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Study Tip: Why Aiming for A is Better Than A+

Study Tip: Why Aiming for A is Better Than A+
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    Is it better to get an A or an A+? Most people instinctively react with an A+. As I’d like to show in this article, that isn’t always the case. Being perfect can cost far more than good enough. Also, as I’d like to demonstrate, the habits that might get you an A+ might also leave you with a B or C if you fail to optimize.

    I’ve never been a perfectionist. I’ve always been aware of the costs of going beyond good enough. Despite this seemingly poor attitude towards work, it hasn’t hurt me in the slightest. By optimizing instead of attempting perfection, I’ve managed to maintain a grade hovering between an A and A+.

    How Optimizing Works

    The traditional studying approach is to learn everything perfectly and with equal force. I believe this approach will only lead to a nervous breakdown.

    An optimizing approach says that learning everything perfectly is impossible. However, by investing more time on critical details and less time on unimportant ones you can get a better grade with less time invested.

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    Isn’t All Information Important?

    Importance is relative. Sure you might be tested on it, but will knowing something make up 5% of your test or 50%?

    To get you started with the optimization process, here are some tips:

    1. Identify the testing bias.

    A test is a device used to gauge your understanding. All tests invariably have bias, where they emphasize certain concepts or types of understanding over others. Go over past tests and ask yourself what biases are shown in the tests. That can form your template for learning.

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    2. Quality of Time Spent Ratio

    Look at your course outline and the various percentages given to different assignments. Divide that number by how much time you need to get your desired grade. The result is a Quality of Time Spent Ratio. When time becomes tight and you need to make a choice, always use your ratio to see where extra time gets placed.

    Example: Your running out of time and you have three projects to do. The first is worth 5% of your grade and you expect 2 hours to get the grade you want. The second is worth 20% and you expect 15 hours to get the grade you want. The third is worth 30% and you expect 10 hours to get the grade you want. Your quality ratio’s are:

    • Project One: 5%/2 =2.5%
    • Project Two: 20%/15 =1.33%
    • Project Three: 30%/10 =3%

    Extra time spent on the third project is likely to have the biggest rewards for your final grade. Don’t use this approach dogmatically as there are other factors to consider (mark cut-offs, differences in marginal benefits, etc.). However, this method be a rough way to decide where to put your time.

    3. Reading Emphasis

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    If I asked you to recite your entire textbook from memory, could you do it? Could you do it even with a 50% accuracy rate? In both cases you probably couldn’t. Then how, if you don’t know the words in your textbook, can you pass the class?

    The answer is that some words and meanings are more important than others. Certain ideas are critical, others are supporting details. Some ideas form the foundations and others are just extra facts.

    When reading through a textbook, form a priority of information in your mind. Flag important information, but more importantly, assess the degree of importance. Simply using a highlighter might not be enough if you’re unable to distinguish between an idea that forms the basis for a test and one that only accounts for one question.

    4. What’s the point?

    What should you be able to do/understand after your course is finished? Use this question as a shorthand for prioritizing what needs to be learned. The beauty of this method is that most instructors give you the course purpose on the first day. You don’t even have to look for it!

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    Example: Financial Accounting teaches you to prepare financial statements for shareholders as well as understanding company financial statements.

    From this brief purpose statement, your goal is to connect everything you do to this broader point. Periodically ask yourself how some fact or detail you learn applies to that broader goal. Don’t learn things in isolation, expand and connect with the broader purpose of learning.

    5. Cutting Classes and Skipping Chapters

    I don’t recommend skipping class. But there are exceptions to every rule. I got two A+’s in courses that I only went to a quarter of the classes. I recognized early on that the material covered in class was simply repeating what could be learned in the textbook. Some students benefited from the repeated exposure, but I didn’t.

    Cutting out entire assignments, classes or chapters is normally a bad move in a school setting. Usually the marginal benefit of just showing up exceeds reinvesting the time elsewhere. Instead, most your optimization is about where to place extra time. Where do you put the extra hour when you have several different places to put it?

    If time isn’t an issue for you, then optimizing isn’t necessary. Just finish every project with the same zeal and enjoy the rest of your time off. But most people I know don’t have that luxury. Inevitably you need to make trade-offs. Optimizing often means making choices to aim for A rather than A+.

    More by this author

    How to Motivate Yourself: 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Right Now 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick 18 Tips for Killer Presentations 7 Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks Why Your Free Time is Boring

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    How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain

    How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain

    How often do you think about your brain? Do you ever stop to marvel at its incredible power and supreme cleverness? Or at least check in and give it a little spring clean and a recharge it from time to time?

    If you’re like the majority, then your answer will likely be “no”.

    Astoundingly, we only use around 10% of our brains yet we seldom think to invest in a little training every now and then.

    For a long time, scientists believed that we were stuck with the brain we were born with! Luckily for us, that hypothesis has gone out the window!

    Enter neuroplasticity – a new theory that has proven one very incredible fact: Our brains can change.

    This means, if you’re not very intelligent in one area – that’s OK! You have the option to literally ‘change that area of your brain’ through some little trainings.

    Your brain is a muscle. You need to exercise it regularly.

    The exciting thing is that you don’t have to be a millionaire to increase your brain capacity. All you need to do is invest some time to regularly train your brain.

    So how to increase brain power?

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    Here are 10 simple ways to increase your brain power and improve your intelligence!

    1. Do something new

    When you experience something ‘new’, that actually ‘stimulate’ your brain!

    Don’t get stuck in a rut doing the same old things – the only way to change the structure of your brain is to do something new. This creates new neural pathways, increasing your intelligence level.

    You could take a new route to work, try a new recipe for dinner, or even a new form of exercise – mix them up!

    2. Ditch the GPS

    Gone are the days of map reading! Sat Nav may have made our lives easier, it has also made our brains lazier and less efficient at the same time!

    Go back to the old school and use a map to navigate every now and then. This exercises the part of your brain responsible for understanding spatial relationships.

    3. Ban the calculator

    Remember back at school when we were taught to use our brains to do simple sums like times tables? It’s incredible how we now rely on devices like smart-phones and laptops to calculate really simple equations.

    Resist the urge to work things out using an external device and use the device you were born with – your brain!

    4. Be curious

    Instead of taking everything at face value, get into the habit of questioning everyday things/products, services that you come into contact with.

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    By being ‘curious’ and questioning everything, you force your brain to innovate and create new ideas.

    Curiosity may have killed that cat but it created super important things like electricity and computers!

    5. Think positive

    Stress and anxiety kill existing brain neurons and also stop new neurons from being created.

    Research has shown that positive thinking, especially in the future tense, speeds up the creation of cells and dramatically reduces stress and anxiety.

    Try and get a handle on negative thoughts and make an effort to replace them with positive ones.

    Not sure how to do it? Take a look at this article:

    How to Turn Off Negative Thoughts in Your Mind

    6. Exercise regularly

    It’s been proven that regular exercise helps to increase brain function and enhances neurogenesis. This means that every time you exercise, you are creating new brain cells!

    Here’re 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise, get off the couch and get moving!

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    Your brain will thank you for it.

    7. Train your memory

    How often do you hear people say “I wish I had a better memory!’ Yet no-one does anything about this!

    If you discipline yourself to memorize phone numbers and other important numbers (passport, credit card, insurance, driving license) you will start to see a marked improvement in your memory.

    8. Eat healthy

    Our diets have a HUGE impact on brain function. Our brains consume over 20% of all nutrients & oxygen that we consumed – so remember to feed your brain with the good stuff! (i.e. fresh fruit and veg & plenty of OMEGA 3 oils found in oily fish)

    Here’re more healthy foods that will boost your brain power:

    10 Healthy Foods That Make You Smarter

    9. Read a book

    Reading relieves tension and stress, which is brain-cell killers because it’s a form of escapism.

    Research has also shown that using your imagination is a great way to train your brain because you force your mind to ‘picture’ what you are imagining. Reading is a great way to trigger your imagination!

    Reading every day helps your thinking and imagination, learn more about it here:

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    10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day

    10. Get enough sleep

    Sleep is like a mini detox for the brain. This is when your body regenerates cells and removes all the toxins that have built up during the day.

    Get to bed between the hours of 9pm and midnight to benefit from the most effective hours of sleep!

    If you have difficulty sleeping, you should read this guide:

    The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    An intelligent brain comes from hard work

    If you do take my suggestion and do these things consistently, you’ll soon realize your brain is sharper and you can remember more stuff.

    You don’t need to do everything all at once, pick one to two and start making them your daily habit.

    Intelligence comes from hard work. Make effort to train your brain and you’ll become smarter.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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