I’m going to let you in on a little secret that not many people know; most accounting students spend FAR more time than they need to studying. If you want to cut your study time in half, then here’s the phrase you need to burn into your memory:
Learn enough to practice, then practice until you UNDERSTAND.
That’s it. That’s the magic phrase. Simple, right?
But like most simple things, it’s not necessarily easy. It’s one thing to know the right thing to do, but it’s another thing entirely to apply it, and apply it consistently so that you save yourself time in the long-run that could be better spent with friends, family and on your hobbies.
The Big Mistake - Relying on the Textbook
OK. So, let me unpack this personal study mantra for you to make it crystal clear, so that you know how to apply this to your own study.
Most students spend maybe 70-80% of their time reading through dense textbooks to grasp theory. Only after they’ve spent many weeks passively half-understanding 500+ pages of dry text do they even think about testing themselves to see if they truly understand the subject. The problem is at this stage most of what they barely grasped to start with is half-forgotten!
THIS IS BACK TO FRONT!
A Better Way
Instead of spending 80% of your time reading text with maybe 20% dedicated to question practice at the end, you want to flip that.
Spend MOST of your study time instead actually practicing questions and exercises and a little bit of time just grasping the basics of the theory. Just enough so that you’re able to attempt questions in the first place.
Perfection is NOT the aim here! The desire to be perfect only leads us to procrastinate instead of acting.
Be Like Google!
Take a leaf out of Google’s book. They famously release products in “beta” version i.e. less than perfect products, and later on iterate and add to them over time. Eventually, after many versions, they end up with a product that is exceptionally good.
Smart study is much the same: you test yourself BEFORE you feel ready. And the act of testing yourself on an ongoing basis leads you to recognise where you’re weak, so you know what parts of a course require more investigation and improvement.
You then go back and dive into more depth on your weak areas, so that the next test you sit is better, and so on.
What a Better Study Session Looks Like
So, the next time you sit down to study here’s what you can do.
Watch a video on the topic you’re currently working on, making sure to take your own notes in your own words on the key points. Then, even if you don’t fully understand, take some questions to test what you know.
Why start with video and not the textbook? There are two good reasons:
Video engages more of your senses, which neuroscientists and psychologists know is beneficial to learning and retention
Video is quicker. A good tutor has likely taught the theoretical point many times before and is likely to be able to explain it in as few words as possible and in plain English
Of course, you need to be sure that the tutor actually knows what he or she is talking about! So, make sure your tuition provider has top notch tutors.
Use the Textbook for Weaknesses
So, once you’ve watched the video lecture and taken your first test, only then should you turn to the text to go deeper on your weak areas. You need to be selective here, and focus only on the parts of the chapter that are causing you uncertainty.
Then once you’ve read up on your weak areas…you’ve guessed it! You test yourself. You’re likely to do better second time round.
You repeat that process until you’re scoring really well.
So, summing up:
use the text as a reference, rather than as the main learning tool
draw on the knowhow of an excellent teacher, who can explain things more simply and faster than a textbook
put your learning into your own words via the notes you take. You can even go further and explain the concepts you’re learning about to fellow students
MOST IMPORTANTLY: test yourself repeatedly and go deep on your weaknesses until there are none left. This is where most of your effort should go
The end result of this “always in beta” approach to study?:
less time spent studying
more engaging study sessions