The 5Ds of Studying Effectively

— Written by Jack Ng and Michelle Lew


This point may seem obvious and trite, but the honest truth is that there are no shortcuts to success, only sheer hard work. The one and only surefire strategy is for us to roll up our sleeves, crack our knuckles, and crack open those textbooks. Leave no stone unturned — we’re talking a thorough and complete understanding of every topic, sub-topic, section and sub-section.

Investing the time and effort required to understand the subject you are studying thoroughly will pay off in the long run. As Louis Pasteur wisely said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” With a firm grasp of concepts and the facts at your fingertips, you will be ready for any curveball the examiner decides to throw at you.


Studying is an arduous task in and of itself, but factor in CCAs, project group meetings and the gazillion other things you have going on and it seems to acquire an almost Herculean quality.

Your best bet is to draw up a realistic study schedule or plan and stick to it. For best results, it should be customized according to your personal needs and learning style.

Keep in mind that for most of us, shorter time blocks are easier to schedule and are a more sustainable option than longer time blocks. By breaking up study time into blocks, you automatically create breaks so that the mind has time to recharge, thereby keeping productivity at optimum levels.

Another useful tip is to mix it up — a change of topic or subject is a good way to regain one’s lost attention.


In this age of social media, many social networking sites such as Facebook , Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr clamor incessantly for our attention. In fact, individuals who are very active on social media platforms are said to be in a state of "continuous partial attention", meaning to say that at any given time, they are unable to devote their full attention to tasks at hand.

Many of us are guilty of the above, so let’s make a collective effort to unglue ourselves from our smartphones. With our phones out of reach, we are less likely to check obsessively for latest updates, and more likely to get work done.

DEMONSTRATE your understanding by sharing your knowledge with classmates and friends

While this might seem counterintuitive at first glance, the idea is that by teaching and sharing, our conceptual understanding is reinforced in the process. Additionally, any areas of deficiency will be brought to attention and can be rectified accordingly. As an added bonus, if you get a reputation for being the smart one in the group, you’ll get the challenging questions thrown at you, which mean more opportunities for learning.


Setbacks are inevitable in every life journey. Even when it seems like you’ve reached an impasse, take a break, regroup, and try again. Try approaching things from another angle. More often than not, a change in perspective brings new insight.

Never give up — giving up means you fail right then and there, whereas so long as you don’t throw in the towel, you still have a fighting chance.

The key is to not be afraid of making mistakes. John Maxwell, author of Failing Forward, puts it best:

“The more you do, the more you fail. The more you fail, the more you learn. The more you learn, the better you get.”

Think about it — it’s far better to fail early on in the study process rather than on the day of the exam.