I get lots of student e-mail. I enjoy this. It keeps me connected to the real world scholastic struggles that you guys face. One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that there are a small number of older Study Hacks articles, usually from the summer or early fall, before my readership really grew, that I find myself recommending again and again as a potential answer. This leads me to believe: (1) these articles answer unusually common problems; (2) not many people have seen them.
With this in mind, I slogged back through the archives to pull out the five most important articles from the golden age of Study Hacks. Are you currently struggling with something in your student life? There’s a good chance you might find an answer lurking below.
(Did I miss a classic that you love? Let me know…)
Use Focused Question Clusters to Study for Multiple Choice Tests
One of the most glaring omissions in Straight-A is that I didn’t address fact-based technical courses — life sciences, anatomy, intro psych — the type of subjects that have you learn a lot of technical details, but feature few big ideas or sample problems. This article extends the classic quiz and recall method to efficiently handle notes that contain a large number of facts, systems, and details.
The key concept: Clustering rapid fire questions into one large question that fits into the q-and-r framework.
The Straight-A Gospels: Pseudo-Work Doesn’t Equal Work
I often preach that not all work is made equal. A focused hour in the morning is not the same as hour 12 of an all-night study marathon held in-between pong games in a dank corner of your frat basement. (In case you were wondering.) But what exactly is the difference? And which hours are better than others? This article lays out the key philosophy that informs all of my rants about structuring your study time.
The key concept: A simple formula, work accomplished = time spent x intensity of focus. Everything else I’ve said on this subject all starts with this one idea…
Getting Things Done for College Students
This article has been a hit with the web’s thriving community of productivity junkies. But it was posted way too early to have made much of an impact for my student readers who need it most. The article is the culmination of a month long series of posts on the e-mail newsletter that preceded this blog. It starts with David Allen’s wildly successfully Getting Things Done (GTD) productivity system and identifies where it breaks when applied to the college lifestyle. It then fills in these gaps with some more undergrad-focused goodness. The result is an advanced system for the student looking for some real fine-tuned control over an advanced schedule.
The key concept: Class assignments cannot be handled within the standard GTD next action framework.
Part 2 in 60 Seconds or Less
Fans of Straight-A know that Part 2 covers quizzes and tests. Much of the advice from this section has made it onto this blog (quiz and recall, question/evidence/conclusion, mega problem sets…) The information, however, can be overwhelming. In response to this concern, I wrote this article, which breaks out the main ideas motivating those crucial chapters.
The key concept: Think of studying as an industrial process. Input comes in, something happens, outputs comes out. How do we minimize the costs on that second step?
Follow a Sunday Ritual
Of all the advice I’ve posted on this blog, this gem, from early September, generates the most fan mail. I’ve lived by this habit since my sophomore year at college and now couldn’t imagine life without it. Actually, I could. It would be really stressful.
The key concept: Develop a Sunday ritual for catching up, getting organized, and preparing for the upcoming week.