Studying Advice

One of our readers came up with a great idea for a post and we’re answering the question immediately. Many people are likely young and in college trying to learn the ropes as quickly as possible. The format will be best served for people in college but you can certainly change it to focus on any topic you like. With that in mind lets get to work.

Find the Right Teacher: While this can be an entire 3,000+ word topic alone, we’re going to keep comments here at a minimum. Finding the right teacher simply means “find someone who walks the walk”.

This is best served in examples…

Are you going to take financial advice from someone who is not even a millionaire in his 30s? Of course not.

Are you going to take fitness advice from someone who is out of shape? Of course not.

Are you going to take pick up advice from someone who is significantly better looking than you? Of course not.

Cut the garbage out and find the best teacher you can with the 80/20 rule in mind. Three steps.

1) Does he have what you want? Yes.

2) Did he have less resources than you? Yes.

3) Did he earn it himself? Yes.

Then you’re good to go. If they do not pass this test, you know what to do “Smile, Nod, Agree… Delete contact and explain that you are a Manager at McDonalds… so he never contacts you again”. With the teacher out of the way lets get to work.

No Distractions: The easiest way to improve your studying habits is to get rid of all distractions. This means you do not text on your cell phone, you do not rev up the instant messaging system on your laptop and you do not bring any entertainment objects (magazines, hand held games and otherwise). Instead you focus on absorbing the information at hand. If you had the opportunity to meet your idol (Warren Buffet, Wayne Gretzky, Muhammad Ali, etc.) the last thing you would do is get on your phone to text message your friends about the next party you’re going to attend. Treat a meaningful class in the exact same manner.

The no distractions rule applies to meeting someone you respect as well. If you’re more interested in your phone than talking to the person in front of you, the implied message is that they are of lower value than you. Stop wasting your time *and* his, move on.

Does the Class Matter? Do the Minimum. To avoid confusion, being locked in and focused for class only applies to the ones that matter. Ethnic studies? Sociology? Yep… you guessed it… they do not matter. Practically every single general education course is a waste of your time so the best bet is to do the minimum to maintain your 3.5+ GPA. Focus on what matters in obtaining an A- or better. Their political affiliation. All you need to do is agree with their main points, highlight a few touching sentences from the curriculum and walk out of there with a solid grade. If you want to ensure that you obtain an A-, find out who is grading the tests and be sure to show up to their office hours a couple of times. If you go to a large university, you no longer have to go to class (friend(s) will sign you in for attendance). You’re welcome!

If you are forced to go to class (small university)? PDF the work from your more important classes and take notes, they will not know that you are studying for a different course.

Create a Physical Connection: Now that you’re out of the classroom, only attending the courses that matter and doing the minimum in the ones that do not, you should develop habits to improve your memory. The best way to create a physical connection between the material and your memory is by 1) writing information down with an actual pencil/pen and 2) eating similar foods with each topic. While the first part seems quite easy the second one may seem tedious. The quickest way to trick your mind is by buying 2-3 different types of gum. Chose gum type 1 for class 1, etc. You won’t take more than 4-5 courses in a quarter/semester and chances are only 2-3 of them will matter in the first place.

If you want scientific studies on how eating similar food (or chewing gum) improves memory you can do the work yourself. Or even better, just do it and watch it work on your own mind and body. Yes, you should also chew the same gum type during your exams or even in class.

(Side note: yes drinking the same beverage works as well)

Fifteen and Five: This is a solid ratio for studying. If you’re a relatively fast reader the goal is to read/consume information for 15 minutes and spend the next 5 minutes writing the biggest takeaways. As mentioned above, typing does not count. Write down the main items (formulas, concepts, theories) onto a notepad and reflect for 2-3 minutes. Repeat this until you feel like you are no longer able to focus. Once you hit “the wall” or you feel that you understand the material, switch tasks entirely. Our recommendation is to hit the gym.

Flags Not Highlights: Do not waste your time with a highlighter. When you see a concept or item you wish to recall, underline it and flag the page with a written note. Having a 100 page document with highlighted items will not help. You will be forced to remember why you highlighted the sentence in the first place. Make it easier by picking up a few post its and naming the page “Duration Explanation” or “Game Theory Example” are going to be much easier to refer to when you go through the book.

Ever wonder why it is hard to find a specific “section” even though you remember highlighting it before? Now you know.

Real Life Connections: If you are having a hard time remembering a concept you just learned, attempt to apply it to real life. Keep a simple note card in your pocket with items you continuously get wrong and remind yourself to try and find a connection in your day to day life. Unfortunately we cannot do this part for you as you need to come up with the connection yourself. Positively, a good example would be the application of economic or financial concepts. Simply pick up a business magazine (or WSJ etc.) and try to apply any new concept you learned to an article. In the worst case scenario, none apply and you simply learned more about the latest transactions.

Teach the Topic: In our article on sales we explained that it is always significantly harder to Sell something than it is to Buy something. This is because it takes less information to understand something than it does to teach something. If the class is important and the topic is important for your future, find someone to teach. You will learn more about the topic by forcing yourself to teach the material. By helping the person learn the material, you’re going to have a better understanding yourself.

(Hint: now you know why this blog is alive)

Cramming: At this point you should know the material pretty well, despite what they say, cramming certainly does work. If there are certain concepts you are having trouble internalizing and the test is around the corner, simply memorize the examples/formulas with no application. It is always better to get partial credit on any exam and have perfect examples lined up than to get a 0 on the question.

You can read between the lines here. You’re going to do quite a bit of cramming for the classes that are irrelevant to your future. All you need to do in the meaningless classes is regurgitate the opinion of the grader. While it will take a lot of willpower to write down information you do not believe in… better to get high grades and get rich than die poor.

Recap: There you have it, a quick list of items to follow in order to improve your studying habits. 1) find good teachers, 2) focus only on the topic at hand, 3) cut out material that is not applicable to improving your life, 4) make a physical connection with eating/drinking, 5) 15 mins consume/ 5 minutes write, 6) flags not highlights, 7) real life application, 8) teach the topic and 9) cramming is fine.

Some Final Thoughts: To be clear here, we’re not wavering from our initial opinion on college (only go if you can generate a return and only go if you can attend an elite university). The entire post assumes that you’re going to a college ranked in the top 20 or so in the USA.

Second, you can apply this same logic if you are already out of college. Play the same game as above. Make sure you’re listening to someone of value. Take notes, avoid wasting their time and if you can help them out in any small way… Do it.

Finally, as we have warned many many times in the past… When you decide to study/learn from someone, make sure it flies a little bit against the grain/consensus. If the masses are impressed by it, you know it is a set up for a con. The masses are impressed by $100K (can’t even live in a major city), quick fixes (diet pills that ruin their health) and of course entertainment (study for rate of return not for Snapple facts).

Good luck gentlemen! Hopefully, this answers the question!


    • Wall Street Playboys says

      Final exams should be prioritized to maximize your gpa. This usually does not mean many adjustments.

      You simply cram the last 48 hours for each test. If you have two on Tuesday and two on Thursday. You cram from sunday to Monday on the first two and tues to thursday on the second two.

      After a long cram session, you’ll know if you understand the material or not. Items you can’t understand, simply regurgitate as noted above. Better to get half credit than a zip!

  1. @frenchdna says

    You’ve heard this many times but i wish i had this information about a decade earlier…

    Interestingly i find myself doing part of these things unconsciously. Now i know how to go deeper into it.

    Also, never heard of a connection between drinking/eating the same food and memory. I’ll take your word on that (you’ve proven enough) and will apply immediately.

    • Wall Street Playboys says

      Awepsme let us know how it goes and report back! It’s easier to notice if you’re a college student you’ll feel sharper during the exam.

      Post college, try it on books/new material you need for business etc.

  2. William says

    Good advice, especially with the physical connection thing. Very interesting technique, I’ll have to give it a shot.

  3. Lazer says

    Quality post. Having a tablet and loading all your notes on it and then pacing around works wonders. Also Ive seen benefits from listening to Theta Waves while studying.

    Ive experimented with Noopept and still retain the information from all night cramming sessions after taking the tests, with negligible declines. Its unscheduled in the US and relatively cheap (500 doses costs about $10)

    • Wall Street Playboys says

      Have no idea what those two items are (theta waves) and (noopept).

      If you see this would like to hear about theta waves, less so on the drug recommendation.

    • Wall Street Playboys says

      This is a small regret. You should keep your notes. Not all of them.

      When you take your final exam you should have ~5-10 pages that explain the core concepts in a simple manner. Keep those notes in a binder, or in your personal journal. Now you have the main ideas in one spot and having your own personal notes will make it easier to recall the important ideas.

  4. x man says

    So for the readers who went to bad universities, what next? Or if you can’t get into a top one so you don’t go, what do those guys do?

  5. PermanentGuest says

    The point on teaching the material to learn it is the best. I’ve used that with subjects I didn’t even understand. Before the exam, I was teaching all of my classmates.

    Would also add the following:

    -Go to office hours regularly. As noted, your professors could have a goldmine of information that they withhold from the class for various reasons. Spend some time talking to them, and a natural connection will follow.
    -Do more than the minimum if you have grad school set in your sights. However, I wouldn’t recommend an elite (read: overly expensive) uni if you’re looking for a grad degree. Your undergrad will be largely irrelevant unless you’re at a top ivy league.

    • Wall Street Playboys says

      Solid advice there. The real key for office hours is 1) to find out who is grading the test so they recognize your name and 2) to see if the person is legitimately someone you should listen to.

      If it’s a useless humanities course, just become buddy buddy with the grader and ignore all of their life advice since they are unsuccessful people. If you find out that your professor (different class of course) is actually well established and wealthy, you just found a potential mentor. Yet another reason to attend a top university

  6. Tyler says

    Using all of this advice, if I have 4 final exams in a course of three days and I wanted to start studying now, would it be smarter to study 2 subjects one day then the next 2 the next day and repeat or study a little of all of them everyday? Finals start dec 16

  7. El Pollo says

    Question on creating a physical connection. Should we chew the same gum both during class and while studying? I don’t really chew gum often that is why I am asking.

  8. Anonymous says

    Do US based investment banks hire people who graduated from a prestigious university overseas, for example University of Oxford? This is coming from an European high school student.

    • xoxoxoxoxox says

      I made this mistake in high school, so I’ll tell what you should do instead of asking others.

      1. Make a LinkedIn Account

      2. Search for Oxford grads and count how many went into wall street


      3. Reach out students who have interned in Wall Street from Oxford and ask them how the process was for them.

      **relying on internet forums or your friends is a waste. Get advice from people that have already done it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.