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It seems strange how comfortable people are in discussing studying advice when so few people actually have anything to brag about when it comes to study. People assume that happening to pass their classes is an adequate qualification for giving others advice when studying. People rarely consider a much more interesting characteristic of someone who’s studying successfully.

In high school, I once asked study advice from a student that got worse grades than me. Yes. To most people that makes absolutely no sense but consider it this way. This student I asked for study advice had a reputation for being one of the biggest slackers around. Despite that, he got grades that were higher than a huge percentage of the class. He studied less than virtually every student but still was able to maintain grades competing with students that studied for hours regularly. I’m just introducing you to this character to introduce you to one important factor in deciphering good study advice from bad study advice.

When you think about study advice you need to think about the results they’ll give you (good grades) and the time you have to invest in the study strategy to get those results. Both factors are absolutely essential. Nobody cares if you come up with some awesome study strategy that gives you perfect grades if it takes studying for hours a night. No one cares because no one would actually follow through with the strategy. That introduces the first worst study strategy.

1. Study More

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This is the study advice spouted by virtually every teacher when a student is in need of help. It’s one of the silliest pieces of advice around. It’s some of the worst advice they could give you without knowing some major information about a student’s current study routine.

It’s like they’re recommending fill your bucket up more when your bucket has a hole in the bottom of it. Sure, it might work if you work hard enough but there is a much more efficient solution.

Studying should first depend on filling the study holes. A student shouldn’t try to study when their studying is completely unproductive anyway. When a person is focused and in the right state for studying, they can study in minutes what would have taken them hours in a less prepared state. The difference is that dramatic. Recommending someone study more is worse than that though…

What happens when a person starts studying longer to try and get better grades? They stress out more about their grades. That makes all their study time less effective. Studying more can easily turn into drilling a bigger hole in your intellectual bucket. Often it’s much more effective just to lay off the stress a little and learn to increase your focus.

By using smart study strategies and maybe even a few memory tricks (like the ones taught here), virtually any study can improve their grades without “studying more.”

2. Use Your Textbook

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A textbook is one of the least efficient ways to learn new information.
Textbooks are designed to be accurate. They are not designed to be memorable or interesting. When the average student reads a textbook they get so bored that hardly any of the words go anywhere farther than their eyes. Sure, they “read” it but they don’t actually process the information because the information is just about as interesting as a blade of grass growing.

A textbook can be used to gain specific information but they should not be the go to source for studying. Heck, most teachers don’t even teach strictly to the textbook information. That means they hold even less value than other material for your class. If you have any alternatives to your textbook then use those alternatives.

There are the occasional interesting textbooks but expect the majority of your textbooks to be worth avoiding.

3. Study Later

Uh oh… It’s the night before the test and you’ve only studied a couple minutes (if you count the couple minutes you sat in the library pretending to study while hitting on your crush.) At this point one particular thought is likely running through your head, “why didn’t I study before now?”

That is a very important question to answer. Most of the time it is because you decided studying later was a smart approach to studying. I remember having friends tell me, “Oh… Come on… you can study tomorrow night.” I would put off studying until a night later but that night later I would put it off again. Before I knew it I was sitting there the night before the test feeling desperate and hoping for some miracle to save my test score.

Well… Miracles don’t come quite as often as students wish they would. In fact, those miracles usually come at the cost of a good night sleep and a ton of worrying after the test.

4. Focus!

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This is one that I can get in trouble for at times. Focusing is absolutely essential to studying but it’s also one of the most elusive things to actually seek out in a study routine.

The more you try to focus, the more you’re going to find yourself getting distracted. When a person tells you to get focused, nine times out of ten it’s just them making excuses for their own problems.

Sure, focus is necessary for studying but it’s not something that can be forced well. It’s something that can only be encouraged through other strategies. Sitting and thinking, focus focus focus won’t get you to focus. Instead you might have to get curious about the study material. Then focus would show up despite no explicit focus on it.

Most of the time when people are telling you that you need to focus more, they’re really saying that they don’t know how to get you to focus. They’re admitting that they can’t make this information interesting, they can’t make it valuable, and more often than not, they find it miserably boring themselves.

Instead of focusing on focus you should be focusing on the things that increase your ability to focus naturally. (You can find out how here) There are tons of different methods. None of them are just “focus.”

5. There’s a Test! Study Extra!

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If you tell someone that you have a test tomorrow, odds are, they’re going to recommend you study more for it tonight. This is a common strategy for people to use but it’s generally a pretty big mistake. You should not put more study time into a test the night before a test. In fact, I’d often recommend laying off the subject the night before the test.

Most study strategies assume, the night before the test, you’re not going to know enough to get a good grade on the test. Sure, if you failed to study until that night, you’re probably unprepared for the test. If you had a semi-responsible study routine, even if it’s not a highly efficient one, studying the night before the test is only going to have a small impact on your grade. That small impact comes with some risks though.

When you study the night before a test you risk putting your whole test score on the line. A huge percentage of test taking is stress. When you’re stressed out taking a test, you’re not going to be able to access all the information that you worked hard to learn. When you study more than usual the night before the test, you make that test a much more important part of your schedule. (If you cram the night before the test then this problem will become even more pronounced.) The odds that you will get stressed more during the test increase when you let it change your routine.

It’s often better to just keep your study routine straight through the test. Instead of test prep being a game of putting out little fires as they come out, it’s more like a habit you do daily. Instead of your last study session feeling like a dangerous situation, it just feels like another day. Your test scores will benefit from it.

Do you want to know how to study in less than 15 minutes a night? That’s what this blog is all about. Be sure to follow and check out the archives. Also, if ebooks happen to be your thing, you might want to learn the memory and studying secrets from the books in the sidebar.

5 Worst Study Strategies

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4 thoughts on “5 Worst Study Strategies

  • February 2, 2016 at 3:03 pm
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    Pretty good article. I think studying is a very individualized but there are common ways that people try to study that just does not work. But I think there was some good information in here. Thanks for posting!

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  • December 7, 2015 at 10:28 am
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    I strongly concur! Studying and focusing more led me to an unforgettable experience… We were given a week to study several programming concepts and networking principles, because we’ll be having our last important quiz. I spent a lot of time trying to memorize the crucial things, until I felt that I am confident enough for the quiz… The day of the quiz came and I was… CONFUSED! All the information I had spent time memorizing are gone in an instant. I’m not entirely sure what had happened, but one thing’s for certain. My brain’s got stressed out even before the quiz, due to excessive studying and focus. I should have enjoyed my study time that time. Lesson learned.

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  • December 6, 2015 at 6:58 am
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    I love what you said about textbooks. It has explained to me why trying to study history has been such an nightmare – for each test, we had to memorize about 4-5 chapters, and each had about 10 pages full of padding. After few such tests, like most of my classmates, I’ve stopped trying and relied on cheating (which is not seen as a huge crime here – if a teacher catches you, they might give you up to 3 warnings, fail you on the single test or completely ignore it, depending on the subject’s importance and the teacher’s character). The tests were a complete joke, though, with questions that had nothing to do with what was in the textbook. I’m really glad to never have to study history again.

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