You don’t need to study to ace a test.
That probably sounds a little crazy but once you learn a few things, it’s going to make sense. You might still think it’s a little over the top but I promise you’re going to see how it’s possible.
By the end of this article, you’re going to know exactly how to make it happen.
The Good News
Some major study bloggers claim to have a similar strategy for taking tests without studying.
When you dig into the details, you learn that they just choose to define studying in a silly way.
“No… I don’t study… I just make mind maps for two hours a night!”
Wow… You don’t study by redefining what you do as not studying! Congrats silly study blogger!
That just doesn’t cut it for me…
I’ve run this routine through my own college career. I’ve lived it. This is what I’ve figured out:
- You don’t need to spend any time outside of class on studying (only on assignments & projects.)
- Your grades can stay near the top of your class (typically A’s)
- Your daily grades will be volatile (A+ one day, C the next)
- You need to pay attention in class
- You need to make decisions consciously.
Eventually, I decided a short study routine was more pleasant than a no-study routine but studying certainly wasn’t essential.
How To Never Study Again
This article will go in a different direction than the book.
The book offers tons of strategies to do well in school without spending more time studying. Here is the important part to remember about all of this:
It’s possible to never study again and score high. It’s all about looking at your classes strategically. You can completely avoid studying but it’s a system and it’s not for everyone.
(We even have a book called 101 Study Strategies To Improve Your Grades Without Studying – How To Never Study Again. You’ll get exclusive offers for that as a subscriber. We’ll give you everything you need here. The book can help you dig into the details and have some confidence in the system.)
Here is the important thing to remember:
Don’t try to avoid studying because it requires less thinking.
It can save you a ton of time but it also introduces new challenges. You need to be prepared to watch your results and adjust your behavior. These require thinking.
If you want to pass a test without studying then you need to completely change your approach to the class. You need to look at everything differently:
Skip Stuff Occasionally
Assignments are a better form of test prep than studying. Teachers usually focus their assignments on preparing you for the test. If you can do all the assignments then you’re almost always going to be able to score okay on the test.
Compare that to studying…
Most students study using a textbook. That textbook was probably written by a teacher that has no idea what your teacher is going to put on the test. Since they don’t know what’s on the test, they can’t prepare you for it.
Your teacher wants everyone to get a good grade (usually.) They look good for it. They also don’t have to worry about any students coming up to whine about their grade.
Assignments are an easy way your teacher can prepare you for the test. Duh! Right. But pay attention to that statement for once in your life. Have you ever actually changed your own behavior based on it? No… Probably not (unless you’re a regular reader here.)
Try this: You should treat your assignments like tests. Try not to look up any answers that you don’t have to. Grind your brain over them. Try to figure everything out without looking it up or asking for help. It sucks short term but it’s better to do it now than when you get the test.
If you’re succeeding at the assignments without looking stuff up, you can be confident you’re about as prepared for the test as you could be.
If you want to skip something, you’ll usually have the freedom to do that. The key is not making a habit of it.
Unshakable Class Focus
You are required to spend time in class (or strongly encouraged.)
Studying is optional.
Treat class time like study time. It’s a time to learn.
You shouldn’t be playing on your phone during class. Don’t be writing excessive notes for you to study later. You shouldn’t have your computer open (unless it’s a computer lab course.)
Keep your eyes on the teacher. Listen. I don’t care if it’s boring. Listen.
Listening to your teacher for class can save you massive amounts of time studying. Time learning in class is time you don’t need to be learning outside of it. If you’re really struggling then we’ve got an article to help with that.
Remember: Your teacher is trying to give you every resource you need to kick-ass.
Textbooks can’t teach to the test.
Your teacher’s lecture is almost guaranteed to teach to the test.
If the teacher emphasizes something, you need to notice. You can’t get caught up writing every detail down because you’re going to be too busy paying attention to your teacher’s demeanor.
Is your teacher telling you something important? By watching and listening closely, you can take a good guess.
While studying you can get caught up making the same mistake and misunderstanding repeatedly. You can go over a sentence 10 times and miss something important while studying.
If you find yourself caught up in anything the teacher says, you can always ask. That’s a serious time saver.
Grow From Every Mistake
I remember when I used to get red marks on my papers. I’d ignore them (or get mad and then ignore them.) That strategy held me back for years.
I know it sucks to look at your old papers but it’s important.
Every time you have a mistake on an old assignment, you need to learn from it.
Look at your old work with the intent to never make the same mistake twice. Find where you screwed up and learn how to prevent it. If you still don’t think you screwed up then figure out why the teacher screwed you over and figure out how to prevent it in the future. (Did you offend the teacher? Do you need to look like you’re trying harder?)
Learn from your mistakes and correct them.
You don’t need to spend long on this. I saw an improvement in my grades by looking at my assignments while in class waiting around.
I’d usually do this during the slow times in class. If I know the teacher is occupied for two minutes then I might start digging in.
If you don’t already learn from these mistakes then this is the fastest way you can improve your grades.
Every mistake you fail to learn from will leave a hole in your knowledge. It will hold you back. It may even prevent you from understanding the basics.
If you can’t get the basics right then you’ll always struggle with the tough stuff.
Understand The Perfect Test Score Problem And Let School Be Fun
If you want to read a more in-depth explanation of this then check out our article on it.
Moving your grade from a B to a B+ is dramatically easier than moving your A to an A+.
This can be a bit complicated to understand but I’ll try to keep it simple:
Assume you’re taking a test with 100 questions each worth 1 point.
To bring your grade from an 85 to an 89 you’d need to answer 4 more questions right out of the remaining 15 questions. 4/15 = ~26% of the remaining questions
To bring your grade from a 95 to a 99 you’d need to answer 4 more questions right out of the remaining 5 questions. ⅘ =80% of the remaining questions
The only way to guarantee a 100 on a test is to learn 100% of the information possible. (Since there is no definitive pool of information you need to learn, this is virtually impossible.)
Imagine you had 1000 things you needed to learn for the test.
For a perfect 100, you need to learn all 1000 things. That means you learned 900 things that weren’t tested. (90% of your studying didn’t help your grade.)
For a (good chance at) 90 you need to learn 900 of them. That means you learned 810 things that weren’t tested. (~89% of your studying didn’t help your grade. That’s less.)
Take note that it’s never as simple as 1000 randomly selected facts. There are facts you can be sure are on the test. Then there is almost unlimited information that could end up tested. That skews this difference into a huge difference.
The structure of the test changes the closer you get to perfect.
Getting a perfect score is dramatically less likely than getting a near perfect score.
You can’t guarantee a perfect score. All you can do is get reasonably close based on the time you’re willing to invest and sometimes you’ll accidentally hit perfect.
School is way more fun when you have reasonable standards.
Start Lightning Fast. End Sloth-like Slow
When you get the test in your hand, work fast.
Answer everything you can answer as fast as possible.
The number one reason students struggle with tests is stress. Students go into the test expecting the worst. They give up before they even start the test. They dread every second of it. Stress kills your memory. Staying relaxed needs to be your top priority.
(Using the 15MSS we say that tests become the easy day because we’re so prepared for it. Listening in class is tough but just filling out a form we know how to answer it is easy.)
Go fast enough that you don’t have time to worry.
If you’re about to go skydiving, you can’t worry about whether or not you left the toilet seat up back at home. Your brain gets completely caught up in the moment. You’re intensely focused on, you know, not dying!
Try to get your brain in that state. Do your test like a race but keep a few things in mind:
- Skip anything that isn’t easy.
- Don’t think about the questions that are difficult.
- If you have absolutely no idea what a question means, take a guess immediately and mark the question. (Go back later if you must.)
After you go through the test once quickly you can slow down.
Answer all the questions you skipped over. You should have plenty of time. If you don’t have plenty of time then you probably weren’t prepared but as a short term fix, focus on the super important questions.
After you finish all the questions, check all of your work. This is particularly important in math classes. Stupid mistakes cost points. If you have time then do everything in your power to catch them.
The Duh Factor – Get Sleep (& The Other Essentials)
I’ve said it too many times on this blog but it’s important: you don’t need to study. You NEED to sleep.
Sleep is an essential bodily function. Skipping it creates an unpredictability with everything you do. You can’t expect good results if you’re not sleeping a full night.
Eating is another bodily function. Do it!
These seem unimportant but they’re huge. They are your routine.
When you break your routine, it creates stress.
If your body knows when it’s supposed to sleep and then doesn’t do it, it’s going to notice and create stress. The same goes with food. It also goes with a workout. The same goes with just about anything you have a physical urge to do.
This applies for drugs, caffeine, and lots of stuff that might be considered a vice. Naturally, I believe your health comes first but if you have a test then breaking your routine isn’t going to help.
Will You Ace It?
If you’re properly prepared then you’ll sometimes get a perfect score. See the section on the perfect test score problem for a full explanation.
You can’t predict the future. You can’t predict what’s going to be on the test. It’s impossible to know for sure whether or not you’re prepared to ace a test.
You can put yourself in a good position to score near perfect on the test. There are ways to do that without studying. The number one challenge will come from volatility. You’ll get those perfect scores but you’ll also disappoint yourself occasionally.
Here at Smart Student Secrets we recommend the 15 Minute Study Strategy. The 15MSS is the compromise between a no-study routine and a traditional study routine. It gives you top notch grades consistently without the risk of the occasional bummer. It also helps you handle a wider variety of courses.
You can’t expect to skip studying for an anatomy exam and still score perfect. There are just too many things you need to memorize. The only people that could pull that off probably won’t need my advice because they’re just plain gifted. Using the 15MSS you can handle memorization heavy courses without studying for hours a night.
You don’t need to study to ace a test but having a solid routine can give you a major head up.
Aaron Richardson took his grades from fighting F’s to Easy A’s. In the process, he read over 300 books on personal development. Today he’s founded 2 blogs on studying including Smart Student Secrets. He’s written 3 books on the subject. His work has been featured on some of the biggest news, psychology, and student sites on the internet.
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