When I find a study strategy that works, I often get caught up trying to figure out why that strategy works so well. It’s not an exact science but it’s a fun exercise. Once I come up with a theory why a certain study strategy is so effective, I can take that theory and create a (semi-)controlled experiment to test whether or not that theory is true.
That being said, every once in awhile, I’m able to find a common thread between multiple different study strategies unintentionally. I’m sure you’ve experienced this in some aspect of your life. Somehow I stumble on a common factor that appears to have, at the very least, a minor relationship with the effectiveness of a study strategy. While there is no guarantee that single connection between the two study strategies are important, it becomes a very interesting experiment to put to the test.
Eventually you can extrapolate this information into new and, hopefully, even more effective strategies that utilize these key links between effective strategies.
The idea I’m going to be going over in this article is one of those connections between multiple strategies.
Once I started to implement the strategies that turned my grades from average to unusually high, I realized another change that I didn’t expect.
In the past when I handed in schoolwork, I had very atypical expectations for my results. Sometimes I would hand in a paper and expect a A+. Other times I would hand in a paper expecting a B. Those expectations were not all that accurate though. Those A+ papers would sometimes end up as Bs. Those B’s would sometimes pull in an A+.
Once I started to implement these strategies I noticed that my ability to estimate my grades increased dramatically. I could almost always guess the letter grade of every paper that I handed in before it even got graded. Part of this came down to my increased awareness of some of the factors I go over in this blog. That being said, I didn’t even feel that change take place. It just kind of happened unintentionally.
I did tend to have a typical error in my grading judgement. I was more accurate but I wasn’t perfect. My increased accuracy almost always ended up with my estimate being slightly lower than my actual final grade. So… I’d expect an A- but I’d end up with an A. It was an error that led to a consistent flow of pleasant surprises.
With most school strategies I had used in the past, I rarely ended up pleasantly surprised. I would put hours into studying and perfecting my work. When I finally did get my grades there was virtually never a surprise in the positive direction. If I got an A then I’d instead be thinking about how much time I had to work for that A. If I got a lower than expected grade then, naturally, I’d just be terribly disappointed that all my hard work went to waste. It was a system that was pretty much designed to leave me mildly disappointed.
When I started working with more efficient methods and a memorization focus, the whole tide turned. I would work for a short period of time (all while the back of my brain was thinking, this is a bad idea,) while hardly feeling like I was working.
Logically, based on my own experiments and the ones I had studied, I knew I wasn’t going to do too bad but emotionally, I felt like I was the laziest guy in the world. Ultimately though, that laziest guy in the world consistently scored near the top of his class while spending very little effort in pursuit of it. These efficient strategies led to less hair pulling, less disappointment, and dramatically more enjoyment of the process.
Why Does This Matter?
How could being pleasantly surprised make any difference to your grades?
It may not. It may just show an interesting correlation in my personal experiences. There is still a case that could be made though.
When the average student gets their final score for something they worked hard on, they’re, more often than not, going to be disappointed.
As I described from my own life before, any positive grades they get are routine and to be expected. Any negative grades they get are a big deal emotionally.
This consistent flow of disappointment could easily be a serious motivation killer. When they work hard for their grades they suffer to work hard and sometimes still suffer from crappy grades. Emotionally, those successes somehow have to outweigh all of their failures.
When they don’t outweigh those failures, the student is dramatically less likely to even want to study in the first place. (What is the point of studying hard if it doesn’t help their grades?)
When a student feels like their slacking off a little and still get good grades, they end up reinforcing their desire to follow through with their efficiency based routine. While the disappointed student dreads their next study session, the student getting positive reinforcement end up going to their next session with even more enthusiasm than they went to the one before that.
It reminds me off a complaint I heard from a teacher that read my blog. He told me “you’re encouraging bad habits. Students should be studying at least (some length of time,) every night.” I couldn’t help but wonder if he was truly diluted enough to think even a small percentage of his students studied half that amount of time.
After asking him, he agreed that virtually none of his students would do it that much BUT it’s better to encourage longer. Then I showed him some of the information I learned about the 15 Minute Study Strategy I teach on this blog.
Students that virtually never studied before implementing the 15 Minute Study Strategy were now studying hours a week. Instead of throwing a falsely large number to “encourage longer sessions” I throw reasonable numbers to encourage someone to actually follow through with a study routine.
(Surprisingly, I actually seemed to convince this teacher that throwing such a large number at students just discourages them from even trying. He still didn’t like me but I’ll take my wins where I can get them.)
Developing a powerful study routine isn’t all about the obvious factors. A big portion of studying is developing a reasonable strategy that provides positive reinforcement instead of a constant stream of negative reinforcement. Something as simple as a consistent pleasant surprise can have a surprisingly positive impact on your ability to follow through. It’s setting yourself up to win by working on systems that rarely let you lose.
Does having a more relaxed strategy decrease your grades? In my experience with hundreds of students, I’ve come to believe the opposite.
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 for all the details. Also, if you’re looking for all the secrets in condensed form, check out the ebooks in the sidebar.
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