80/20 Principle for students.

I love the 80/20 Principle (also known as Pareto's Principle, named after the creator). This principle simply states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. This is fantastic for students to apply.

Most Universities and TAFE Colleges in Australia have percentages set so that a High Distinction may be obtained at 80% of total marks for an assessment, and for a class. What this means is that any extra percentage after 80% will still be marked as a high distinction, as opposed to receiving a higher grading.

My question is this: If I can achieve a high distinction at 80%, why should I work toward a much higher result, when it would take so much more time to do so? Ultimately there is no difference in the mark at the end of the day.

This principle can also be applied to the method in which we study. For example: 20% of assessments are going to require 80% of my study time to receive a high distinction, and should be managed accordingly. 80% of my time spent studying can be eliminated by listening in class and by applying the information used in my assessments (at my university, it is expected that one hour of class will need three hours of study behind it, or more). 20% of my time invested in studying for an exam will allow for a retention level of information at 80%, etc.

Other techniques I recommend students doing to be successful in their study life is as follows:
  • Create an assessment due date timeline in Excel ( including percentage of marks, what class, due dates, etc.) at the beginning of the semester.
  • Prepare presentations closer to the deadline, so that they are fresh in your memory.
  • When doing presentations, keep all points on the slides to one line each. Use Guy Kawasaki's 20/10/30 method (20 minute presentation, 10 slides maximum, no smaller than size 30 font).
  • Always create a format for your report in word before filling in the spaces. This will allow you to determine what you intend to cover, allowing word limits for various sections while also creating a nice presentable layout which will improve overall clarity.
  • Find a hobby in relation to your study to develop rapid learning ability. For me this is reading books on business and investing. For a student in sport, this might involve taking up a sport or getting involved in a group of people who regularly participate in sport.
All the best in your studies.