How To Study

On June 15th, 2004, smack dab in the middle of finals time in my Junior year of high school, I included this in a LiveJournal entry:

Definition from the Book of Valerie:
Study – stuh’dee – (v) – look at books of required subject, reading suggested but not required. If something more interesting comes along, feel free to wander away from your text book and come back to it at a later time. If this means only 10 minutes of studying is acquired, so be it. 10 minutes is better than 0 right?

I don’t remember writing this, but it sounds about right. This is the study method I continued to imply throughout college, with varying results.

My mother tells me that the reason I don’t know how to study properly is because I never had to until it was too late. I was wise beyond my years – literally – from preschool through eigth grade. Nothing was challenging. Some things were boring, which made them seem more challenging, so I would get an A- in those subjects. Sometimes. Usually history and science. Mostly history. It’s the worst.

Then I got to high school. A college preparatory high school with leveled classes based on your skill level. Huh.

Luckily, even though the content was harder, my memory was still sharp and my ability to understand and absorb things still fresh. While it wasn’t without unhealthy amounts of stress and disturbingly few hours of sleep, I somehow survived high school using this method of studying in the top 10% of my class.

Then came college.  The challenge grew greater.  Fortunately, I had friends who gave me tips or would study with me, which sort of forced me to study as well. That helped a lot. But, honestly, how I’ve gone through life without this basic skill is beyond me.

I have the general understanding of how it works. I’ve DONE it. I’m just not good at it. When left to my own devices, the best I can do is copy over my notes or make flashcards and outlines. However, for me, that’s as close to studying as I can get. Just going over my notes to make these study paraphernalia is all I want or need. I do not actually have the attention span or motivation to then go back over this information.

Memorizing is different, because it’s like a game. I will put that stuff on flashcards and go over it a million times until I know it cold.

Though it never takes a million times. Once, in a psych class, the teacher gave us a list of twelve words, gave us like 2 minutes to memorize it, then took it away from us. She told us to write down all twelve words and asked us to go around to say how many we remembered. When I said twelve, she looked a little taken aback. “Oh…not many people can do that.”  I think I sort of disproved the point she was going to make.

One of my prouder college moments.

So memorizing was never the issue. It was the conceptualizing and remembering when the battle of whatsit happened and who fought it or what date this painting was created and what political movement was happening at the time.

I just didn’t care. And if I didn’t care, there was a good chance my brain was not going to be holding on to this information for any reasonable amount of time.

Luckily, I’ve pretty much outgrown the period in my life where studying is required. I somehow managed to make it through life barely knowing what a highlighter was for. I had my own way of learning. Of remembering.

You know what? My definition of studying might be unconventional. And it’s certainly not one I would ever pass on to someone looking to learn how to study. But my definition of studying got me a master’s degree.

So I’m not complaining.


~ by Valerie Anne on 10/12/2011.

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