Behavior course was basically identifying and recalling an ungodly number of neuro chemical pathways and elements. Anatomy 101 (which I did not take) enjoyed a week or three of "Let's learn what the 200+ Human bones are. Great, now we move onto muscles." And, I didn't even want to think about what it would be like to subject myself to the ultimate pain that Organic Chemistry is. I would _love_ to hear of a human being that can get through Organic Chemistry courses without the requisite X hours outside of class per hour of lecture. (For a 13 week semester consisting of 3 hours/week, that would typically suggest 80-120 hours of studying for the 39 hours of in-class time) - I've seen that course knock out many a pre-med candidate who decided that maybe this wasn't where they wanted to go in life.
Even more interesting would be to find a human who could simply cram all that information in the week before the final without having studied outside of class.
But - overall, great study suggestions for courses of a particular type.
Students that don't have an intuitive grasp for 3D logic are lost early on and have trouble keeping up. Chirality is something you either "get" or you don't--and that understanding is based on logic that is developed at an early age. Is there really an effective way to teach people how to manipulate stereogenic centers of molecules in their head if they haven't been rotating mental pictures in their mind from a young age? I don't think that stick figures and plastic models help much.
One of the most important investments early on is practicing switching between the various projections of molecules. My professor always tried to trip us up by giving us deceptive encodings of molecules and we had precious little time to convert them.
There are maybe 50 reactions throughout O.Chem I/II that you have to "memorize". Grouping them by functionality helps, but ultimately they all mostly follow the same consistent inner logic--just follow the movement of the electrons. It's all rule-based! Take time to perhaps practice synthesis and retrosynthesis as they require you to mentally traverse chemical space quickly. (Kind of like BFS where the edges are chemical reactions. Heuristic: note substructures to cut down the search space.)
Reading IR, H/C13 NMR, and MS isn't that difficult and takes maybe a weekend to learn all of the intricacies. Once you can read them, just use careful tallying and logic to determine the molecular structures of unknowns from spectra.
I would highly recommend these courses to a CS major looking for an elective or two as a means of really getting to know the chemical makeup of the world. (Maybe they can pull you into doing computational chemistry!) The courses are a fun logical exercise, and the labs are great!
I have yet to take advanced organic, but from what I understand it is much more math-intensive. MO theory, etc.
Here is one typical text for Organic Chemistry:
Roughly the same as yours?
His notes on the exam: "draw a timeline", "check the cpp" and comments in section two: "bonds are paid semi annually", EAR > quoted rate etc betray a very easy/ introductory finance class.
Furthermore, according to tokenadult he is at a "mid-tier Canadian university." There are only three or four good business schools in Canada and in my mind there is no way that 50% of the class attending any of them would have failed this exam. In my opinion it was either an easy class that lots of people failed because he's at a mediocre school or he's lying about the failure rate.
I suspect that anyone studying engineering/cs or who has any sort of quantitative ability would have had no trouble attending the classes, doing the readings and then prepping for 90 minutes and doing well on this exam.
Finally, I don't think this is novel at all. The idea that memorization takes longer than understanding a concept in a general form should be no surprise to anyone who's ever crammed for an exam of this sort. And really, he just attended the classes, did the readings, took notes and then reviewed what he'd already learned - theres nothing ultra time efficient about this at all.
When I was an undergrad my strategy was as follows:
a) Never do any "study" during the semester. (Go to lectures, take notes, do any required assignments, but that's it.)
b) When stu-vac rolls around (a week before the exams start), write a set of really nice summaries of everything you learned in each course, based on your notes and textbook.
c) Print out these summaries and... well, probably never look at them. It's the act of writing the summary that's useful.
But that's me. It might not work for someone else. I can't possibly comprehend the idea of staying up all night studying before a test -- how can there possibly be twelve hours' worth of material to study?
Also I was studying physics and maths, both of which are mostly about understanding rather than memorization. Put me in an anatomy class and I might well fail horribly.
Very true. I'd say that writing out by hand works best, as opposed to typing it though.
So, not exactly awesome methods, but some promising leads. There was a lot "meh" in the middle, but, in order
1) review and condense your notes the week before the exam is the single best thing you can do
2) go to class, read the book, and make one set of notes (eg: take notes on the reading, then add targeted bits during lecture, or vise versa)
3) Do the assigned homework. Or, in the case of medical school, do a lot of question books and understand the answers (question banks are the staple of medical school, which is a whole 'nother post). Add what you learn to your notes.
3) If you can't go to class, listen to the podcast, but taking notes is critical, and whatever you do,
35) don't take notes on a computer. Perhaps partially due to WiFi access, going to class and typing notes was the worst idea you could have, actually worse than
33) listening to the podcast without taking notes and
34) going to class and not taking notes at all).
I also found there was a skew in the bell curve: completely innocent, one might expect people to evenly distribute among the quintiles, but there seemed to be a skew, which has been repeated in other studies: the top students slightly under-rate themselves, but the bottom students significantly over-rate their abilities, so there's a huge bulge in the middle, but it leans to toward over-confidence.
Applying Bloom's taxonomy(1), there seems to be a tactile-kinetic element to note-taking, and there's critical thinking involved in choosing what to write down, because you can't just transcribe the lecture and the book. There's further synthetic thinking when you try to merge class and book notes, and there is further synthesis when you build those notes into that a pre-test crib sheet.
If I were designing school from the ground up, lectures would be 20 minutes.
Sounds like what you would expect from the Dunning-Kruger effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect)
I'm of the opinion that you shouldn't even be at university if you're not foaming at the mouth to acquire the knowledge. Sure, there are classes that you won't enjoy regardless, but tactics to beat them should be an exception, not the rule.
In principle, I agree. In practice, when a college degree is a de facto requirement for a decent job, you're going to have lots of people there for reasons other than the purity of learning.
Learning to ace an exam in the minimum time possible frees up the rest of your time to do some actually useful learning.
As much as I enjoy learning about computers and circuits in class, how would I actually know I understood how they all interact with each other something without testing myself?
Acing an exam easily is a pretty good indication that you've learned the subject material fairly well.
Don't be afraid of moving slowly through dense material, even if that leads to multiple reinventions of the wheel during study. There are few things more satisfying than contemplating an idea, observing a problem or question arising from it, and developing your own solution - followed by finding that same issue examined in a subsequent page or lecture. Sure, you could have just kept reading and had the answer handed to you on a plate, but that's much less memorable.
The practice exam is just as important, though. You're probably familiar with the saying 'an engineer is someone who can do for ten cents what any fool can do for a dollar.' Learning is an enjoyable experience for smart and curious people, but without putting pressure on oneself to reproduce the information learned the practice can be self-indulgent, and in that case the material is not remembered as well as it might be otherwise. If we think of learning as a sort of knowledge engineering, then we can also think of time as the cost constraint that sets the skilled professional apart from the amateur. Constraints force compromises, and learning how to make efficient compromises is extremely important. Perfectionism is a luxury that few of us can afford.
Not necessarily true. He specifically lists learning and understanding concepts as they were taught as a part of his strategy (his principle #1). I adopted pretty much the opposite principle - not putting in too much effort during the term and learning it all at the end. So I would presumably have put in far fewer hours during the course than he did. So comparing my total revision time to his would not be a fair comparison.
Incidentally, this wasn't a deliberate strategy of mine, it's just how I liked to do things, but I think maybe having the full content of the course before I started serious learning may have been a benefit.
I also spent a lot less time on revision than many of my peers, so I don't think learning during the course is necessarily a prerequisite for minimising time spend revising.
However, my siblings don't work this way... they take a long time and work quite hard when it comes to learning. That is not to say that they are slow or unintelligent. In retrospect I envy them a bit. I can put on the illusion of being brilliant since I can pick something up in a few minutes... but ask me a year from now and I'll probably need to repeat that process. However, they are in medicine, so as ghshephard suggested, the effectiveness of this technique could vary widely by domain. If you take a long time to carefully understand the fundamentals of the human body, you probably won't need to learn too much more about it later. Not to say that you won't need to keep on up current practices, but you also don't need to deal with the "API for kidney function" changing anytime soon.
Also, I agree with the connection/analog process for quick learning and application, but you can only stack so many analogies before you're living in your own self-constructed world.
It's easy to mentally pat-yourself-on-the-back for doing X hours of studying, much harder to confront your cognitive limits by trying to integrate a new concept on the spot (as opposed to picking it up gradually through practice and experience).
Another thing to note though is that if you develop the self-discipline to hit the library for hours on end every day, that self-discipline will arguably serve you better in life than the A-A+ average you might have gained with better study techniques.
He studied 3.5 hrs studying for an exam, not counting any of the time studying the subject in the weeks and months before the exam. That sounds pretty normal. He's not saying he studied 3.5 hrs during the whole semester total and aced the course as a result.
I typically spent 0-15 minutes studying for exams because I was already prepared, always got A or A+ and usually the top score in the class at a renowned program at a top university.
I did well because most the students were not interested in design or engineering and were there because their parents wanted them to study it. These other students (by which I mean asians) would do things like get ahold of the test in advance (cheating) and get together and try to figure out the answers. But they were mostly clueless because they thought cheating would overcome their failure to meaningfully study during the semester. Cheating made their academics much worse because it was a crutch they relied upon rather than bothering to do the necessary work. But the poor results of the cheaters distorted the curve and made it relatively simple for others to get an A: it's not as if I got perfect scores. I remember one class I got something like 20% and that was the highest score in the class. Yeah, it was a difficult test, as it should have been, after all this was engineering school.
Me, I did the projects and read the assignments. Before the exam here are things you should do:
1. Do not study or think about the topic at all.
2. Drink a glass of wine the night before.
3. Go to bed early and get at least 9 hrs sleep.
This assumes you have been keeping up. If you have not been keeping up, cramming won't do squat for you except make you tired and do worse than you would have from just getting some sleep and guessing on the test.
The only studying specifically for a test I would do is to casually flip through my notes a few minutes before the test, where I'd have notes in the margins about things that were easy to get mixed up and such stuff that I had specific problems with. These things I had already spent time mastering in the months or weeks leading up to the exam, I obviously don't bother trying to learn anything for the first time at this point, that's just silly.
One last tip - don't care about grades at all. If you care about grades you'll be motivated to get high grades, which means you'll be drawn to cheat and then you'll end up not actually knowing anything in reality. By not giving a rat's ass what grades you get, you have no motivation whatsoever to get involved in cheating clubs and groups, and will study what you want when you want, and you'll do great.
Wow, I feel sorry for any honest, hard-working asian who's ever crossed your path.
I still keep to my method, but I don't think any discrimination was intended from the grandparent post. It's fairly common for non-passionate people to try to achieve good results without putting in effort to learn the subject. It's a question of whether you value time or learning more.
What is wrong with this? My university provides the last six years worth of final exams for every subject, and sometimes the lecturers give you worked solutions for one or two of them. We will often work in groups to come up with solutions so we can practice with them and make sure we've got methods right.
The questions on the exam you take are often completely new (or altered versions of past questions, depending on the lecturer), so it's not cheating at all. But old exams are great practice to make sure you know enough of the formulas and equations to be able to solve the type of questions you will be asked.
A former roommate who graduated from one of the best, if not the best, Indian school opened my eyes to the rampant cheating that goes on in those hallowed halls. His class was apparently legendary for their cheating. Nonetheless he was a charming and extremely competent individual who, in an alien environment, when the chips were down and there were no Indian classmates to "cooperate" with, hit the books hard and earned his Masters degree admirably.
This is a really difficult thing to discuss because "the cheaters were all asians" sounds disparaging and is impossible to explain fully without elaborate explanation. Subtleties in particular are that it's not considered cheating by the students that do it, but rather is considered smart studying and efficient use of time. Because of this it doesn't indicate dishonesty. As a parallel, consider the industrialization of Japan and China, much of which has depended on copying western designs, industrial espionage, and then, in the long run, often making the process more efficient by taking in feedback from workers at all levels collaborating to improve the overall system (which is perhaps a strength they have that the west doesn't as much). Westerners first faced with these methods have sometimes exclaimed "they are stealing our designs" and "they are cheating", but in the east, copying things makes more sense than reinventing the wheel. However, there are advantages to reinventing the wheel, as one learns about things on a deeper level when inventing it from scratch or first principles rather than simply copying a preexisting method.
Lo and behold, when the exam was presented, I realized that I'd already seen it, and went to the instructor to let him know.
I'd never really thought that this was a cultural thing, but, in hindsight, it was astonishingly well organized...
* Students who are taking a course due to societal pressure, rather than genuine interest, are more likely to cheat.
* Asians are more likely to be taking a course due to societal pressure, rather than genuine interest.
I do agree with the rest of the original comment though, this Scott guy sounds like a run-of-the-mill smart person who ended up at a mediocre school, not "one of the world's most efficient studiers." I'm sure 80% of the students at MIT, Stanford, etc would do just as well at his school. Very surprised this made the front page.
I definitely agree with you on the "don't care about grades" issue. The reason you go to school shouldn't be to get a high score but rather to learn and better yourself.
It's a bit pointless going to college and spending 4 of the best years of your life doing stuff you aren't interested enough in to devote yourself to.
In fact, you could argue college itself isn't the best use of those 4 years.
I'm thankful for people like this because they leave all the outlier spots (best spots that offer the most rewards (financial, satisfaction, recognition, etc.)) to people willing to pick something they love and willing to work hard as hell at it.
But, to be honest, I’m not that impressed. I can’t recall ever studying more than 3 hours for a test (usually about 2 hours) and just graduated an Ivy League college with an ~A average.
Now I did usually start studying 2 weeks or so in advance in multiple 20 minute sessions. I did so because last minute cramming doesn't work for me, but it did result in high grades with not so much total time spent.
The day before the test I would spend a few hours having an imaginary conversation with the lecturer and made sure my model of him matched all my recollections of him/her (if unknown, I'd just imagine a generic lecturer). The imaginary form would ask me questions that might be in the test and I made sure I could answer them. I usually found the actual test to be predictable and much easier. My GPA in college was among the top 1%.
I've tried to teach this technique to others occasionally, but with limited success. It usually fails on not being able to imagine a honest representation of someone else and only asking yourself questions you want to be asked.
1. Select the right course. Course with a lot of fact details to remember forget them, for instance, history, business law, biology, geography. Do calculation based course, typical a good foundation in maths is required.
2. Choose the right lecturers. Some lecturers you just wouldn't be scoring an A off of. It's not you, it's them. "These nitwits didn't even comment their code right; there I'm taking 5%". <-- Avoid. You generally look for someone who grade is skewing to the high percentage and is normally distributed[avoid bimodal distribution] . For your cores course you might not be able to avoid such lecturers, but kill your optional courses.
3. Go to every class.
4. Take notes at every class.
5. Clarify anything you don't know right there and then. Think to yourself that if you don't know the rest of the class don't know either, and they are probably too shame to admit it. Never let shame stand between you and an A.
I think the key to the guy technique is simply to learn once. Whether everyone can do this is a little suspect.
$100 is worth $121 after two 10% interest cycles. The PV formula asks the reverse: what is $121 two cycles out, worth today (what is its present value)? In reverse, we can calculate that by dividing $121 with 1.1 twice. That's pretty much what the formula is : FV/(1 + i)^N or $121/((1.1)^2) = $100.
Saying you Aced an exam with only 3.5 hours of studying is just retarded..
It's the same as working in a Mc Donalds for 4 months, then taking a test about the contents of the hamburgers. And being able to recall every onion piece that's on a hamburger -- without studying.
Of course you would succeed, you where making hamburgers for 4 months...
Yes the strategies he mentions are good, but he leaves out the most important aspect. The main focus of the article should be on hard (yet efficient) work during the school year.