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How to "hack" studying

Absurdity

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Procrastination and disinterest in studying are recurring themes on this forum. As a 4th year undergraduate at an American university, I know that it is still something I struggle with (like right now, considering I have an exam in 5.5 hours...).

However, I was tremendously fortunate to stumble upon this article early on in my college career, and have linked to it elsewhere but felt that it deserved its own thread.

The biggest difference I noticed between people who learned easily and those who struggled wasn’t being organized, study location or any of the common advice given to struggling students. It was how they learned the material.

Slow learners memorized, while rapid learners made connections between ideas.

When I first wrote about this idea four years ago, it generated a huge discussion. Many people came out that fit the generalization, heavy studiers tended to memorize, while effortless students made connections between ideas.
The guest author of that post, Scott Young, is a pretty remarkable guy and really stands by his method, which seems to me to be geared toward "intuitives." He recently completed MIT's 4 year computer science course in less than 12 months by utilizing open courseware and the studying technique explained above.

The website that features the first article is run by a Comp Sci professor at Georgetown, Cal Newport, and has a ton of other great advice, including this post on the Study Time Paradox and how to optimize (or minimize?) the amount of time you spend studying.

Lurking behind the Study Time Paradox is the following truth: there’s a difference between knowing information and understanding concepts. This should sound familiar. This is the same observation that motivates the use of question/evidence/conclusion note-taking and quiz-and-recall test review instead of transcription and rote memorization. (See here and here for more on the Study Hacks approach to note-taking and exam prep, respectively.)
The piece of advice presented here, which I call the Story Telling Method, is a complement to these strategies. It can be described as follows:

  • After each class, tell a “story” about the material covered—a five minute summary of the concepts that drove the lecture.
  • Don’t bother writing it down. Instead, just say it to yourself while walking to your next class. Treat it like you’re a literary agent or movie producer pitching the lecture at an important meeting.
  • Cover the big picture flow of ideas, not the small details. Answer the question “why was this lecture important?”, not all the information it contained. Play up the flashy or unexpected.
I'll add more to this thread as I come across other useful tidbits.

Good luck.
 

jpc

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Thanks. Have to try it, since I desperately need to rethink my studying strategies.
 
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This has always worked for me -- focusing on concepts. My issues with studying tend to be in the memorization parts where memorization is required, like remembering the names and dates of things.
 

thelithiumcat

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This is an excellent tip. I often find I remember things much better when I explain them to someone as though I'm telling a story. However, details are often expected. Should one, as I expect, remember them by association and perhaps later revision?
 

Chad

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This has always worked for me -- focusing on concepts. My issues with studying tend to be in the memorization parts where memorization is required, like remembering the names and dates of things.

In history class I found I always did well when I grouped similar ideas together. If I need to remember a name I place that name into a category that I can remember easlythen draw on my memory of the name. Date or another issue all together. I try to relate events with other events around the same time period as well as placing events in chronological order. I might not know the exact date but normally I am close enough to guess on a multiple choose test.

I took and advanced U.S. history course my first semester of college and never opened the book or studied. I ended up with a 100% in the class using nothing more then my connections I drew while in the class. The Multi-Choose test did play a factor in this though. I am sure I wouldn't have done as well if the test were open ended. I would still have passed I believe but not with %100 in the class.
 

Harmony

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For most classes and teachers, I think it has worked for me and I also think my process is quite similar to the one described in the article, maybe a little bit less controlled and without the redoing on a sheet and stuff, though I think that might be acceptible even for Ti.

Unfortunately quite a lot of teachers I have now tend to care only about memorization, if you mentioned a certain point etc. My Politics teacher even said, that in a certain exercise you just had to write down some list in text form. (In Germany almost every exam of the written-focused classes includes 3 exercises of reproducing, bringing the text/source in context with something else and a more open one often including opinion. All of these are text-writing.) The problem is, that it apparently doesn't even matter, if you can build a structure in your text or show you understood the concept.

Also the shortness in text, that I'm sure is at least shared by a broad range of INTP's is often missunderstood as lacking content. I could dive in a big discussion now about how this is somehow true and somehow ignorant, but let's just say I also see a lot of problems with concept-learning if you can't manage to balance it somehow like the guy in the article. I'm not sure how exactly to deal with these problems, cause I do believe in learning with concepts and think that some teachers are simply wrong in their methods.

Does any of you have experienced that or found some solution/approach instead of just trying to write longer less structered texts with more information? (which isn't really working)
 

WALKYRIA

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I'm a med student and our studies require a lot of memorization.
Some people are extremely good with memorization, linear, crude mémorization.
I just can't and it takes me a lot of energy to memorize things that are unrelatade to each others. I struggle.
I use a lot of visualisation, I take the information and generally put it in a certain order with certain logical links.
But before that, learn to have a global view of the lesson. Than, make a list with all the details. And memorize the details afterwards.
 

HDINTP

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I'm a med student and our studies require a lot of memorization.
Some people are extremely good with memorization, linear, crude mémorization.
I just can't and it takes me a lot of energy to memorize things that are unrelatade to each others. I struggle.
I use a lot of visualisation, I take the information and generally put it in a certain order with certain logical links.
But before that, learn to have a global view of the lesson. Than, make a list with all the details. And memorize the details afterwards.
I also use lot of visualisation when I have to memorize something and it works well. However time is running away for me and when I attend university I would better know myself better so I can study effectively. Until now it was mostly connecting ideas together even making "weird constructions" when I had to remember all the details. Those history or Literature classes were killing me. But that is great motivation to get out ASAP. Then again my main problem is that we go too slowly in my opinion and I am starting to lose patience. Which grade are you in now?
 

Cognisant

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What's to stop someone hacking themself a degree?

I mean actually hacking into the university's admin network and adding yourself to the list of people who have completed said qualification, I mean I don't imagine there would be many data integrity procedures in place, at least nothing a determined hacker couldn't get around in a year or two.

If it's a network security or computer science degree I reckon that's fair game :D
 

C.Hecker88

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Thank you for this, Absurdity.
 

WALKYRIA

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Then again my main problem is that we go too slowly in my opinion and I am starting to lose patience. Which grade are you in now?
I'm a second year med student in France(and the selection of med students is more NP* friendly in here !).. I don't have the same problem, since the material is huge. But corollary of that , I suffered from lack of organisational skills /study skills and too high standards(or fear of failure !). Now with MBTI cure, I know that it's ok for INTPs too have sometimes low marks lol.
If you think your waisting your time, maybe you should pick up a more difficult and challenging subject since we INTP like challenges.
 

John_Mann

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Academic study it's quite a matter of memorization (Si). I make cards with my own handwriting and I visualize it a lot of times. I do not "read" the cards but I see them like a photo. It's very helpful, but you have to look at them a lot of times (in different places), so in a while you'll just close your eyes and will remember about everything in those cards, even the stains and handle marks in it. Drip some coffee in them and you'll remember the blurs and even when and where you did it. That's my "hack", and I "learn" everything through this method (english included! LOL).
 

scorpiomover

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This reads like it was written by an INTJ.

Which is great, except that what INTJs tend to do, is to tell others how to do things the way that the INTJ finds efficient, but usually does not even consider if it will work for all other people.

I'm wondering how much of this would work for Sensors, or Extroverts, or Feelers, or Perceivers.

I'll have to consider how much of this is worth using, and how is INTJ-specific, and has no use to 99% of the world.
 

Absurdity

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This reads like it was written by an INTJ.

Which is great, except that what INTJs tend to do, is to tell others how to do things the way that the INTJ finds efficient, but usually does not even consider if it will work for all other people.

I'm wondering how much of this would work for Sensors, or Extroverts, or Feelers, or Perceivers.

I'll have to consider how much of this is worth using, and how is INTJ-specific, and has no use to 99% of the world.
I'm curious what it is about it that strikes you as INTJ-esque.

By and large it's worked for me, and I'm no INTJ. I do think you're right as far as it not being as effective for sensors, as my sensor friends haven't found it very helpful.
 

Valentas

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Dude, Absurdity offers you new ideas. INTP would be eager to try them out. I bought Scott's program through Cal's website and it is amazing investment. The dude knows his stuff. One thing that is the most helpful is Feynmann technique. That is the best way to learn anything. Explain it in such a manner that not only you understand that stuff but others reading your scribblings. That will result in conclusion that you grasped stuff very well.
 

TimeAsylums

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Meh. Definitely an avid nonstudier. I'm nowhere near having eidetic memory or near perfect recall, but the true method to learning is understanding, not knowing. When I learn something, I try as hard as I can to understand it, and once I do, almost never have to study again :D don't like taking notes at all, hate review. I will either: 1) Read the book; or 2) Listen to the professor lecture, because they're often the exact same information, until you get into higher levels of course, in which case #1 and #2 are necessary, otherwise Straight A's :phear: do whatever the hell works best for you

Edit: Also, procrastinate like a mofo. Very bad habit, I put that on our (NT's, meh probably just NTP's perception of time...and other things.)
 

scorpiomover

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I'm curious what it is about it that strikes you as INTJ-esque.
The objective is to ace tests, without studying. It's very short-term goal oriented. That's Te or Fe. There is a lot of stress on learning by analogy and by concepts, so it's very N-based. There is a statement of memorisation as a last resort, ignoring the value of memorising key rules, and so a discouragement from Si. There is a stress on timing. There is a stress on breaking the concept down into smaller components, which is how T works. There is a stress on imagining metaphors to explain the intricate details intuitively, rather than trying to reason them out the intricate details, which speaks to Ni, and against Ti. Facts are learned by imagining an association, rather than by reason, or any other method.

By and large it's worked for me, and I'm no INTJ. I do think you're right as far as it not being as effective for sensors, as my sensor friends haven't found it very helpful.
You have an advantage over Sensors. You think intuitively, in terms of concepts and analogies, anyway. You also use reductionist reasoning, being a T. You're also a very deep reasoner, being an introvert.

Js prefer any answer, to no answer. Their critieria are speed of decision over accuracy. They work on the principle that if they keep making solutions, then if their current solutions cause a problem, they'll fix them later, with yet more solutions.

Ps prefer to defer an answer, to get the best answer possible. Their criteria are accuracy of decision over speed of decision. They work on the principle that if they can make a decision as problem-free as possible, the future problems that sometimes occur from current solutions won't need any effort to fix at all, because they won't exist.

In terms of exams, you can try to ace an exam. But so what? That will get your foot in the door. You'll still have to do the job. So you'll still have to learn what to do. You'll still have to learn if you can do it, and if you can, if you really want to make all that effort in that area. As a result, a lot of people who take this approach to both exams and interviews, often get the job, but then find they can't do it, and have to fake it until they get another job, or they can, but would rather not do it, and then have to stick it out until they can get another job, and also try to explain to well-meaning friends and family, why they took a job they can't do and/or don't want.

If you try to learn the material and pass on that basis, then the exam shows you if you have the ability and the motivation to use the material competently in work. If you fail, then you re-study until you are very sure, and then re-take the exam again. When you pass, you know that you know what you're doing. Then when you apply for a job in that field, you get it, not because of your qualifications, but because everything in you screams that you're perfect for the job. Then when you get a job, it's a job you are eminently suited for, and you enjoy doing. You don't need to justify anything to your family and friends, because you're going for things that you enjoy and are good at. You solve all those problems before they ever happen.
 

TimeAsylums

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The objective is to ace tests, without studying. It's very short-term goal oriented. That's Te or Fe. There is a lot of stress on learning by analogy and by concepts, so it's very N-based.
I agree Absurdity's post has an 'INTJ' feel to it, but not for the reasons you are saying. The objective is to ace tests without studying, certainly that can be attributed to any personality. I'm INTP and I go for that, but not for any direct reason that "I don't want to study." It's not that simple
Anyway, Ps can definitely turn out to be like Js, INTP may look like an INTJ simply perhaps they are more matured in that aspect.
 

TimeAsylums

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Procrastination and disinterest in studying are recurring themes on this forum. As a 4th year undergraduate at an American university, I know that it is still something I struggle with (like right now, considering I have an exam in 5.5 hours...).

However, I was tremendously fortunate to stumble upon this article early on in my college career, and have linked to it elsewhere but felt that it deserved its own thread.

The guest author of that post, Scott Young, is a pretty remarkable guy and really stands by his method, which seems to me to be geared toward "intuitives." He recently completed MIT's 4 year computer science course in less than 12 months by utilizing open courseware and the studying technique explained above.

The website that features the first article is run by a Comp Sci professor at Georgetown, Cal Newport, and has a ton of other great advice, including this post on the Study Time Paradox and how to optimize (or minimize?) the amount of time you spend studying.

I'll add more to this thread as I come across other useful tidbits.

Good luck.

ahahah, that bolded statement. If you recall from my Si breakdown post, is what I said. Difference between knowing and understanding. Honestly what really matters is indeed knowing vs understanding.
 

mu is mu

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An interesting thread. In my experience one of the keys to studying simply involves reviewing your notes as closely as possible to the time in which you finished taking them, and reviewing them on a steady, regular basis all the way until the exam. This simple technique has consistently netted huge payoffs for me.

Additionally there are all sorts of tried-and-true memory systems which can be used to aid understanding and memorization--I use many and they work surprisingly effectively for me, though other people may find other techniques useful. I have no doubt that Young's techniques will be of benefit to many.

Ultimately, though, I believe that one of the most important aspects required for succeeding in school is self-discipline/willpower, which is not something that someone seeking a "quick-fix" to studying is likely to develop. Students in other countries (besides the US) earn higher grades than most of the students here because they establish higher standards for themselves and are willing to devote more time and energy towards school than Americans (in general) are. So if you ("you" in general, not any individual specifically) aren't content with your performance in school, the core issue may regard values and goals, not magic bullets.
 

Duxwing

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An interesting thread. In my experience one of the keys to studying simply involves reviewing your notes as closely as possible to the time in which you finished taking them, and reviewing them on a steady, regular basis all the way until the exam. This simple technique has consistently netted huge payoffs for me.

Additionally there are all sorts of tried-and-true memory systems which can be used to aid understanding and memorization--I use many and they work surprisingly effectively for me, though other people may find other techniques useful. I have no doubt that Young's techniques will be of benefit to many.

Ultimately, though, I believe that one of the most important aspects required for succeeding in school is self-discipline/willpower, which is not something that someone seeking a "quick-fix" to studying is likely to develop. Students in other countries (besides the US) earn higher grades than most of the students here because they establish higher standards for themselves and are willing to devote more time and energy towards school than Americans (in general) are. So if you ("you" in general, not any individual specifically) aren't content with your performance in school, the core issue may regard values and goals, not magic bullets.
Sure, willpower is important, but there's no sense in wasting it on something that could be done more easily. If you want to use more willpower, then just do more things--but always as efficiently as possible.

-Duxwing
 

WALKYRIA

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a work mate.



SOme technique I used recently and that worked suprizingly well and fast Is finding a GOOD workmate.... ONE introvert( I used an INFP today) if possible. ANd not simply memorize the material but learn by retrieval of the information. You try to make sense of the information by logically thinking out loud about the material(I somehow think we can be good at drawing solid inferences and connections between the material) . Asking questions one and other. Interactive learning(remember, INTP learn best by discussion). We did that today and It worked greatly, the more we understood, the more we were motivated...we worked 13 hours long almost non stop(and if he had been an INTP, we would have been gone till more certainly). and It went perfectly well for the memorization part AND for the understanding part.
I did it today and it was much more effective than working alone... boring, sleepy and lost of motivation.:ahh:
 

Absurdity

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Ultimately, though, I believe that one of the most important aspects required for succeeding in school is self-discipline/willpower, which is not something that someone seeking a "quick-fix" to studying is likely to develop. Students in other countries (besides the US) earn higher grades than most of the students here because they establish higher standards for themselves and are willing to devote more time and energy towards school than Americans (in general) are. So if you ("you" in general, not any individual specifically) aren't content with your performance in school, the core issue may regard values and goals, not magic bullets.
This is certainly true generally speaking. But all too often I see brute effort misapplied. Kids at my school spend all day in the library only to get lower grades then me on the test (and by my school's standards I'm nothing special).

You'd think that during all these years of school at least one teacher or professor would go meta for a bit and discuss study strategies. Although on the other hand I'm sort of glad they don't, though, because then people like me (motivated enough to find a low-effort, high-result method) are rewarded with lots of free time and a nice spot on the grading curve. :D

The objective is to ace tests, without studying. It's very short-term goal oriented. That's Te or Fe. There is a lot of stress on learning by analogy and by concepts, so it's very N-based. There is a statement of memorisation as a last resort, ignoring the value of memorising key rules, and so a discouragement from Si. There is a stress on timing. There is a stress on breaking the concept down into smaller components, which is how T works. There is a stress on imagining metaphors to explain the intricate details intuitively, rather than trying to reason them out the intricate details, which speaks to Ni, and against Ti. Facts are learned by imagining an association, rather than by reason, or any other method.
You've got a point there.

In terms of exams, you can try to ace an exam. But so what? That will get your foot in the door. You'll still have to do the job. So you'll still have to learn what to do. You'll still have to learn if you can do it, and if you can, if you really want to make all that effort in that area. As a result, a lot of people who take this approach to both exams and interviews, often get the job, but then find they can't do it, and have to fake it until they get another job, or they can, but would rather not do it, and then have to stick it out until they can get another job, and also try to explain to well-meaning friends and family, why they took a job they can't do and/or don't want.
Honestly, I find the people who can't do their job well despite doing well in school are often the brute-force studiers.

Think about it: if you're running a project billed by the hour, would you rather have the guy that grinds at the task all day and burns out, or the guy that goes meta, finds a better way of doing the work, and gets it done quickly (and correctly).
 

Adrift

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I really agree with the first quote in the OP.

I've never been good at memorizing dates, facts, or other important data. I've always been a quick learner and it has been because I link the concept or topic that I am learning to past events or data. This is the reason I am able to learn new math concepts quickly. Math to me is just another language and apparently I'm not as bad as I thought at language (I dreaded English class in highschool).

Oh, I'm also in my first year of college. The only reason I didn't get A's in all of my classes is because I was lazy. I knew the topics but failed to do some work that was required. Studying was never in my routine.
 
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