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1. They Google everything.
You have a massive search engine available to you. Top students hear a new concept and go to Google for a quick explanation. They do not limit themselves to the information given to them by their teachers or professors. They use Google.
2. They watch related lectures and videos.
One fun way studying is to watch related lectures and videos in order to supplement the material. Watch documentaries or videos on YouTube and educational websites. You may be surprised at how much useful information is available online.
3. They test themselves.
People fear tests because they might fail or get things wrong. Au Contraire! Testing yourself strengthens your brain’s connections to new material, and gives you immediate and clear feedback on whether you know something or not. The truth is that testing is better than rereading the same material.
4. They study in short bursts and space out their practice.
Studying in short bursts tends to help you focus intensely because you know there is at least a short break coming.
They also space out their studying over time by reviewing notes and other material. This helps with their 'forgetting curve'.
5. They do retrieval practice.
Many people think of “studying” is cramming, or simply re-reading notes, textbooks, or other materials. But having the information right in front of us doesn’t force us to retrieve it from memory. Recalling information without supporting materials is much more effective way of learning. And again, testing helps with retrieval practice.
6. They reverse-engineer solved problems.
Most students follow the memorize a set of steps that their teacher provided or the textbook. That only gives you surface-level knowledge. Top students take solved problems and work backwards, asking whys:
Why did this get this value?
Why did they simplify this expression?
Why did they use that type of rule?
This process allows you to understand the interconnections of the concept, and how to directly apply that to a problem. This “working knowledge” of a concept is key to performing well on exams, especially on problems that you haven’t seen before.
7. They sleep–a lot.
Have you noticed that often the best students sleep a lot? They look confident and rested. That is true of top performers in any field (chess, music, etc). They usually do periods of intense work (4-6 hours per day) followed by high quality long sleep (9 hours per night). Sleep helps them stay healthy and focused. How do they find the time? They have good study habits and use their study time effectively.
8. They use concrete examples.
They use specific examples, like solved examples, to understand abstract ideas.
9. They ask a lot of questions.
Questions are what guides our thinking and creativity. Asking a lot of questions is important because they help you make new connections that you didn't have or never thought of.
10. They find clues in lectures.
Though completely unaware of this fact, your professor has tells. Yes, like in poker. Tells during lecture will hint at particular types of concepts and problems that will be emphasized on the midterm or final exam. The best students pay attention to topics professors spend a seemingly inordinate amount of time on and make note. Chances are you’ll see something related on the final.
11. They don’t wait for motivation to strike.
Motivation comes and goes, but studying requires persistence and consistency. Just like Olympic athletes train even on their worst days, the best students figure out how to get their coursework done when it’s the last thing they want to do.
12. They practice under test conditions.
Instead of reading through all of the lecture notes and redoing old homework problems, top students make themselves practice exams, and rehearse their exam performance, under time pressure and in similar conditions to what they’ll see on test day.
13. They use old exams.
It is hard to come up with new questions all the time, so teachers and professors so they recycle exams. Typically midterms and final exams more or less look alike for similar courses year-to-year and even across schools and universities. Because of this, old exams are a gold mine for acing tests.
14. They use the 80/20 rule.
Top students identify the 20% of concepts they need to learn deeply, in order to determine 80% of their final grade. They focus intently on those few things, and simply ignore the rest. This is a formula for high performance, without hours and hours of busywork.
15. They make their own study guides.
The best students don’t simply use the study guide the teacher provides, they create their own. Creating the study guide is half the battle, requiring you to go through your notes, consolidate them, and organize them in a way that you understand–all valuable study activities.
16. They teach and mentor others.
Teaching is one of the best ways of learning. As a professor said he is teaching to learn. The best students teach and mentor other students who need to catch up.
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