Stop me if this sounds familiar:
You spend hours studying for a test. You work your butt off, going over your notes, the lecture presentations and a few other resources. By this stage, you feel like you have the content down. A quick glance at your notes assures you that you have deeply entrenched these ideas in your mind. You go into the test with your brain feeling full and your spirits high.
That’s when it all starts to fall apart.
You read through the questions and it’s like they’re written in another language. Some of the questions talk about things you’re sure you’ve never heard of. Others talk about concepts that you know you know but… somehow… you can’t remember. A few of the answers come to mind but most resist.
It’s tempting to let yourself feel stupid. After all, you worked so hard and it didn’t help – so the problem must be with you… right? I’ve been there. All I can say is that, no, the problem is not with you.
Imagine a world where everyone has the same intelligence. If you performed poorly on a test while your friend did well, how would you react? You wouldn’t blame yourself – after all, you’re as smart as anyone (and everyone) else in the class. You would conclude that there was a problem with how you studied.
Back in the real world. Are some people smarter than others? The answer seems obvious. We’ve all met geniuses and prodigies and other gifted individuals. But here’s the twist: prodigies aren’t real. Those prepubescent kids that have mastered the violin? They didn’t pick up the instrument in a day. They practiced for tens of thousands of hours – deliberate, effective practice. They worked hard and smart to develop their skills. Nothing is inborn. All is acquired through effort.
It’s the same with those geniuses you know. You might think that, thanks to genetic blessings, they have more brainpower. Chances are, they don’t. Their stellar performances arise from better mental strategies, habits and discipline.
(These are all things that anyone can learn, by the way.)
So, why do so many otherwise-smart people do so poorly on exams? It’s not a question of intelligence or ability. Most people have never been taught how to study, which is ridiculous. Decades of school, years of university and no one bothered to teach you how to study? It’s like teaching someone to march in formation without them learning how to tie their shoes.
It’s a tremendous oversight and a severe failure of our education system. Learning is the most fundamental skill that you are never taught. You picked up some advice from teachers and parents who meant well, I’m sure, but don’t know how to learn either. It’s no wonder that so many people study so hard and fail to see any results.
That’s what this guide is all about. There’s nothing new or controversial here. Everything I say is considered a fact in the field of education. Despite this, useful tricks that reveal how the brain best learns are not well-known. Maybe you’ve heard of some of these before – a casual reference here or there. This guide pulls it all together, shows the difference from the normal approach and explains why the wrong effort leads to the wrong results.