Remaining Competitive in Academia

When I was still an university student, there were many people much more academically inclined than myself. Many of these academic elites came from wealthy families with the perfect academic upbringings. Given an identical amount of effort into studying, they would run circles around myself in academic performance.

So my solution to remain competitive was to not out-study them, but to outsmart them- so that each unit of my study effort was utilized more effectively than theirs. Academia was like the gym, where both technique and willpower were important,  both required, and each useless without the other.

For example, some professors wrote their exam questions in a certain style and tested almost exclusively out of certain lecture notes, despite preaching the study of all course materials together. I analyzed the patterns in exam questions and where they came from, and maximized my efforts in relevant materials while shifting attention away from irrelevant ones.

Study techniques were important too.  I found that writing materials and thoughts out on-paper and being able to teach a fellow colleague them was a much more effective study technique instead of blindly reading over notes and doing occasional questions.

I also analyzed exam questions in the past and produced my own test questions based on possible variations of each question. A very simple theoretical example:

If a, b, c are true, but d false, then how is x affected?

Would become:

If a, b, c are false, but d true, then how are x and y affected?

Then, I wrote a couple hundred questions out on blank paper from multiple course topics and variations, and answered my self-produced test questions. If I had time, I would make photocopies to have more problems to practice with. Sometimes, I would time myself and repeat questions to optimize my exam-writing performance.

There were also other obvious advantages to produce during study sessions, such as keeping electronics away, staying out of the house, and using quiet areas.

 

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