It’s a cliché you’ve heard over and over again — “study smarter, not harder” — but what does it actually mean when “studying” means something different to everyone? Unfortunately, for many of us it can seem to mean spending hours on end pouring over our textbooks only to end up more confused than when we began. Hopefully after reading this post you won’t be spending those back-and-spirit-breaking hours any longer, and studying will no longer be a task with no real start or end.
So what do people mean when they say “study smarter”? Really this means to study in a way that helps you remember more, faster, and with less effort (bring on Brave New World’s hypnopedia). Because each person’s memory works differently, however, this process can be much more complex than it seems.
How to study smarter, not harder
The first step is often to figure out how you learn in order to figure out the best way to study. In psychology, there is a theory by Howard Gardner called the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Essentially, the theory states that there are seven different forms that intelligence can take: visual, linguistic, logical, bodily, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic.
These intelligences are all present in us in different amounts, and work together to shape how we absorb information. Think that one kid who always knows the answer in math class (high logical intelligence), but won’t say a word in english (low linguistic intelligence).
Why intelligences are important in terms of studying, is because how your brain works can effect which study techniques work best for you. For example, a musically intelligent person would be much better off memorizing the quadratic formula by setting it to the tune of jack-in-the-box, than writing it down a few times in his/her own handwriting like a visual and bodily learner.
Thus, studying smarter with techniques that work well with their brains, and not harder by stubbornly staring at that chem problem that they don’t even know how to start.
What kind of learner are you?
If you aren’t sure by just looking at the list, there is a great free quiz you can take that will calculate your intelligences.
Then, if you’re still unsure about how this directly affects your study habits, there are several great resources online that you can find with a simple Google search, like this one, or this one. It might also help you to know that the most common intelligences/learning styles are visual, linguistic, and bodily/kinesthetic.
So, while I doubt that studying harder can really do anyone any damage, here is to more time spent studying smarter – and not listening to silly clichés we don’t understand.
Photo from a 1958 edition of Mechanix Illustrated