How am I gonna be a smart ass

Why you don't have to be intelligent to study successfully

by Tim Reichel

Intelligence is overrated.

At least when it comes to studying successfully and completing it with a very good certificate.

Actually, this should be known, but lately I have noticed far too often that students or prospective students consider themselves “too stupid” or “not intelligent enough” and therefore stay below their possibilities during their studies or do not even go to them Dare to uni.

So now again for the last ones out there who still haven't noticed: You don't have to be a Marie Curie or Albert Einstein if you want to study successfully. You don't have to be special to graduate from college intelligent be. Anyone can study today. And very successfully at that.

Other qualities count.


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You don't have to be a high-flyer

Don't get me wrong: it's great when you are intelligent!

A healthy dose of brains enriches your life and can open some doors for you. But you don't need that for a successful degree.

A small experience report:

I studied for 5 years myself and stayed at the university after completing my doctorate. During this time I got to know and experienced many students. First as a freshman, then as an old bachelor and master student and finally as a doctoral student.

Of course, there were also high-flyers and geniuses in disguise among fellow students. But I've met at least as many students who could mentally duel with a broken toaster. And I don't know who to bet on.

Nevertheless, almost everyone has completed their master’s degree and successfully completed their studies. Even those who I would never have thought they could get going in the end and left university with a big smile.

By the way, numerous studies confirm this observation and see the intelligence of a person Not as the central guarantee of success for studies or other areas of life.

So don't let yourself be driven crazy or persuaded that you have to be particularly intelligent to study.

Strictly speaking, the university is just a collection of people who have graduated from high school. And not more. You probably remember that you didn't have to be super smart for that.

But if intelligence isn't the crucial issue, then what is it?


It all depends on the right strategy

Even the highest IQ is nothing against a clever strategy.

If you plan your studies from the beginning and lay a red thread through your student life, you will never lose your bearings and will automatically become more successful.

Even the best students sometimes fail because they act haphazardly and don't have a clear strategy. That's why you have to position yourself correctly and make a few strategic thoughts about your studies.

In concrete terms, this means for you: Set wise priorities, set goals and plan your individual steps. For example, create a study plan (long-term) and plan your next exam preparation (short-term).

Studying intelligently also means: planning intelligently.


Structure and organization

In addition to a strategic framework, the most important thing in the course is how well you can organize and structure your work.

Because no matter how intelligent you are: If you constantly live your day and study without a fixed structure, you make stupid mistakes and never exhaust your potential.

At the university you have to organize your daily routine independently and responsibly. It's not easy at first, but if you work in a structured way, you will approach your tasks in a much more focused manner and are less distracted. And that brings you lasting success.

You have to know the framework conditions for your study management: Read your examination regulations, keep an eye on the most important deadlines and plan your semester. With this you create a solid basis.

In this article I'll show you how you can immediately bring more structure to your student life in 7 simple steps.


Efficient learning

Now that your basic framework is in place, let's take a look at your core business: learning.

After all, the course is about internalizing a wide variety of methods and techniques and at the same time building up a lot of factual knowledge.

But if you want to be among the top X percent of your year, you can't just study somehow. It has to be efficient. Your schedule is packed full of picks and in the exam phase one exam chases the next. There is no time for extravagant perfectionism.

Because if you take your studies seriously and also want a job, family, friends and something like a private life, you cannot afford to research every point from the lecture down to the last detail. You have to be productive.

Those who learn cleverly and purposefully usually do better in the exam than those who learn without a plan or who only rely on their intelligence and talent.


Reproducing knowledge instead of transferring it

Many exams in your studies are structured in such a way that you can pass simply by reproducing simple knowledge. Often you even end with a good or very good grade if you have memorized enough specialist knowledge and can call up all the stuff in the exam.

However, this has little to do with intelligence.

Here it comes down to hard work, discipline and perseverance. Typical characteristics of successful people.

The greatest difficulty then lies in the size of the exam-relevant scope of material that could be queried as part of the examination. But with a smart approach (see above) and the right learning techniques, this shouldn't be a problem for you.


Studying with media support

A few years ago, studying looked very different than it is today. You had to gather your information almost exclusively from books or specialist magazines. If you had any questions about the material, you could only go to the lecturer's office hours and with a little luck you would have 3-4 fellow students per semester with whom you could study together.

It's different today. It is better. Easier.

We live in the information age and have this internet. With its help you can call up any information at any time and conveniently read whatever you want from your computer.

Every unclear word is explained on Wikipedia. There is at least one forum entry for every open question. And should something be unclear, you can simply post in the next Facebook group or in the virtual learning room and ask for help.

With this media support, studying has become much easier. If you don't know something, you just go online and get the information.

In the past, you had to think about it yourself and do extensive research. Today is googled.


Network beats intelligence

As a lone fighter, no matter how intelligent and clever you are during your studies. If you are completely on your own, you will never be as successful as with a strong network of fellow students, lecturers and good friends.

Alone you get bogged down easily and are sure to stay below your possibilities. When preparing for exams, during internships and later in professional life: team players and networkers simply get ahead.

So make as many contacts as possible and get to know new people at every opportunity. Build up a large network and benefit from the dynamic - it will pay off!

There are a few suggestions for networking for students in this article from


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Intelligence alone is no longer enough in studies these days.

Studying is hard work and, in addition to self-discipline and perseverance, particularly requires the ability to organize and learn effectively.

Without a clever and structured approach, you will simply be drowned in many courses and overwhelmed by the learning material.

But the good thing is: you can learn all of this!

It's not about having innate talent and over-intelligence. It's about working hard for your success, skillfully setting priorities and not being discouraged by the seemingly insurmountable learning content.

Intelligence is of secondary importance in studies.

It depends on your attitude.


Image: © Matt Groening, 20th Century Fox /