How to study

For the majority of my academic career in the STEM field, I had been a very mediocre student. What was embarrassing was that I worked hard and long only to receive C’s and sometimes B’s. There were even days that I would study at the library for more than 8 hours a day for weeks only to receive dissapointing grades. I questioned myself after every exam about whether or not I was smart enough.

I grew tired of not only the same results but of feeling disappointed in myself.

So, began my quest in finding the answer to getting straight A’s. I asked the A students how they studied or what they did. I asked anyone and everyone how they learned or memorized information. I went into other blackholes called google, quora, reddit, and the like searching for the answer. I tried this method and that method and even watched countless youtube videos.

After trial and error by the end of my undergraduate career I had a professor ask me to join her research. I was designing electronic study guides that the majority of my cohorts wanted to be apart of. Classmates would ask me for help on homework and understanding concepts. Most importantly, I ended my last year as a Biochemistry student with straight A’s.

I plan to write more articles about how you can achieve straight A’s. However, for this article I wanted to write about what helped me as general as possible. My hope is that my suggestions can be used as a basis. I understand that we’re all different. That what works for me may not work for you. But it is the basis of these suggestions that I have the greatest confidence in helping you.

Without further ado here is how I got straight A’s:

  1. Preface
  • When I had time I tried to learn the lecture material before the lecture.
  • When I didn’t have time (a.k.a procrastinated)I skimmed through the material.
  • Purpose: Introduce and learn the material yourself. Use the lecture to reinforce what you are learning and to fill in the gaps of your understanding. It is important to reinforce the material in as many different ways as possible.
  • Benefit: Prefacing creates a habit that keeps you on track and prevents you from falling behind especially when you’re also balancing other classes. Even if you don’t have time at least skim the titles and ideas of what you will learn in class.

2. Pomodoro Method

  • This method can be used for any part of your studying: whether you’re reading the material for the first time or reviewing for an exam. This method is when you study for X minutes then rest for Y minutes. Do this for 3 intervals then rest for Y+20 minutes before you start a new cycle of studying and resting. I put X-Y as everyone’s attention spans are different. The key is taking a rest when your concentration wanes. I suggest downloading the app. It will play a little alarm indicating when you need to study or rest.
  • This method changed my grades the most. Resting is just as important as working. Think of it as sharpening a sword before it is used.
  • Purpose: Resting allows your brain to rest. This allows you to better retain your information. Have you ever studied for long periods of times only to come out of that study session unsure about what you learned? This method prevents that.
  • Benefit: This method forces you to break things down into time frames. This method also allows you to study for long periods of time effectively.

3. Direct Practice

  • Practice possible test question as must as possible. This means homework questions, book questions, quizzes, and lecture questions. Don’t practice them until you get them right. Practice them until you can’t get them wrong.
  • Purpose: Direct practice will better prepare you for exams.
  • Benefit: This is the fastest way to ensure a decent amount of points on your exams. There’s always a good chance that at least a few questions that you came across will show up on your exam. More importantly, direct practice is the most important and efficient.
  • Suggestion: Gather every question ever asked together. Create a study guide by using Quizlet or type out a document of your questions. When studying, make sure you’re at least able to answer these questions.

4. Teach

  • If you can teach it, you know it. Don’t have anyone to bother? Buy a whiteboard and whiteboard markers and pretend you’re teaching someone. I would pretend to lecture using a whiteboard markers and my closet mirror. These would be one of the times I would practice all my questions from start to finish. If I was too lazy to write them I would just verbally say everything out loud.
  • Benefit: Going over your notes or recordings is a very passive way of reviewing and learning. When I would explain something to my pretend students, I found where the gaps in my understanding were. This helped me to then focus on what I really needed to.

The next few suggestions are lifestyle changes that helped me.

5. Saying “no”

  • Getting straight A’s is a commitment. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. After your exams, go and enjoy life. Just like the Pomodoro method section off times for different purposes. Have times of grinding then reward yourself after exams with fun.

6. Exercise

7. Diet

8. Sleep

  • In the beginning of my academic journey I didn’t exercise, I ate junk food all the time, and I would pull all nighters. I could say so much about these last few suggestions but to keep it short exercising, eating healthy, and ensuring good sleep helped me to excel. Although, the methods above changed my grades it wasn’t until I took care of myself that I performed better and made less mistakes.
  • Benefit: All 3 affect your ability to show up as your best self, concentrate, manage stress and study.



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