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When to self-study? Why self-study?

how to study self study study habits study smart Feb 21, 2024
Self study - When? Why?

If you are a high school, college, or university student, the two questions in the subject line above must have crossed your mind at least once. Rightly so, these are valid questions. Irrespective of your age, grade, or discipline, if you are a student, you need to know why self-studying is important and when to do it. But first of all, let's understand what self-studying is.

Self-studying is simply the process of dissecting what you learn in class into small pieces of information that your brain can comprehend and store in a manner it can recall the same with ease when you want to do so. Your teacher or supervisor would use different methods to deliver the lecture using different aids and means. This can include tools such as lecture slides, tutorials, case studies, etc. However, you need to understand that your brain might or might not engross what your teacher teaches in that exact manner of delivery. For example, you might be a visual learner. Therefore, for you, a pictorial summary of the concept you learned in class might work better than cramming through a 20-page case study or a 60-slide PowerPoint. There might be someone else who learns with the ear. For them, cutting classes should never be an option. They need to stay for the lecture, learn things then and there as the teacher explains things, or at least listen to a recording of the lecture. I had a friend in the university who hardly cut any lectures because he had a thing where he learned everything in class and hardly crammed in the days leading to the exams. The point is, that you need to find what works best for you and deliver what you learn "via that way that works the best for you" to your brain. This is the process of self-studying.

The explanation above lays a good ground to answer the second question in the subject line. Why self-study? Because you want to store what you learn in your brain most optimally. Now, to the first question; when to self-study? This again, depends on the person. But as a thumb rule, any self-study would be efficient when you are rightly challenged. This means that you are not too comfortable thinking that you have so much time for your exam, nor do you think you do not have any time and you are going to fail anyway. The two scenarios above are extremes. In the first scenario, you will just do some revision, close the book, and play a video game or do a TikTok. In the second scenario, your mind will have given up on the task at hand rather than focus on it. So the right balance for you is an experiment that you need to do with you. When you are rightly challenged, meaning the amount of content you have to cover is just about right given the time you have for it, then your mind would be geared to optimize. You would skip everything irrelevant and not bother to look at every slide, or every page in the PowerPoint/tutorial, but would pay attention to the important bits and summarize them in a way that works best for you. Think about a time you scored great in an exam and retrospect what you did for that mark. You would have effectively self-studied at someplace.

This does not undermine continuous daily studying. What this article tells you is even if you study daily, weekly, or monthly, whatever that frequency is, it needs to happen in the most optimal way for you. Finding that optimal way is a time-consuming task. Only those who would seek would find.



I am Kalindu Somatilaka, an educator located in Toronto, Canada. I help the younger generation to uncover their academic potential and prepare them to face real-life problems by helping them study efficiently and effectively.