How to improve my studies

This one's a little long. Fair warning.

I'm an Indian Guy on my way to becoming a Scientist. I wasn't always this bright. I was actually very dumb.

Class 1. 80% || Class 2. 83% || Class 3. 82%

They told me I'll never be good at anything. That I'm just an average Joe. Mum sent me to dance classes just in case I didn't make it big in academics. (Did that for over 6 years.)

Class 4. 93% (Woah!) || Class 5. 94% . . . .

Class 10 Board Exams. 98.6% [100 in Science.]

Class 12 Board Exams. 98%[5 subs. 100 in Mathematics.]

They told me I could never crack the JEE in just a year because I didn't have any "coaching." I did it in 6 months without "coaching."

Refused to join the renowned IITs and NITs even though I had a chance. Chose to follow my passion in Astrophysics and joined the BTech+MS program at IIST. Doing fine here. I'm glad I chose this for myself.


So, how did I do it?

A magic pen? A genie? A fairy sitting on my shoulder? Just pure luck?

Answer: One Stubborn Mind.

My father's greatest advise to me: There is no shortcut for success and there's no substitute for hardwork.

In my transition from Class 3 to 4, I had a sudden realization that changed my academic life forever:

If I'm doing the same things that everyone is doing, how will I ever get any different results?

So, I gave up on the endless roaming of streets on my bicycle and started completing my daily homework. I hardly hung out with friends anymore because I had commitments. I had dance classes for 2 hours every single day. You might think that disturbed me, but you're wrong! It disciplined my life. If you removed those two hours, I hardly had any time left, except for to study, eat and sleep.

When I became one of the toppers that year, everyone was shocked (including me.) I understood that by being dedicated, disciplined and working hard, I could reach greater heights. There was no easy way out. I also learned to say NO to friends most times, because you waste most of your time pleasing them, while you could be putting that on paper.

As I grew up, I was bullied a lot. I was called a nerd, a bookworm, antisocial, selfish, a vampire who sucks everyone's marks, and a boy with no life. This came even though I taught the entire school to dance for every annual school program from grade 5. It's something you have to bear with when you're the lone wolf at the top.

Believe it or not, I got my first mobile - a stupid buttoned phone- when I was in the 11th grade because I had to travel large distances to college. I think, one of the main reasons I did so well was because I was free from such tech distractions. I didn't even know F.R.I.E.N.D.S. back then. (I'm a TV Maniac now.) I was never one of the "cool" kids who went out to party on weekends.

In my adolescent life, I had three big problems which affected my studies:

  1. Laziness.
  2. Procrastination.
  3. Loss of Interest.

And even though, I was among the best in the class, it always haunted me.

So this is how I battled each one, respectively.

  1. Instead of saying, "That's too hard" I started telling myself that it's "doable." A positive frame of mind and a constant reminding myself of my future goal drove me on.
  2. This is the biggest devil for all students. You say "I'll do that later" and that later never comes. I used the 5 minute rule. I start this thing I want to procrastinate and do it for at least 5 minutes. Most times I get too much in it and get the job done. If, by the end of 5 minutes I'm still bored, I close my book and go do something else. But after doing that I try the 5 minute rule again.
  3. As you grow older, your subjects will start getting complicated. You might have loved 6th grade math but 12th grade calculus makes life like hell. Exams and getting marks becomes your only reason to study. That's when you start losing interest. I started studying for the love of gaining knowledge and stopped caring for results. This revived the interest in me.

I've always loved proving people wrong.

When they told me I would remain average, I showed them I would not.

When they thought I couldn't clear JEE in a year, I did in half the time.

When they said I'm making a big mistake refusing a seat at IITs and NITs, I did it anyway.

Because I'm writing my own life. And no one will ever tell me that I'm like the rest of them.

There's a quote I want everyone who is "bad" in studies to recite.

Hard Work beats talent when talent does not work hard.



Given a choice, this is what I would do, in order to become an excellent student, by applying what I call, smart studying techniques:

1) Learn and practise proven efficient and effective study tools like SQ5R and Cornell Notes.

Go to the net and download information on SQ5R and Cornell Notes:

i) SQ5R reading/studying strategy;

It's a structured system [SQ5R is an acronym for SURVEY, QUESTIONS, READ, RECORD, RECITE, REVIEW, REFLECT],  but it equips you with efficient and effective ways to navigate   academic materials, especially the       intellectually-intense ones,  with ease and expediency.

ii) Cornell Notes;

It's  a far more superior system that the conventional outline method, known  to most students in schools, college and universities.

It's latent power comes from its simple and yet elegant three-column spatial configuration for taking notes and making notes.

The "cue" column is the most powerful system I have ever known, as  it       facilitates - and expedites - your  memory retention/recall via  self-testing.

2) Preview your new lesson the night before class, by preparing preliminary notes.

This   is because, when you are  learning something new in class,  your  prior   knowledge will always come into play  to make connections and create linkages.  More schema, more  understanding!

3)  Make sure that   you thoroughly understand  the content of all your   class    lectures; if   not, you have to ask for  clarification or   elucidation from your   lecturers or professors.

To  me, the  acid  test for understanding something new is your ability to   explain the  new  concept  to someone else, like your kid brother or  even  your   grandma. No puns  intended;

4)  At the end of a   class lecture, always do  a  quick  Recap, Review and Reinforce,   preferably with mnemonics - I  call  this  the 3R's  strategy.

Science says 80% of your information intake is lost if you do not execute this initiative within 24 hours;

5)  At   least for every semester quarter, or a couple of weeks prior  to  your final test/exam time, spend time and effort to prepare  global    consolidated and summarised study notes, as part of your final   test/exam  prep, by incorporating:

- premilimary notes from your textbook reading, the night before class;
- notes taken and made during the lecture;
- notes taken and made from lecture handouts, f any;
- notes taken and made from class discussions or groupwork, if any;
- notes from lab reports and/or field work;
- other notes, e.g. from research at the library, or from the Internet search;

6)  Also, with the aid of your subject syllabus  as well as exam syllabus,  learn to identify and segregate "core  material" from "elaborative    material".

- "core   material" = important     concepts,  principles,  theories, definitions,   terminologies,     nomenclatures,  important  diagrams or graphs,  etc.;

- "elaborative material" = illustrations, examples, anecdotes, etc.;

Drawing   on Pareto's Law:  About 80% of your exam questions are likely to come  from your "core  material", and so you know what and where to focus  first.

This  is not to say  "elaborative material" is  not   important, but once you have  the     intellectual grasp of "core   material"  in the first instance,      "elaborative material" will   naturally falls  into place - in your    memory   banks;

Transcribe "core material"  into 4x3 index    cards for their pocket portability,     using the proven  Index Card    Strategy, for "learning-on-the-go": commuting and/or  waiting in    queue, as this facilitates random self-quizzing;

7)  Review   your learned class lesson within 24   hours,  and then prepare a    systematic spaced and distributed   practice   of  revision/rehearsal,   next  30 days/next 60 days/ next 90 days   till    test/exam time;  this   initiative helps you to circumvent the  deadly     impact of the   infamous  Ebbinghaus Effect, or better known as  the     Forgetting   Curve;

8) Master the 100+ Test Verbs, often used by examiners in test/exam questions;

9)  Always remember [I hate to say this, but it's a harsh reality], tests/exams are a form of game,   and you got to learn to be an    excellent   game player.

First of all, a test/exam is always a game of PRECISION and  SPEED.

No  matter how you look at it, examiners are only interested in  your   ability to answer questions PRECISELY and EXPEDIENTLY, all within the  prescribed time limits.

So, to beat them in the game, you  got  to learn to master the technique of   doing  a "surgical  cut"   of the  exam questions at first  glance, no matter  how they are    phrased.

That's why (8) is ciritical here.

For your strategy to win the game, learn and practice the Question  Dissection   Protocol (*), a powerful technique  for  dissecting test/exam questions, developed by award-winning  educator  Doug   Buehl  from Madison, Wisconsin;

I have already written extensively about this technique on Quora. You can search their archives.

10) Spend time and make concerted effort  to tackle the past exam series, under simulated test/exam conditions;

11)  If you are familiar with the graphical methods of note-taking and        note-making,  like idea-mappling, cluster diagramming and/or   graphic      organising,  apply what I call a 'Divide and Conquer'   strategy by creating a  global idea map for each of your subject   matter,   using  the   tapestry  of contents of your textbook as   branching ideas;  alternatively,  you can also use the core ideas   captured in (6);

12) I have in fact written an extended piece on final test/exam preparation, entitled:

THE ART &  DISCIPLINE OF REVISION STRATEGY

Here's the link:

THE ART & DISCIPLINE OF REVISION STRATEGY by Say Keng Lee on OPTIMUM PERFORMANCE TECHNOLOGIES

13) Last but not least, especially if you are interested, acquire a   copy of  Adam Robinson's 'What Smart Students Know' and Ronald   Gross'  'Peak Learning', and do your best  to read as well as digest   them. Definitely, you will be amply  rewarded!

So,  my end analysis: it's not the total number of    hours you are  going to spend; it's the right strategy you are going to  use  purposefully, meaningfully and    productively in your academic  pursuit.

I take this opportunity to wish you a pleasant and successful academic journey, and may all your fondest dreams come true.

The golden rule to productive study is "WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER".

To do well you have to start developing good study habits and it is known fact that it takes a person approximately one month to get into a habit before it becomes second-nature though to succeed it is a matter of being persistent and application.

It helps with personal motivation to set yourself some goals and objectives that are realistic and achievable so that you feel you are moving forward. It does not need to be big or expensive, it could be for example, for English you want to get an A, and there is a book that you really keen on wanting to have - so your objective is get the high grade and your goal is to get that book.

It does not always have to be like that it could be too that if you are all up to date with your studies that you end up with more leisure time than you thought and that is a really good feeling and accomplishment.

Some tips :

1. Decide which part of the day for you is the best time to study .i.e. morning/afternoon/evening

2. Draw up a timetable for this time and stay with the schedule. Note down important due dates for tests, homework, assignments etc in advance. Keep the timetable and due dates in a place where you can look and review it on a daily basis.

(Refer to my answer : Sanjay's answer to How should I make a study timetable for my exam? )

3. Follow the 50/10 study rule. 50 mins of study followed by a 10 minute break.

4. Most people can only concentrate between 30 and 50 mins before they lose focus.

5. During the break, step away from your studies and make sure it is 10 mins only.

6. Find/create a study space away from distractions like tv, mobile phones, iPod etc.

7. Do your hardest subjects first - the ones you like second - see this as a reward.

8. Rotate your subjects to avoid getting bored and distracted.

9. Concentrate on areas of the subject you are struggling with *NOT* what you already know and are comfortable with as this will save you a lot of time.

10. Use mind maps for studying as this assists with identifying the key concepts/ideas/theories that you need to learn.

11. Summarize and condense your study notes so when it comes to revision or for examinations you are not having to go through a pile of paper trying to find the information and getting stressed.

12. Develop an effective filing system for each subject. Label each folder clearly for each of your subjects and make sure that all the write learning material, your notes, mind-maps corresponds to the subject.

13. When you are studying and you expect calls from friends ask someone to take a message and you will call them back during the break or when you are finished.

14. Your study area should be comfortable, a good table, chair and lighting plusventilation is important and free from all distractions where possible. Keep it tidy otherwise you start to lose or get things mixed up.

15. Form a study support group of like-minded students as this can help the only downside that humans being socially able creatures may not work out well.

16. If you find that there are aspects to a subject that do not make sense ask for assistance from someone you know that can help you clarify things rather than sit there and get frustrated.

17. See your teachers as a resource to your success by probing them for answers about questions about a subject so that you develop a better understanding.

Remember, studying is very individualistic, what works for one person may not for another, so do not be afraid to experiment with your approach and management of your studies it is important that you are comfortable with it and using your time constructively.

Hope this helps :D


Everyone of us has a desire to achieve success though there are very few who actually wanna work hard for it, others are just dreamers . Dreamers dream more and more dreams whereas successful people build bridges to reach their best dream.

Before i proceed further , I wanna make myself crystal clear that these are just few tips , there may be much more better approaches to succeed but these will definitely help you out until you find a finest policy that would ultimately assist to accomplish your dreams.

Your first principle toward this should be Strong Basics. There is no need to worry if they are not that good, you still can get them right . Only thing you need to do is work a little more to get them right. We can't build a 9 story building by originating it from the surface , you need to make its foundation undoubtedly durable enough to bear that weight.

Once you have done that , analyse what you really have to study and would help you or not . We usually call it Smart Study. Apart from saving time it would help you study effectively as a matter of fact that whenever there is something low in quantity we can understand and adopt that more efficiently. For eg. when we do some physical exercise , we do it better when we have to do less . Same logic can also be applied to the studies. Initially it may take some time to figure it out but it can compensate for it in the future in a very short period of time.

Plan proper schedule . Follow it on regular basis , once you planned that i have to study 2 hours , we can always figure out how to get that time by prioritizing what is important and what's not !!!!!!

Always try to follow study with passion because if we attempt to pressurize our brain to learn something , it won't grasp it with that effectiveness what it's capable of. I know this is most difficult to do , that's what brings me to my upcoming aspect that is MOTIVATION . If we focus deeper and deeper , we can easily find some inspiration that would inspire us to study with proper concentration . Studies shows that if we study in cycles ( slots /rounds ) we can increase our output level .

I hope this would help you to enhance your studies and probably aid to come closer to your success in studies.


Ask why you are studying, do more than just study

For a whole semester, I went through 4 internship interviews to work in a well funded startup, gave a presentation to about 10 students about cybersecurity and working on a startup teaching kids programming all within a semester.

That was the best semester I've scored.

Answer "Why are you attending school?"

Schools cannot give you the answer, you can. The reason I attend school is train my mind to think in a logical perspective and that I can do as much as I can, fail as much as I can and ask as much as I can.

Well, you're smart?!

Sure, we could talk about that. I used to do well in math, close to failing on all my other subjects. I would consider myself being an average. What I got from this was working on your interests.

Well, you got lucky!

You got me there, now I can't deny this. I got lucky because there were not many things that sparked my interest. Anything mechanical, mathematical or programming related would spark an interest in me as a kid.

What I learnt from the lack of time

It created more focus into studying what is necessary. Know that you will not be able to absorb everything just by memorising. By memorising you could remember 3 ways to solve a solution. By understanding, you might have just unlocked 10,000 ways to solve a problem.

Write notes

Writing is the best way to force you to write in your own words. Typing is great and fast but the limitation of writing forces me to process what was taught before writing it down.

Question everything

What better way to understand by asking it again and again until it resonates with you. I like to look into solutions and backtrack to the problem. Find a way that works for you to question every problem.

Moving forward

You are not going to be studying for your whole life. Whatever field you're in, start building up your portfolio concurrently. Grades are important but years down the road, your portfolio matters way more.

Dare to take calculated risks. Focus on working on your portfolio


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