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The Study Hard Myth by Roger Lewis Fischel

The Study Hard Myth by
Article Posted: 09/02/2017
Article Views: 580
Articles Written: 25
Word Count: 847
Article Votes: 0
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The Study Hard Myth

"You can do better, just try harder!" said my mother. How can I try harder, when I tried as hard as I am able? "You can do better if you study hard. Perhaps you have heard both of these myths. The parent or teacher telling the student to try harder, to study harder borders on abuse. As a student, I always tried hard and I thought I always studied hard. Sometimes that was not good enough. The problem lies in how to define 'hard' as it appears in these two remonstrative statements. Does 'hard' mean length of time served? Does it mean without a break? Does it mean completing many thoughtless exercises prescribed by a teacher? I could go on here but I think you get the idea. The myth of study hard may effectively be replaced if we say 'study smart' instead.

Why Study Smart

Studying smart is not dependent on time, on completing a whole bunch of exercises that do not contribute to learning or any such thing. It is, on the other hand, completely dependent on being prepared to study and in having a positive mental attitude toward studying. While these two features are primary, there are a number of secondary features that allow for studying smart. Things like, 1) studying in short sessions, 2 to 3 hours at a time. 2) Taking notes an reviewing them productively. 3) Rewarding yourself along the way. 4) Scheduling study breaks of about 10 minutes each hour. 5) Finding your personal learning style and adapting your study to your learning style. 6) Choosing a variety of locations at which to study. All of these are important as you develop the study smart habits of see your grades improve. I have written in the past about being prepared and developing a positive mental attitude. In this article I wish to address the idea of choosing multiple places at which to study and rewarding yourself during study sessions.

Choosing Many Places at which to Study

Research has shown that by changing the places you choose to study has a positive impact on memory and retention. I suggest that you find five to six places to study and then randomly use them every week. So, for example, you select your room, Starbucks, the school library, the dining room table and the public library. Assign each site a number. Put the following playing cards into a hat or bowl and draw them out on Sunday. The cards are: A-2-3-4-5. Draw them out of the hat or bowl to set your rotation of place for the week. This kind of system for selecting place helps associate particular learning with the place where you studied. In doing this, you make stronger connections in your brain leading to better recall when the information is needed. Another scheme for choosing place is to assign a particular place for each academic subject. Research shows that this too creates stronger memories than always studying in the same place. I think it is a sound idea to try both of these selection ideas to see which one you are more comfortable with. Once you figure that out, you are well on your way to studying smart.

The Reward

Clearly studying, especially those subjects in which you do not excel, can be boring. For me, mathematics was always my Achilles heel. Truth be told, I hated math. Studying math was always a chore to be avoided at all costs. But when I discovered the idea of rewarding myself for successes I found the inner strength to apply my study time productively. I had two rewards at the ready at all times. Peanut M&Ms and York Peppermint Patties were my two favorites. My reward came when I could say I understood a concept. I would push through the boredom toward comprehension in order to get a reward. I had more rewards in English and history than I did in math or science but my grades in math and science began to climb toward the level of my English and history grades. Here the trick is to select 2 to 3 rewards that you cannot live without. Sweets, baked goods and the like worked for me. You have to figure out what will best work for you. There are no rights or wrongs here. What research shows, however, is that treating yourself during your study sessions is a powerful motivator for comprehension.

Final Words

The time has come for you to let go of the study hard myth. It is far more productive to embrace the idea of studying smart.


Dr. Roger Lewis is the owner of Effective Study Tips where he introduces parents and their children to the most effective study habits we know of. Dr. Lewis is a career educator teaching in both middle-school settings and in university departments of education. His specialty is in the teaching of reading methods for k-12 students. He is now retired concentrating on sharing his knowledge with a broader audience.

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