About Speed Studying and Science versus Personal Opinions

We remember Harald Eia’s TV-show, Brainwash. Harald Eia established that, to a high degree, much of the science in gender research, sociology and similar, are all really personal opinions. On that note, I would like to tell a story from 2005:

For a period of time I memorized a few too many decks of cards, and decided I had to change things up. I then decided to memorize something more useful. I signed up for a class at the university, in subjects I knew nothing about. The idea was to study two to four days. Nothing more, no lectures. During these days I was to get an overview of the curriculum and memorize.

One of the classes I speed studied was women and gender theory. This was a social science study worth 15 points, with theories from, amongst others, Simone de Beauvoir and Sigmund Freud. Trine Evjensvold and I were to start reading two days before the exam. But Trine was busy the first day, so we weren’t able to start until the final day before the exam. It is impossible to cover the entire curriculum in such a short amount of time. Instead we read the summary written by Idunn Litlere, a student from the previous year. The objective was to remember as much as possible from the summary. We read, came up with key words and associations, visualized and repeated. This is one of the hardest classes I have studied. The content was very abstract, and I struggled to find the meaning. I always felt that one should understand the knowledge accumulated, so it became a little tedious to memorize without fully knowing what it meant. The meaning might have been there had I gone to the lectures, but this thickened the plot. Is it possible to pass an abstract class without knowing what it all really means?

The exam was the next day. I sat down in the middle of the room, peeled a clementine and sharpened my pencil. All I needed to do was to make sense and show what I knew. A few months passed before we got our grades. Both Trine and I got Ds. We were very pleased. I contacted the grader, out of curiosity, to ask for a grade explanation. She called me a few days later. She wondered if I had read the current curriculum. “I was given a summary from a friend who took the class last year.”

”Ok, because there is a new text about Irigaray this year, it is more specific.”

“What is good about the paper?”

“You have many valid points, you have a certain insight, and you present it in an ok manner. You have a lot of contents, the paper is long. It shows that you have worked hard, but at the same time it is messy and unclear. But the paper is substantial.»

«Thank you.»

“You show understanding, but are unable to utilize the knowledge to make comparisons.”

“Anything else that was good?

“No, but it is remarkable that you managed as well as you did based on an old curriculum”

Speed studying can be a fun challenge. You learn new things you normally wouldn’t learn, and you earn money if you take more study points than normed. However, speed studying should be used sparingly. Do not speed study your basic classes. The drawback of using speed study is that you might miss out on important information. The deepest knowledge will be achieved by spending time studying for the class. The best strategy is to attend lectures, read the curriculum consistently and memorize what you have learned. That way your memory will not be limiting.

Top three subjects to speed study in my opinion:

1.    Languages (easy to recognize what to memorize, this vocabulary and that grammar etc.)

2.    Classes based on personal opinions, in example gender theory. It is harder to know what is important to remember, but the amount of things to remember is limited, and all you need to do is give your opinion. It should be in the same opinion/direction as the teacher/grader.

3.    Frist level psychology (I took psychology at the University of Bergen, and you were not to have any opinions of your own in the exams. The exams were all about regurgitating the curriculum and theories). The psychology study is, never the less, more difficult than the two others stated above, simply because the amount to remember is vast and complex. It might be controversial, but I believe that the most important skill to have to get accepted into the psychology study is the ability to regurgitate the curriculum. Like it or not. But what would the alternative be? To use personal opinions like in gender theory?

For further readings, see my post about memory and understanding. (coming soon)