Study Myths – Busted!
There are a few study myths that float around about what effective study really is. These can hold you back in getting the marks you deserve. Let’s bust some myths once and for all to make sure you avoid these pitfalls.
Myth #1: If a study strategy is hard, that means it’s not working.
Most of us have a pretty lazy default setting. Wanting to do things that are easy and don’t challenge us too much is normal, but does it work?
It’s tempting to think that if a study strategy is hard and you’re making a lot of mistakes, then it’s not working. And if it’s easy and you’re getting everything right, then it’s working, right?
Well… not necessarily.
I’ve talked before about how going to the gym and studying are not that different. If you went to the gym and it was super easy, do you think it would have a real effect on your fitness? Probably not. Taking a slow stroll on a treadmill is kind of pointless if you’re wanting to get stronger or fitter.
In the same way, study strategies that feel uncomfortably difficult (like self-testing usually does) are often the ones that help you make the most progress. They are the squats of study.
You might be making mistakes, but that’s because you’re uncovering your weaknesses. And that’s gonna happen now, or it’s gonna happen in the exam. What would you rather?
Myth #2: Re-reading my notes or watching that video again counts as study.
These are classic examples of easy study techniques. It feeeeels like you’re doing something, and you can tell your mum you studied, but they don’t really work that well.
Why is that?
Well, as I’ve often talked about here, you’re not really doing anything with the information. You’re taking it in as is, and hoping that you’ll be able to spit it back out again in the same way in the exam.
Except, that’s not really how we learn. You need to actually engage with the information.
Test yourself using flashcards, do past exams, or explain how factorisation works to your dad (he signed up for this by having kids). These are harder than just reading, yes, but they work.
And that means better results in less time. Which is the ultimate goal, right?
Myth #3: Smashing out 4 hours of study before the exam will totally work!
In theory, 4 hours of study on 1 day should be as good as 1 hour of study on 4 days, right?
Well, maths might agree with you, but psychology doesn’t.
We learn better when we space things out. This is because of a little thing called consolidation.
Consolidation is basically how what we learn goes from being easily forgotten to being more stable. Ever been in a class where you understand everything, only to go home and not remember much at all when it comes to doing a question by yourself? You haven’t consolidated your knowledge yet.
Consolidation takes time, which is why it’s better to do 4 lots of 1 hour of study, rather than one massive chunk of 4 hours. Building on your knowledge bit-by-bit over time makes it much more stable.
Myth 4: Blocks of one subject are better than mixing it up, because otherwise I just get confused.
Is it better to do 2 hours of 1 subject, or 1 hour each of 2 subjects?
It might seem like it would be better to stick to one subject, right? You’d be more focused and less confused than if you switched. Well, that’s not entirely true.
Switching between subjects is called interleaving.
It can feel uncomfortable, because you have to shift gears in your thinking when you go from Maths to English (or whatever your chosen combo is).
And it can feel confusing, because thinking about essay structures and language features can make it harder to remember the processes of simultaneous equations and differentiation you did before.
But this confusion is actually a good thing. Yes, really.
That’s because it simulates the real world in a much more accurate way.
Between now and the exams, there’s going to be a lot of stuff going on in your life, right? You’ll watch TV and fight with your parents and read about Taylor Swift’s latest breakup.
So you need to get used to that. You need to know your subjects well enough that you remember them even if you do a bunch of unrelated stuff after studying.
Interleaving can help this happen.
(Switching too often isn’t a good idea either, because you don’t really get anywhere before you change. Aim to do between half an hour and an hour before changing to another subject. And switching between studying and Facebook doesn’t count!)
Busting these study myths is going to help you get on top of your study game and really take on the exams. They’re simple tweaks that mean you’re gonna get the most out of the time you put in.