Learn My Winning Study Method (Part 2)

Now you’re ready to roll. You’ve prepared well for your exam (using what you learned about my winning study method in my last post) and are supremely confident in your ability to perform. But wait—there are still a few pointers that will help during your exams!

 Often you’ll have essay tests where you answer several preassigned questions or where you’ll have a choice in answering some subset of questions. If you’re given the potential questions ahead of time, keep them in mind while you review. On the night before the exam, identify which questions you’re most comfortable with and develop a bullet point list of answers. I often used acronyms of key terms to help me remember the main points.


 The next key step happens when you actually receive your exam. Peruse the essay questions. Answer the easiest one first and the hardest last. Many students answer the questions in same the sequence provided by the professor but panic when the first question is difficult. By answering the easiest questions first, you’ll be able to contemplate the more difficult questions in the meantime. It’s multi-tasking at its best! By the time you answer the most difficult question, you’ll have had the maximum amount of time to consider it while you wrote your answers to the other questions.

 Finally, when answering essay questions, be aware that professors look for key words or phrases when they grade. I always made it a point to include as many key words/concepts as I could in a given essay. If the test asks for you to list five key aspects, I’d give them at least eight. This gives you an extra cushion in case your terms don’t exactly correspond to your professor’s.


 After your exam, you’ll want to analyze your performance and make mid-course corrections for next time. Study your wrong answers to see what you could have done differently. Then, modify your methods accordingly.


 Be sure to ask the professor for help when necessary. If I struggled with exams or concepts, I made a beeline to his/her office. Remember, you and your parents are paying big bucks to attend college. You’re perfectly entitled to take your professors’ time! This is especially important in cumulative subjects like math. Otherwise, you’ll be digging a deeper and deeper ditch.

 College academics are tougher than those in high school, but they’re not impossible. Perhaps the biggest adjustment is the need for better organization and discipline. Whether or not you adopt this study method, the basic principles do work. Good luck!

Are you disciplined and organized when it comes to your study method?  What works for you? In what areas do you need to improve? Share your ideas and questions with us; we’d love to hear from you!


Learn My Winning Study Method (Part 1)

Are you—or is someone close to you—going off to college soon? It’s a big step that requires careful planning because it’s a whole different world than high school.

I want to tell you about a study method that took this 2.85 first-year college GPA to a 3.97 Valedictorian GPA at graduate school. Seriously! (And I don’t say that to brag, only to say that if it’s possible for me, it’s possible for anyone.) As I progressed through my academic career, here’s what I learned: How you prepare is just as important as your innate intelligence. (I have no other explanation for my academic transformation.)

This study method primarily involves test taking and preparation and is more applicable to courses that are more exam-oriented than papers-oriented. It’s designed to help you become supremely confident as you enter and take exams. Here are the elements of my approach:

1.    Know your audience. In college, your audience is the professor who will be grading you. Many college students fear their professors and hesitate to seek help when needed. Don’t be that way. They’ll appreciate your visit.


      A key topic to know is the relative importance of lecture content versus assigned readings. Professors vary widely in this area. Many focus their exams on lecture content (almost to the point where you wonder why you did your readings!) while others focus on the book (making you wonder why you bothered attending class!). It also pays to talk with other students who previously had that professor, to get their input. There’s no substitute for having the “inside scoop.”

2.     Take detailed notes. I experienced a rude awakening while taking my first Cultural Anthropology exam. I bombed it because I never expected the professor to test in such detail. Unfortunately, until you take your first exam from each professor, you really don’t know how detailed the test questions will be. I learned my lesson the hard way and radically changed my note taking to become excruciatingly detailed. I ran through more notebook paper that way, but rarely missed a question on account of detail!

3.     Highlight while you read. One of the secret ingredients of my study method is the generous use of highlighters, so much so that I call my approach the “rainbow highlighter method.” As you read your textbook, start with a yellow highlighter and highlight everything you feel is important that you would probably not remember after just one reading. Don’t bother highlighting a sentence or point if you’re confident that you understand it and can recall it on an exam. After your first pass, you might have as much as half a page highlighted, but that’s okay.

4.     Complete all assigned reading four days before the test date. This will enable you to spend the ensuing time reviewing your material and preparing for the test. No last minute cramming allowed!

5.     Develop your study schedule. This involves estimating how many study hours it will take to achieve an excellent result. Determining the amount of hours is an inexact science, but the bottom line is you’re better off overestimating than underestimating.

Once you’ve estimated your required study time, assign review hours into your daily schedule. Generally speaking, for midterms and finals, you should plan on studying over a four-day period for each exam. In building my schedule, I would work backwards from the exam date. My objective was always to complete my review by the night before the exam. For example, if my test was on Friday, I would start my review on Monday. That would give me the four days of review I required. Then, it was simply a matter of assigning my study hours to those days, taking into account my class schedule, activities, and the like.

6.     Review your study material (textbook and notebook) using the “rainbow highlighter method.” Here’s how it works: Let’s assume your exam covers five chapters of material. Start your review with the first chapter, rereading the yellow highlighted portion from your initial reading. Because this will be your second reading of that material, your ability to understand and recall it will be twice as good (remember, it’s all about reps!). However, there still may be detail or concepts you might not feel totally confident in “regurgitating” if you took the exam tomorrow. In other words, you’d feel more confident with at least one more look. Simply take a different color highlighter (e.g., lime green) and highlight those sentences you would like to review again tomorrow.

Repeat this process again the next day using yet a different color (e.g., orange), but only reread the yellow-green section. You’re now reading this information for the fourth time, highlighting in orange any sentences you want to read again tomorrow. This will be yet a further reduction in the amount you need to reread.

You can see how your confidence grows and grows as the amount of material you highlight shrinks and shrinks. At the end of your review period, you’ve used several different highlighted colors and seen the most difficult material four to five times. This degree of repetition has a powerful impact on your ability to recall the material—not to mention your confidence as you enter the exam! Confidence is king!

How would you describe your study method? Does it prevent cramming and allow for greater focus on material you don’t understand as well? Are you able to efficiently prepare for multiple exams in a short period of time?



Adversity Can Be Preparation for Greater Things

I spent last Sunday on the edge of my seat, watching the Masters. I was thrilled to see Australia’s Adam Scott take the prize under extraordinary pressure. What an honor for him to be a first time Masters’ winner AND the first Aussie to claim that title! It was especially heartening after his devastating loss at the Open Championship last summer—when he bogeyed his last four holes to hand the Claret Jug to a shocked Ernie Els. It just goes to prove that when you get knocked down, you don’t have to stay down. And, that an even bigger prize might be just around the corner.


One of life’s greatest adventures is seeing what becomes of our trials. It may take years for us to realize it, but our toughest times might be preparation for something better. Periods of adversity don’t always turn out rosy, but it happens more often than you’d think. You just don’t know it while you’re living through it.

We saw another classic example of this in Louisville’s dramatic Elite Eight victory over Duke. During the game, star guard Kevin Ware suffered a gruesome leg break that left other players and bystanders in tears, some literally gasping for breath and composure at the sight. In the gut-wrenching aftermath, Kevin kept repeating, “Go win it, go win it.”


 And, win it they did. After regaining their composure, the Cardinals delivered a second half performance for the ages, beating the Blue Devils 85-63. They would go on to win it all with an incredible victory against Michigan…with Kevin Ware offering inspiration from the bench. The victim became the encourager.


 When you’re experiencing a personal trial, it pays to consider that some good might come of it. In fact, it’s one of the most profound lessons I’ve learned through the years—some of our toughest times might be preparation for something better. Consider these real life examples:

  • My wife’s health challenges have prepared her to mentor others
  • Blowing my calculus final made me aware of my math limitations and motivated me to select a different (and better fitting) major
  • A difficult investment performance period taught me important lessons about humility and how to service clients in tough situations
  • The employer who didn’t hire me conducted massive layoffs in the next year
  • If my former girlfriends hadn’t broken up with me, I wouldn’t have married my wife!

 These are but a few examples of life’s lemons turning into lemonade.


Don’t let adversity cause you to lose your edge. Remember, sometimes our greatest wins come from enduring our greatest challenges!


Consider some of the major life trials you’ve experienced. Are you able to see some good that came out of those periods? Can you think of people you know who have experienced significant adversity? How has it shaped them for the better? Share your questions and experiences with our online community by commenting below; we’d love to hear your thoughts!

New! Financial Literacy Posters

We have some exciting news to share! LifeSmart Publishing has partnered with the creative genius at Learning ZoneXpress to develop an innovative poster series: Secrets to Money Management.


This cleverly designed four-poster set shares financial wisdom from What I Wish I Knew at 18, equipping your students with these “real world” success principles:

·       Be a Skillful Earner (career choice and becoming a workplace MVP)

·       Be a Smart Spender and Disciplined Saver (allocating your money wisely)

·       Be a Trusted Borrower (living within your means and building positive net worth)

·       Be a Careful Planner (setting goals and investing early)


We think learning about money should be fun! So, adorn your business/personal finance/CTE/FCS/life skills classrooms with these witty and wise posters, and watch your students take these lessons to heart.  


Attractively priced at $49.95, the Secrets to Money Management poster set is just a click away!



Suffering from Senioritis?


se·nior·i·tis noun se-nyer-‘i-tis: an ebbing of motivation and effort by school seniors as evidenced by tardiness, absences, and lower grades.
Sound familiar? I know at this stage in my senior year I had a bad case of it! We all did. After all, we were on the homestretch, and most of us had made our college or career decisions by now. So, it was pretty easy to rationalize slacking off at school. But, decades later (and hopefully wiser), I can now look back with a different perspective.
If you have (or are) a high school senior, you know just what I’m talking about. So here’s a thought about why it’s a good idea to stay the course and finish STRONG.
After graduation, students will find themselves in many situations, especially involving college and career, where finishing strong after a long, arduous effort will make or break their success. As life goes on, the stakes will only get higher!
Success requires planning, practice, and perseverance. Compare your daily productivity with and without a “to do” list and you’ll see what I mean. Trust me, there is a lot of goal setting in college and career!
However, goals can only be achieved through discipline and effort. That’s why if college is the next step, this involves developing great study habits. College academics are much more rigorous and the competition is tougher. My 3.8 high school GPA quickly became a 2.85 in my freshman year of college! It was demoralizing, but eventually I figured it out and would later become Valedictorian of my MBA program. Same brain, different study habits! (ref: chapter 7 in What I Wish I Knew at 18).
Seniors are about to enter the most amazing six months of change in their lives. They’ll be saying “Hello” to their future with more freedom and responsibility than ever before. Encourage them that this is their time to finish strong and launch their future well. With planning, practice, perseverance, and patience, they’ll knock it out of the park. It’s there for the taking.
Do you have – or know someone with – a classic case of senioritis?  It’s that time of year! What are some of your ideas for overcoming it and finishing strong? Share them with our online community; we’d love to hear from you!

Grow Your Wealth Patiently

You’ve all seen the ads, “Get rich quick!” The implication is that, with little effort or investment, you can become wealthy overnight.
Not so fast.
In life, patience is a virtue. In building wealth, it’s an absolute necessity! It means starting early (so time is on your side), investing as much as you can (so you have more money working for you), and adopting a globally diversified, long-term strategy (so you avoid the pitfalls of market timing). Most studies show that the average investor loses about two percent (2%) per year to lousy timing decisions! That’s a wealth destroyer you’ll want to avoid.           
Bear in mind that a key component in this process is TIME. Inexperienced investors often succumb to get rich quick schemes and hot stock tips. They buy at the top, after the big gains have already occurred and just before the stock plunges. However, just because a stock or a mutual fund had a great run last year doesn’t mean it will have a repeat performance again this year. In fact, often last year’s biggest winners become this year’s biggest losers because they became overpriced.    
Here are some smart tips for investing wisely and growing your wealth patiently:

  • Regularly invest in a diversified, long-term strategy rather than chase yesterday’s winners or engage in market timing. Begin by establishing an automatic monthly investment program as soon as you receive your first paycheck.
  • Resist taking more risk after strong market gains and taking less risk (panic selling) after major market losses. Remember, it’s “buy low, sell high” not the reverse! Understand that markets peak when the economy is great and they trough when the news is bleak.
  • Avoid overly concentrating your investments in a few stocks or market segments (e.g., technology). The market has a ruthless way of humbling the overconfident investor!  
  • As a rule of thumb, no stock should represent more than 10-15% of your assets. That way, if things don’t pan out, you’ll still have the other 85-90% working for you.
  • Remember to diversify across different asset classes to reduce your risk and beat inflation. Too many people put all (or none) of their assets in stocks and live to regret it.

Do you see the value in building your wealth patiently rather than turning to get rich quick schemes or trading and chasing investments? Have you had some experiences with this you can share with our online community?  Questions you’d like to ask? We’d love to hear from you!