‘Study smarter not harder’ is a term that many of us seem to hear, but don’t always understand the full concept of this popular phrase. This phrase is hyped massively, and encourages students to follow its basic guidelines to ensure they get the most out of their studying, and find their full potential. However, I feel like this can also be a very damaging ideology, and should be carefully considered when reorganising your studying schedule.
The phrase essentially encourages you to change your attitude towards studying to make sure that you get the most from your time and retain as much information as you can. However, the main element that makes this such a popular notion is that it encourages you to retain as much information as possible in a condensed amount of time. No, I’m not talking about cramming; cramming for exams is 100% not recommended. Many of us are made to feel like the success of our revision is defined by how much of it we do, whereas actually it is as simple as quality of revision not quantity (wow, I sound like my mum!)
Psychological studies have even been done in favour of this mindset to show its benefits, and suggests that we would be more successful if we did eight 30-minute sessions of distraction-free revision a day, with a 15-20 minute gap between each, than if we did six consecutive hours with no break. The brain tires easily, and is thought to actually require more energy to recall and revise information we already vaguely know than learning brand new information, based on new information being more interesting.
‘Study smarter not harder’ has many beneficial, great pieces of advice. It encourages you to maximise your work space by clearing all distractions, having everything you need presented and stored in an organised manner, and also encourages a change of scene now and again to keep you pro-active and reduce fatigue. It also encourages the use of methods such as splurging, mind-mapping and flashcards long before practicing essay writing or practice questions, because these shorter, more condensed forms of information are easier for the brain to digest, and thus retain.
Many StudyTubers enforce this idea and show how we can be smarter and more efficient in our studies to achieve the top grades, like many of them do. However, this is where I feel this can be a damaging ideology for some people. Surprisingly, studying has a lot of stigma around it; you get slagged off for not studying and being a layabout, you get slagged off for doing revision and being a nerd, and we are constantly forced to define the outcome of our future on some grades on a piece of paper; and worst of all, we constantly compare our success to others.
Some subjects are simply not designed for a ‘study smarter not harder’ philosophy. As someone who did Art BTEC, GCSE drama, and both film and media at GCSE and A Level, not all subjects benefit from this. Some of them require hours upon hours of fine-detailed working, and they cannot be condensed.. A large proportion of the grade is determined by your practical production of work, not by your retention of information; you can’t put BTEC Art onto a flashcard because the whole thing is practical-based. We need to make sure we study not only in a way that suits our personal advantages, but what suits our topic of study too. Most StudyTubers study subjects such as Sciences, English and Maths, which are easy to condense, and do not take the long hours it does to plan, film and edit a 5-minute video. I am not saying either is better than the other, however the strong encouragement of ‘study smarter not harder’ as the key to success can be damaging for other people who cannot apply this idea, and are left feeling like they’re cut-off from success.
Check out Kesgrave student Chloe’s StudyTube channel; as an art student, she highlights the importance of taking this ideology with a pinch of salt, and shows how sometimes success comes from long, gruelling hours of work; but it always pays off!