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Study Less for Better Grades
Sound too good to be true? It worked for me. Find out how to maximize your study time and use frequent breaks to increase your recall.

Better Note Taking: Ditch the Highlighter
Research shows that highlighting texts is only marginally helpful. Here are some very effective alternatives.

Estimate Percents in Your Head
Quick; what’s 21% of 431? If you can’t quickly do that in your head you’re giving away points on the GRE or SAT.

Two Minutes to Better Grades
A little creativity will keep you from boring your prof and translate to better scores on your papers and

Your Performance on the SAT and GRE Depend on Your Attitude


Think you’re smart?  Then you’re also right.  At least that’s what’s indicated by the psychological research on a concept called stereotype threat .

The short version?  People tend to do worse on standardized tests when they’ve been primed to think they will do worse.  In one example, African American students at Stanford did worse on the GRE when subtly reminded of the stereotypical preconceptions about African Americans’ lower performance on such tests (see study).  In another study , when it was suggested to a group of golfers that golf was an intelligence game, white golfers’ performance increased and black golfers’ performance decreased.  When it was suggested that golf was a game of innate physical skill the results were reversed!  Similar studies have shown that stereotypes concerning women’s mathematical abilities affect their test performances on math-related tests.  Indeed, there are more than a hundred of these studies (see http://www.reducingstereotypethreat.org/ for more info).

This effect, however, is not limited to stereotyped groups.  Everyone is affected by this under some circumstances … especially on exams and standardized tests!  There is a simple method to counteract this effect, and to actually make it work FOR you. [hidepost]

Anyone can sink themselves by thinking negative thoughts and boost their performance by thinking more helpful thoughts.  This effect is well supported by research and practice (see cognitive behavioral therapy, and Learned Optimism , by Seligman, for examples.)  Obviously, it doesn’t matter how good your attitude is if you didn’t learn the material.  But, eliminating unhelpful thinking can allow you to maximize your possible performance.

So what to do?  How do I convince my brain that I’m actually brilliant?  Here’s an easy technique that I teach my students.  Take a minute to think of someone that really makes you feel good about your ability to perform … could be a coach, a parent, a significant other … whoever.  Now imagine that person coming with you to the test.  Before each test section or whenever you feel anxious, imagine that person giving you a pep talk to encourage you; “Don’t worry.  You can do this!  You spent all that time preparing.  Knock ’em dead!”  Try to imagine them as clearly as possible.  Let yourself feel better.  Give it a try!  It absolutely works.[/hidepost]

Study Less for Better Grades


There’s only so much you can eat at one time. Gorge yourself and you’ll end up tossing your proverbial cookies. Psychology research shows that your brain works similarly. Try to shove in too much new info at one sitting and you’ll get brain barf. Well, not barf exactly, but your noggin will not thank you for it. In fact, you’ll end up interfering with your ability to recall the first info you studied. Here’s how you can fix it, while studying less and remembering more!

  1. Set a timer (watch, cell phone, sun dial, online stopwatch, whatever) for thirty minutes and study. When the timer sounds, finish up the thought/idea you were studying, then …
  2. Take a five minute break and Continue reading Study Less for Better Grades

You study TOO MUCH…


…at least when it comes to reviewing info you want to recall, like your class notes on the Kreb Cycle or the Quadratic Formula. If you catch yourself going over the same notes again and again, trying to wedge it into your gray matter, there is a better way. Oodles (no, really, OOODLES) of good research to show that mnemonics (memory strategies) can increase your recall. That means less review for you (see this article for a run down of the research).

And using mnemonic techniques doesn’t require that you have thick glasses, a lack of fashion sense, and a passion for Star Trek: The Next Generation. In fact, the article linked above begins with an account of how mnemonics were used to beef up recall among Continue reading You study TOO MUCH…