Study Hacks Blog Decoding Patterns of Success

Three Ways Smart Students Reduce Study Time

September 13th, 2007 · 6 comments

One of the most surprising traits I observed about top students is how little they actually study. Though we cover the specifics of their habits in great detail on this blog, I find it useful to occasionally step back and review some of the big picture ideas:

  1. Smart students don’t study in long, unbroken stretches. You are more likely to find them studying in the morning and afternoon; often in small chunks, squeezed in between classes and other activities. Students have more energy early in the day, and by breaking up the work it’s easier to avoid mental fatigue — meaning that work gets done in less total hours.
  2. Smart students don’t study in groups, dorms, or public areas. You will often find them, instead, in the most isolated possible library on campus — probably buried in a cubicle high up in the stacks. It’s easier to focus in isolation. When you focus, work gets done better, and, crucially, it gets done quicker.
  3. Smart students don’t spend a lot of time studying. The bulk of time most students spend studying is dedicated to catching up on missed reading assignments, gathering notes from missed lectures, and trying to make sense of what they managed to jot down from the classes they did attend. Smart students try to get this work done as they go along. Among other things, this means they always attend class and do the most important reading assignments. They don’t just record information, but also, during the heat of the moment, try to process the information into the ideas they support. In other words, they do this thinking during class not the night before the test. They ask questions when unclear and often go to office hours to further clarify the professor’s thinking. It’s not unusual to find them remaining in the classroom for 5 minutes after the bell to clean-up their notes. The result: a lot less work to do come test time.

6 thoughts on “Three Ways Smart Students Reduce Study Time

  1. KY says:

    Hi Cal!
    I am a university student in Hong Kong, studying business in UST. I have read your book, How to Become a Straight-A Student, which helps me a lot.
    I wonder when did you and other straight-A student go to sleep when you were university students.

    As I know, going to bed late will badly affect our IQ. I did go to bed very early(around 10) when I was in high school. So I could study less and got a great result. To achieve the same result with others, my time input was only 1/10 of their.

    I am now a freshman in college. I just find that I cannot go to bed early. Time flows quickly in dorm. Now I usually go to bed at 2am or later. I am afraid that my quality of studying will be affected. What should I do? Do straight-A students usually go to bed early?

    Hope I can hear your invaluable recommendation.

    P.S.: You can publish a new book full of Q&As. I will be the first one to buy your book!

  2. Doug Hammond says:

    Hello Cal,
    I have read your study tips and noticed that most of the study strategies involve studying alone. What are your thoughts on studying in a study group?

  3. Study Hacks says:

    I have read your study tips and noticed that most of the study strategies involve studying alone. What are your thoughts on studying in a study group?

    I avoid it whenever possible. In the end, your goal is to internalize an understanding of a given group of concepts. There’s no shortcut to encountering all of this information yourself. If you’re attending class and taking smart notes, there’s no advantage a group can provide. (Though there are a million ways it can slow you down.)

  4. faiz fareed says:

    I study late at night because of my tough syllabus i want to first in the class.i am the most brilliant student in the class. If i don’t study more , i can,t maintain my raputition in the class. So what’s your opinion?

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