January 27, 2016
Most people who struggle in school despite working hard simply aren’t making the effort to fully understand the material on an intuitive level. Rote memorization is not learning. You need to make the effort to actually understand the material. Anybody who does this will not get poor grades (unless maybe you’re taking a PhD course in theoretical physics).
A common problem is that people often don’t realize when they don’t understand something. Trying to explain something out loud like you’re explaining it to somebody else is the best and easiest way to gauge whether or not you actually understand something. If you fail, you’ll know you don’t get it. If you succeed, then you might notice that you understand it better.
I went from getting mediocre grades to straight A’s, and I attribute that mostly to putting in the effort to intuitively understand the material, and trying to explain things out loud was a technique I regularly used to ensure that I understood the information.
Disclaimer: I majored in math. What worked for me is unfortunately going to be less applicable to memorization-heavy subjects like biology.
I recommend checking out Cal Newport’s blog for more advice.
Remember to work smarter. One mistake I made was just working too much, often inefficiently. All hours of work aren’t equal. Make sure you’re working efficiently so that you have more time to do other things. Don’t lose sight of your goals.
Written by Jeremy Bernier who left the NYC rat race to travel the world, work remotely, and find the meaning of life.