Study To Pass Or Study To Learn, That’s The Question

It happens to all of us:

Every self-respecting university student knows that strange sensation of having passed an exam with a good grade, only to realize in a short time that he hardly remembers anything he studied. What was the name of the author of that theory? We wonder in surprise when we try to bring it up a few months after having studied it thoroughly. What did that simple definition says? It is even normal, when we have been studying for several years, that when reviewing old syllabi, we realize that there are complete subjects that, mysteriously, have been erased from our memory. That’s because we don’t study them to learn, but to pass.


These gaps may cause us some discomfort, especially when facing the world of work, but we feel like we don’t have a clue about what we’re supposed to be experts on. Well, don’t worry too much: this happens to all of us. Our memory is selective because the brain is not an infinite hard disk and our memories are organized hierarchically according to interests that are very practical for brain function but, sometimes, little related to our personal interests.

Anyway, when this situation arrives, we should not worry: we can review the subjects that are useful to develop our work and thus we will not forget them. Why? Because we will put them into practice.

We forget what we don’t practice:

If we remembered everything, life would be a torment and we could hardly build a coherent story without making hundreds of secondary references. Every nightmare, every visit to the bathroom, every headache, every kiss, every word in every book… everything, absolutely everything, would be recorded as if we were tape recorders. Obviously, we wouldn’t have friends either.

The important thing is that we know how to search for information sources, that we have the curiosity to expand them and that we know that the more we put into practice a knowledge that we have acquired, the easier it will be to remember it. This is studying to learn. If every day we use a computer program to work, we will hardly arrive on a Monday without knowing how to use it; that simple.

Memory types:

There are people who remember faces, maps, graphics, the order of words in a text or any image automatically. They are people with a facility for visual memory. There are also people who can easily identify voices or find a similar guitar riff in two different songs. They have a facility for auditory memory.

As we have educated ourselves, depending on the use we have given to our knowledge, we will have developed more facility to remember images, sounds, emotions, smells but, even so, the types of memory we have are two: short-term memory and long term. What is important to know is that memory is trainable, so it can be improved.

Study techniques:

As we said, studying to pass is not the same as studying to learn and it is important to take this into account while studying our career. There are very good study techniques to memorize quickly (such as mnemonics or mind maps) but, despite the fact that even years later we can remember the nonsense that we invent to learn, for example, the periodic table, learning is something different.

Studying to pass is relatively easy: we only have to apply the best study techniques and be able to repeat the syllabus a few hours after having read it. The difference between a brilliant student, who will be a brilliant professional later, and another of the bunch is precisely that: that the former has been able, at least in certain subjects, to study to learn.

The rush to study to pass:

The time it takes to prepare an exam depends basically on the memorization and attention skills of each one (and other factors such as what we have attended in class, the quality of our notes, reading ability, text comprehension, luck in the questions etc.) and exam season, with its limited time, stress and lack of sleep is not the best time to try to study to learn. Here you have to memorize.

Studying to learn takes time and interest. And if we have not put it into practice until now, there is always time: we just have to apply a few simple techniques.

Study techniques to learn:

  1. Take an interest in your career

It is important that you turn your studies into a hobby. This is simple when we have chosen a career in a vocational way and much more difficult when we do not like the career we are studying, but everything is in the attitude. You just have to look for what excites us and understand the rest of annoying things (incurable subjects, horrible teachers, annoying schedules) as useful tools to achieve an end. If there is something that we are passionate about, everything will be easier. Strive to find it and make it the center of your learning.

  1. Update your knowledge

Update. Look for the new studies that are being done in your field, see which currents have been discarded and which are the most innovative. Watch the news, read newspapers, find out about everything that may interest your field of study and attend conferences and talks. You will learn new things and do networking.

  1. Discuss and argue

Chat with other students and professionals in your sector and share your thoughts. Get used to debating and arguing your ideas and you will see how enriching it is to be able to discuss them and learn from those of others.

  1. Apply your knowledge in other fields

Use your creativity to think about how what you are studying might apply to issues that are, in principle, unrelated. Train your mind to solve problems by applying old knowledge or seeking to create new theories. With a little practice it will come out automatically.

  1. Read a lot

According to writing agencies they provide affordable ghostwriting services not just recommended books and academic articles, but also using the snowball technique: one reading will lead to another and this to another and so on. Browse bibliographies, footnotes, and any other interesting references to find exciting new reading.

If you can do all this (which is not as much as it seems once you include it in your routines) with at least one group of related subjects, you will not only find enormous pleasure in studying, but you will also stand out a lot, you will It will be very easy to find a job and, even more important, you will enjoy doing what you do and will be happier.

Good learning everyone!

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