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Why Is It Hard To Study for a Test?



Prepping for standardized tests is hard work for any student. Before you can even get down to studying, for a student deciding to write a standardized test, they have to figure out the following buckets:


Bucket 1: Researching the Test


When you decide that you’re going to take a test, for whatever end goal, you are immediately faced with a bunch of questions about the test itself: 

  1. What do I need to know for exam? What content is covered on it? 
  2. How well do I need to know the content? How much detail do I need to remember?
  3. How long is the exam? How many sections are on it? 
  4. Where do I get the content to study for the exams? Which tests do I take?
  5. If I’ve completed a university course in a relevant subject, will it help me?  

These questions shape your test expectations, and how seriously you need to prepare for the test. Let’s say you’re in undergrad., and you’re doing extremely well, and you decide to sit the SAT (people do this!), you probably won’t find yourself in a challenging situation. In contrast, if you’re planning to take the MCAT, the same questions may become daunting. 
For the sake of argument, let’s say you’ve figured all of this out, you now have the second bucket of questions to answer.


Bucket 2: Getting the Content


This bucket is fairly simple, and here you go through the process of getting all the content you need. Before doing this, again you have a bunch of questions to answer: 

  1. Which books should I buy? 
  2. Which tests should I purchase? 
  3. Is some prep. company better than the other?
  4. Should I buy all the content? 
  5. Can I use my university textbooks to study for the test? 

As a consequence of this process, or lack thereof, some people buy a ton of books, others rely on their undergraduate textbooks, and others just go online and download everything they can find. If they didn’t research what the test needs, they’ll likely download everything they can find, or ask their friends, or resort to online forums, and within a month or few find themselves overwhelmed by the content.  

Again, for argument’s sake, let’s say that you’ve gotten this stuff down as well – and you know what you need for the test, you’ve purchased your books, and have the tests you need. Now, you have to get down to studying, right? NopeNot yet.There’s one more bucket to deal with.


Bucket 3: Study Schedule


This is the bucket that almost everyone’s excited about. Some people even love talking about their schedules because just talking about it gives them the chills. So, when they’re making their schedule, they’re faced with another set of questions:  

  1. How much time should you study a day? 4 hours? 6 hours? 8 hours? 16 hours? Sheesh. 
  2. How much time should it take to master a subject? 
  3. What does “Studying 8 hours a day” even mean? What am I supposed to accomplish in this time?
  4. I have work. How do I fit that into my schedule? 
  5. I have to go to the gym every day. How do I fit that into my study schedule? 
  6. Should I use flashcards? Should I make notes? Should I take a zillion practice tests? 

What’s the problem here? It’s easy to overestimate and underestimate the time it will take you to study, and easily be misguided by the public perception of the test. The other problem? People have subjective opinions about what can be accomplished in a day, because they are not aware of what can be done. 

Take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), for example, and you’ll see that people are legitimately scared of studying, and usually students are either working during the day or busy otherwise. From their point of view, it’s a great idea to study for the LSAT during their lunch hour, or to say that when they’re back from work at 5:30 p.m., they can start studying by 6:00 p.m. 

Sounds great – except it’s too unrealistic. Studying for half an hour during a lunch break is rarely useful, and after a full day of work, you need at least an hour to detox and get into the study mindset. What else are they missing? That it takes three to four hours to really get into a flow state (i.e. when you’re focussed on just the prep. and nothing else) which is quintessential to learning. Their plan sounded good, was exciting, but likely won’t pan out as well. 

Obviously, it’s not the case that the latter plan won’t work for anyone – those who develop single-minded focus that they muststart studying in less than an hour after they return from work, and they must finish X things before the night, and they must put in 5-6 hours or straight uninterrupted time, will succeed!     

Similarly, for students who have dedicated their entire summer to studying for the LSAT, might overestimate what they must finish in a given time, and would spend their time doing tests for the first month. It’s great that they have this time, but vagueness of their goal, and often not knowing how much time each section of the test should take, is the Achilles heel in this plan. 

Tangent: Just so you’re aware, we love when you have time to study and you can dedicate your entire day to it. We can take it over from there and walk you through what you need to do! 

Let’s say that you’ve got this all figured out, it’s time to actually start study. If all of this sounded exhausting, trust us – it’s not you. Like I said, preparing to prepare for the test is hard work! 

Tangent: Here’s the worst thing that happens. Students are daunted by this process, and they do the worst thing they can do – resort to Reddit, or Facebook groups, or online blogs that tell you about the test. We’ve had students come to us because they can’t sleep at night because of what they’ve read on there. Is the information on these sites accurate? No! You don’t know the test taker, you don’t know how they studied, how many hours they studied, what they studied, and yet somehow, you’ll believe them when they say that “test was hard” or “The January test is the hardest”. 

Do yourself a favour and don’t even visit these sites. 



Resolving The First Bucket: The Research


We’ve basically done this “homework” for you. Throughout the year, we look over how requirements for a given test and the way students absorb content changes, and we revamp our content to fit those needs. We don’t only know our content, we know you personally. If you’re slacker numero one, then that’s okay – because we know that you are and our strategies morph because of that (unless, obviously, you don’t work at all!). If you’re a genius and can handle your intellectual liquor, then we know this and we’ll give you advanced study techniques. 

Resolving The Second Bucket: The Content


You do not need to purchase any outside content. In fact, their use is in our courses, because they’ll likely make your life a nightmare! We’ve spent sleepless nights deciphering important content from ten different books per subject– holy shit, that’s a lot of work! Not only that, but we’ve also explained it in a way that’s bottom up; for anyone who hasn’t taken the subject before, you need not to worry. 


Resolving The Third Bucket: The Schedule


The third bucket was a bit harder to solve, but we’ve more than succeeded on this one. Before all the technology – before cell phones, computers, and basically electricity – we catered to each student personally, built their schedules, and navigated them through the process, found out what worked and what didn’t work, and found the “difference makers” that led to success. How? We studied students who succeeded, those who failed, those who did so well that we had tears of joy for them, and those who failed so many times and yet persevered until they got it done (#ThatsTrueBravery), and found out what makes students tick, what motivates them, and what is the recipe to their success.

Just so you know: We didn’t need to, because that’s not what you pay us for, but we love it when you succeed, and building a proper schedule for you that you’d followwas an integral part leading up to the success. 

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