How to Study Smarter Not Harder

Study smart. Have you ever read a page in a book but then had to go back and read it again, because you realize you didn’t actually take any of it in, then this article is for you because I talked about study smarter, not harder quite often on this blog. And people ask me all the time, how do you study smart? Well, reading a page in a book or chapter in a book, and then not retaining any of the information is a waste of time.

That is a great example of not studying smarts. There are a lot of reading hacks or studying hacks online on how you can study smarter and remember everything you read, or remember everything you study, but at least in my experience, most of them are not that effective.

So in this article, I’m going to go through the most powerful, most effective study methods and techniques that I have used. And that helped me through university; that you can also implement yourself so that you can study more efficiently and achieve better grades without actually increasing your studying time.

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Methods of studying Smarter

Advanced information processing – Study smart

This is a memorization technique that I picked up from Jim Querk, who is a reading and memory improvement expert. And it’s such a simple idea, but it’s incredible how powerful it is, and how much time it saves. You can study for two hours and retain the same amount of information as someone else who studies for eight hours, it really is that powerful. So the key to memorizing what you read is asking more questions.

If you read a book and you get to the end, when you think back and realize that you don’t remember anything you read it because you’re not asking questions. And this is a huge problem when reading big, thick textbooks that let’s be honest, and not the most interesting and engaging books to read.

But by simply asking yourself questions when reading, it can exponentially increase the amount of information you retain from that book, I never just picked up a textbook and started reading it without regularly asking questions throughout. Because if you’re just passively reading, rather than actively reading, you’re wasting your time and you’re not studying smart, you need to engage your mindset where you’re more receptive to the information you’re reading.

When I was reading a thick, heavy textbook, I would make notes on a separate piece of paper, and I’d put a line down the middle of the page. And on the left side, I would make notes and these would just be the most important snippets of the text that I thought might be useful for the exam. On the right side, I’d have my own thoughts and questions on what I just read.

Jim Quick talks about this method of retaining information from books quite often he says that there are three main questions you should be writing down on the right side of the page.

The first question is, how can I use this? And so it forces you to link pieces of information from the book to the bigger picture? How does the information that you just read link in with the knowledge that you already know.

And what happens at this stage is that your brain is linking these new pieces of information to things that you already know and strengthening your neural network, therefore making it easier to remember in the future.

The second question is, when will I use this? What this question does is that it adds urgency, when is your exam coming? Is it in two weeks or three weeks or in two months, maybe often when you’re reading a textbook, you’re just skimming through it passively, because you’re not engaged in the reading.

There’s no urgency there. And the reason why so many students are cramming 24 hours before the exam is because there’s a sense of urgency, you know, you need to get that material memorized before the exam the next day.

So that’s why you’re far more engaged. And by asking the question, when will I use this, you’re adding artificial urgency to your studying because you do have a deadline, usually your exam day, but it’s all too easy to forget this when you have weeks or even months to study before the exam.

And the third question is, why must I use this? Because if it’s not a must, then there’s nothing compelling you to do it. So it could be because the knows that you just wrote down could be the answer to a certain question in the exam.

For example, if your lecturer has asked you to read a certain chapter in a textbook, there’s usually a good reason why the recommended and that reason could be because the content in that chapter is likely to come up in the exam.

Space Repetition – Study smart

The second study method you should be using to Study Smarter is spaced repetition. And Spaced Repetition is where you memorize some information. And then a period of time later, maybe a couple of days or one week later, you come back to it and you reread it to reinforce it in your memory.

Also this was the single most effective memorization technique I used at university. It saved me so much time because I didn’t have to spend hours trying to memorize each individual piece of information. Instead, I would just memorize it for a few minutes, until I just kind of remembered it.

Furthermore, a few days later, or sometimes just a few hours later, sometimes a few days later, I’d come back to it and reread it and a few days after that I do the same and it saves so much time. And honestly, it’s a really stress free way of memorizing information because you’re not spending hours getting stressed out over why you’re not able to memorize and retain your study material.

Spaced Repetition takes advantage of what is called the spacing effect, which was a phenomenon first identified by Hermann Ebbinghaus way back in 1885. In his book memory, “a contribution to experimental psychology”, which suggests that active recall with increasing time intervals helps the brain process and retain information.

So when trying to memorize some of your study material, you might read the material, then come back to it 6 hours later.

And then again 24 hours later, and then after that you might come back Do it in 3 days. And as soon as you start to solidify the information into your memory, the periods in between the time you read it will increase to seven days, even 14 days and upwards. And every time you come back to review the information, you’ll realize that you’ll start to remember the material better each time to the point where if you had a question in the exam, you’d be able to remember everything perfectly.

One caveat to using this memorization technique is that you need to be organized and start preparing for your exams well in advance. Obviously, if you’re cramming in your revision for your exam tomorrow, this isn’t going to work as well.

Parento Principle – Study smart

The Pareto technique is another study smart method, the next study method utilizing the Pareto principle just might help you the Pareto principle. The Pareto principle, also known as the 80-20 rule suggests that 80% of outcomes results in 20% of the causes.

So for example, it’s very likely that 80% of the grades that you achieve come from 20% of your study, so you need to prioritize this 20%. But what exactly does this mean, when you’re studying, there are some tests that you’ll be doing that are not that important, they won’t directly help you with your final exams.

And this is the 80% of your study. And these tasks might include background reading for your textbooks are completing homework assignments from the lecturer. Then there are tasks that do directly affect your grades and this is the 20% of your studying that you need to prioritize.

This involves answering past paper questions and consolidating and summarizing lecture notes in preparation for the exam, your brain can only retain a certain amount of information before over time it starts to forget. And late 19th century German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, dubbed this the forgetting curve.

So if you’re trying to make your studying as efficient as you can, and study as smart as possible, it’s important that you spend more time focusing on the study areas that will directly affect your exam paper. And this often means you don’t need to read whole textbooks, but rather just focus on areas that you think are that you know, will be in the exam.

The Fineman technique – Study smart

When you’re studying for an exam, it’s important that you put effort into truly understanding the information. It’s extremely difficult to memorize and recall something if you don’t understand what it is or what it means. And if you forget some part of it, you’ll not be able to continue because you’ve only memorized the order of the words, not the actual meaning. So what you should do is read the entire piece of information and rewrite it or reword it in your own words.

The Fineman technique to study smart is a good way of testing yourself to see whether you truly do understand something. The Fineman technique involves teaching the content that you have just learned to others, and it involves 4 basic steps.

  • Study: This is as simple as it gets, just sit down and study a topic. And here’s the interesting part.
  • Teach what you just learned when you were studying to someone with zero knowledge of the subjects, but make sure that your books and notebooks are close, you should teach someone who hasn’t even read the basics of the field you’re studying. Simplify the concepts to the greatest extent possible. Use pen and paper or whiteboard to draw diagrams if necessary, just like a teacher would. So for a high school student, imagine explaining it to a sixth school or for a university student, you just have to assume that the person has no knowledge of the topic.
  • Observe which parts of the topic you were able to explain well, and which parts you couldn’t explain well, and now go back to the book and try to understand the topics once again. If while you’re explaining the topic, you notice that you used a lot of academic jargon. Bear in mind that it may be because you didn’t understand the topic well enough; you should be able to explain complex topics in very basic terminology.
  • Repeat the above mentioned steps until you can explain the topic without any gaps or use of jargon in your explanation, without opening your book. Several studies have shown that students have better memory and recall abilities when they have the expectation that they will have to teach it to someone else. And it makes sense because a teacher not only has to learn the information for themselves, but they also have to know the material well enough that they can explain it in a very simple terms. They also have to be ready for any question that might be thrown at them. As Richard Fineman once said, the first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

So now you know how to study smart, you can process and retain as much information in 2 hours the many other students will take eight hours to learn. And now imagine if you can study smart and study hard.

Imagine if you can study so incredibly efficiently, we’ll still be able to study for 14 hours a day, if you can combine those two things to be able to study smart and study hard at the same time, your grades are almost guaranteed to increase significantly. It’s almost impossible for them not to, so I’ll see you over there.

So that’s all I got. Thank you guys so much for reading. If you liked this article, be sure to like and share.