“In learning something new, a man improves himself. He either acquires a new skill or becomes more proficient at an old one. In studying, a man acquires new knowledge but this new knowledge need not make any difference to him as a practical man.” – D.C. Lau

Every year, final exams are the same. Some spend hours “cramming” well into the night in an attempt to make sense of material that was never actually understood in the first place. It’s all about doing the least amount of work required to scrape through. Some simply want to be the best they can be. That means doing all it takes to be number one. It also means throwing tantrums and fits whenever assignments are graded unfairly or when the effort doesn’t pay off.

After seeing (and being) both, I really don’t get the obsession with good grades. Yes, it’s important to work hard and strive to do well academically, especially if you’re facing the prospect of not graduating. But focusing on “A’s” as the ultimate end goal is not such a good idea. Fact is, they don’t really matter all that much. Being an honour student won’t necessarily make you happy or successful. It might not even make you rich. Focusing on something else entirely just might. Just look at all the happy dropouts and miserable CEOs. What more proof do you need?

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” – Bertrand Russell

Studying is not about learning actual material. It’s about learning how to learn, a lifetime endeavour that always proves worthwhile. There’s a reason nobody remembers the skeletal system from high school biology or exactly how to work with quadratic equations from calculus class. Those were designed to exercise our minds, not to equip us with conversational titbits. They were designed to help us think laterally, solve problems, and apply the knowledge we acquire in taking actions that will ultimately improve our lives and the lives of others too.

Unfortunately, many institutions don’t feel the same way. They spend tons of time and money in an attempt to boost scores, sometimes in ways that raise an eyebrow or two. And even though their intentions may be noble, they’re not doing us any favours by spewing out silly mnemonics, supplying us with cram notes, or dishing out tips and tricks to boost our reading speed. What they should be doing is teaching. We pay to learn and that’s what they should help us do.

“Why must one have to read books before one is said to learn?” – Confucius

In The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman brings this home by talking about “Globalisation 3.0”. We live in a digital age and technology is rendering careers obsolete every single day. Physical and intellectual capital move freely across our borders, work is outsourced, and hundreds of thousands of people all over the world are competing for your job. The only way to stay relevant is by constantly keeping our minds sharp.

My advice to those facing the prospect of final exams (whenever they may be) would be to stop obsessing over the material and the marks. They don’t matter. What you know will probably become irrelevant any minute now. Instead, spend some time focusing on the learning process. Spend some time “teaching yourself to fish” so you don’t go hungry somewhere down the line. You’ll thank yourself later.

“He who will not reason is a bigot; he who

Author's Bio: 

About Me

I have been an active writer for over a decade and published my first book in August 2007. This marked the start of Varsity Blah, a personal development blog that has now received almost 250,000 hits from over 120 countries worldwide. This article is one of almost 100 posts that were compiled into my upcoming book, which was reviewed on Authonomy.com: “This is some very insightful stuff… The way the book is structured, paired with your capabilities of drawing great narrative, leads this on the right path. This cleanses the mind.”

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Graduating from college with distinctions in financial accounting and classical piano has given me a uniquely creative approach to all I do. As a personal development copywriter, I specialise in creating content on improving health, relationships, finances, and career. This includes writing and editing articles, papers, blog posts, web copy, and much more. My professional background in marketing (as well as my extensive experience as one of the first external bloggers for the World Advertising Research Centre) means I can also provide case studies, company profiles, and whitepapers focused on branding, communications, digital media, and market research.

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