Last week (episode 148) we looked at her positive studying traits, so now we’re going to look at the reasons why Hermione Granger is NOT a great student.

Some of her behaviours are OK at a certain dose but Hermione takes them to an unhelpful or unhealthy level. Then, some of her qualities are not great at all for efficient, effective studying.

In this episode, you’re going to discover how to distinguish between the traits that make someone a great student, and the traits that are celebrated but that actually will hinder your success, leave you kinda hating studying, and impact your career.

You’ll walk away with some solid studying and mindset advice that will allow you to make faster progress towards your dream grades AND set you up for confident, motivated lifelong learning and career success.

This post originated as a podcast episode which you can listen to below or search for episode 149 of the Chloe Made Me Study podcast. Or, if you’re more of a learn-by-reading student, carry on for the rough-and-ready blog version based on the podcast script.

Ways to listen:

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Today’s episode is the second part of a two-part series diving into the character of Hermione Granger and evaluating her studying strategy. Now, last week’s episode we looked at one side of the argument – the 5 positive traits and qualities of Hermione’s study technique – her commitment to independent study, her preparation for classes, her proactiveness towards her assessments, her engagement with her learning and her sheer determination and hard work. And I translated these into advice that’s realistic for adult learners. If you’ve not yet listened to that episode I’d highly recommend it. Just search for episode 148.

Now I started last week’s episode with an important note about why I’ve chosen to create an episode about the Harry Potter series, in relation to J.K. Rowling’s dangerous opinions regarding trans people. I’ll summarise this here. I do not stand with her anti-trans beliefs. The Harry Potter story IS magical and has been a great source of excitement and belonging for many children and adults. I grew up with this series and I still turn to the audiobooks for comfort. My role with this podcast and my content and trainings in general is and has always been to deliver simple, powerful study and mindset advice, and one way that I believe is effective to do this is through storytelling. Either through my own story, those of my clients, or those of famous people – real or fictional. And I believe there is a lot we can learn from Hermione and the Harry Potter series in general – without continuing to celebrate the author’s current behaviour.

OK, if you’re ready for the final part of this tale, let’s crack on.

Why is Hermione Granger not a great student?

There’s something that can be said about Hermione’s approach – it’s one that many institutions or old-school teachers or lecturers will revere. They’ll tell you that working hard, studying all the time, reading not just everything they recommend but reading around the subject too in your spare time are great study strategies.

Now, maybe if you’re studying without any other commitments – work, family, hobbies – Hermione’s approach is doable.

But is it necessary? I would argue that it’s not. Not anymore and not in the future.

And is it enough? I’d also argue not.

I don’t know if you’ve heard about a little thing called AI. Well, technology has been changing the world of work for many years now. Job roles are shifting so there is much less focus on knowledge acquisition and much more on problem solving, critical thinking, adaptability and how you apply specific knowledge. To future proof your career you need to offer something that AI and tech doesn’t have. I’m going to be making more content about this over the coming months so if you’re interested, make sure you’re subscribed to or following this podcast, and be sure to sign up to my newsletter, Students Who Graduate, on my website or by going to chloeburroughs.com/newsletter.

To make your university degree worth the investment, AND to future proof your career, you’ll need to study in a style that’s different to Hermione’s, and develop skills that she very much lacked.

5 key reasons why Hermione Granger is not a great student.

1. Hermione Granger pushes herself to burnout and prioritises studying over everything.

Hermione regularly pushed herself to burnout. She would study for hours and hours more each week than her peers which, to a point, can be a positive, but it had a lot of negative impacts for her. Her stress levels were high, which just makes life not very fun. And I don’t know about you, now I’m 30-something I really notice the impacts stress has on my body. It affects my sleep, my skin, my happiness, my gut – not great.

Hermione’s approach also impacted her friendships. While the books seem to portray Harry and Ron as being friendly with many other students in the year, and Harry with his Quidditch teammates, it didn’t seem like Hermione was very pally with her fellow Gryffindors. Now, a small number of quality friendships can be worth 10x that number in superficial ones. But still – prioritising study above everything else, above and beyond the effort required to get the grades you really want – seems out of alignment with living a full, multi-faceted life.

2. Hermione Granger has a fixed mindset.

This is a BIG one. Hermione made a habit of giving up on things that she didn’t believe she was naturally good at. She quit Divination – which is such a bold move for a non-rule breaker. Why? Yes, she thought Professor Trelawney was a bit of a fraud and the subject was useless…but it seemed that what she couldn’t cope with was not being amazing at a subject straight away. Trelawney expressed that she didn’t have what it takes and rather than try to prove her wrong, Hermione believed her and gave up.

Hermione did the same with Quidditch. One lesson and then she only ever got on a broom a handful of times after. It’s a bit of a flaw in the narrative that Hogwarts students apparently only ever have one Quidditch lesson in first year and then that’s it. But Hermione couldn’t learn how to play Quidditch out of a book – despite her trying. She instead would have to learn by doing, learn through making mistakes and trial-and-error, learn through discomfort…things that Hermione didn’t enjoy.

The problem with this approach is that it’s impossible to go through life being good at everything the first time. If you do find this being true…then you’re most likely living a very small life, keeping only to those avenues that you know and have experience of. To achieve success in any area in life, to grow as a person, you need to develop a growth mindset – which is the perspective that intelligence, essay writing, exam performance, maths, Quidditch…all of these abilities are changeable and can be improved with effort, smart strategies, self-belief and supportive allies.

Where I see this impact on students the most is the self-belief part. If you are currently scoring 50% in your essays, and you want to be scoring 60 or 70% – you NEED to believe that it’s possible for you.

You may not be able to jump to 70% on your very next essay (though this is possible for a lot of the students I work with).

You may not know the exact steps you need to take to get to 70%.

You may not currently have the support to help you get to 70%.

But you need to believe that it *is* possible. That if you commit yourself to learning and improving your skills then your results will improve and improve and improve.

3. Hermione Granger is not great at critical thinking.

OK this is a big one. Hermione is great at following the rules, she’s great at absorbing knowledge…but she’s not that great at thinking flexibly or critically. For instance, in potions, her accuracy and ability to follow instruction makes her pretty good. However…Professor Snape is a master at potions because he can think critically. He has a deeper, more fundamental understanding of the laws of potions so he knows how to break the rules, synthesise ideas, create new solutions, be innovative – something that Hermione can’t do.

When you’re coming up with strong arguments for your essays, following the theory to the letter is not enough in many subjects because, in practice, things can be very different. For example, in an education degree there will be lots of theories around classroom management. However, the critically thinking individual will be able to see that the ability to apply these classroom management strategies will differ depending on so many factors – the setting, the age of the children, the additional needs of the children, the subjects, the overarching principles of the school. Hermione would perhaps struggle in this setting where she can’t just apply the knowledge she’s memorised from a book.

Another point – Hermione is very much wedded to her ideas and worldview, which not only upsets or annoys people, also hinders progress. She didn’t believe the Deathly Hallows were real so she couldn’t be bothered to even keep discussing it. She didn’t believe Draco Malfoy could possibly have been a Death Eater so Harry was left to investigate by himself. Even with Crookshanks and Scabbers in the Prisoner of Azkaban. Yes, Scabbers was actually the imposter, Peter Pettigrew, so Crookshanks was being smart at trying to capture or kill him…but Hermione blindly refused to believe that her cat was a danger to a rat and she almost lost Ron as a friend because of it.

When you’re writing essays where you have to evaluate an argument or even pick a side, it’s really important that you can look objectively at the situation, find evidence for each side, or multiple sides, and weigh up the strength of these arguments. I proofread *a lot* of essays and it is glaringly obvious to me when a student has let their personal worldview bias their essay. Submit an essay like this where your arguments are clearly not supported by objective evidence and you’ll lose a lot of marks.

4. Hermione Granger doesn’t study efficiently.

The main lever that Hermione knows how to pull on her academic success machine is effort. She knows how to work harder and study for longer. But I would argue that she spends hours and hours more each week than she needs to study. And, as I mentioned in last week’s episode, while Hermione truly does love learning, she also pushes herself in part because she’s terrified of failure. What Hermione doesn’t do is study strategically. She doesn’t work out the core areas for her to focus or the areas that she could perhaps spend less attention on.

Now, you may argue that this is personal preference: ‘Why can’t she work hard and study everything if she wants to?’ Well, you’d be right – to a point. As a student at Hogwarts who’s a teenager – sure. Prioritise studying over everything else if you want. Study everything with equal focus because you have time. But what about as an adult who may return to studying later while juggling work and/or family? What about an adult who has to learn on the job but their boss isn’t willing to let them sit at their desk all day to study every single aspect and facet of the material when they just require you to pass the damn thing, gain the knowledge and skills and crack on? You get to choose how you study ultimately, but you’ll be doing future you a disservice if you don’t learn how to study strategically. So you might as well practise the skills in your current studying.

5. Hermione Granger doesn’t know how to think for herself.

Lastly, and this is connected to the point above. Hermione’s approach only really works at school where her non-studying commitments are low. In the real world, Hermione would likely not sleep enough, lose contact with friends and have no hobbies. Something else relevant here. Hermione places a lot of weight on authority. She follows the rules of institutions, she holds the opinions of her elders in high esteem. Now, these aren’t awful traits to have, but sometimes it’s good to question authority. Your university will likely recommend that you read everything. That you complete all the reading and activities and that you don’t skip material. This isn’t going to be the wrong advice for 100% of situations, but how will you know if this strategy is right or wrong for you if you don’t step back and reflect on whether it’s right for *you* and your academic goals.

There’s also one final point about the ability to question authority. When I teach critical thinking to students I often hear the same comment over and over – ‘who am I to question these theorists? Who am I to poke holes in these theorists’ arguments?’ In academia, I would argue that there is no hierarchy on good ideas. You can take the ideas from a theorist with 50 years experience in the field who has written 100s of papers and you can write an A-grade essay poo-pooing the whole thing – as long as you provide enough evidence for your ideas to be taken seriously. 

OK – there’s quite a lot of information in this episode. We’ve touched on lots of different subjects – critical thinking, strategic studying, fixed and growth mindset, efficient studying, prioritisation, study-life balance. I would invite you with this episode to pick one area that has most resonated with you. Maybe an area that you currently struggle with. Maybe a trait of Hermione’s that you recognise in yourself. And focus any improvement effort here. My website has a ton of blog posts and podcast episodes for you to explore. On my site you can select from 17 different categories of study skills to find some advice and tips to implement.

Why Hermione Granger is not a great student …but she improved a lot.

A point I want to end on here is that Hermione was not a static student. She didn’t enter first year with these less-than-desirable traits and leave as exactly the same student. She evolved over time because she was surrounded by the right people.

Her friendships with Harry and Ron, and Neville, Fred and George and even Luna helped to erode her uptight, rule-abiding, black and white world. So we can take from this that our deficits do not have to remain them. Hermione was sorted into Gryffindor, not because I believe she emulated Gryffindor values and behaviours aged eleven but because she grew into a Gryffindor by the time she left Hogwarts.

We are not static people. We are always adapting. And it’s helpful therefore to surround yourself both with people who are also growing and working on themselves, and with those who already demonstrate the traits and skills you are interested in developing.

If you’re someone who struggles with negative thinking and pessimism, spending more time with someone who’s more positive and optimistic can help you to break out of the beliefs that are affecting your happiness. The same with studying. If you want to graduate with a great degree to make this mammoth investment of time and energy worth it, then you would benefit hugely from surrounding yourself with others who share your ambition and goal.

Hermione Granger is not a great student – but you can be.

So on that note, if you haven’t already, I invite you to make *the* best decision of your academic life and join the waitlist for The Kickbutt Students Club.

My membership, the KSC, is NOT going to support you to study like Granger. You’ll learn how to study strategically, efficiently and effectively. You’ll learn how to integrate studying into the rest of your life, rather than feel like the rest of your life has to take a backseat for the next few years. You’ll learn the best ways to study for *you.* The Kickbutt Students Club isn’t here to churn out studying robots. Instead, we’re here to support you to graduate with your dream grades and to prepare you for a lifetime of learning that will future proof your career and set you up for all future informal and formal learning you do.

So whether you’re part-way through a degree or you’re just about to start, the Kickbutt Students Club is the place to be. Enrolment for the 23/24 academic year opens in early October. For early access and a waitlist only-offer, click here to join the waitlist.

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Workbook + video training to take you from procrastination and overwhelm to understanding your question and mapping out your ideas with momentum. Easier, faster essay writing (and higher grades) await.

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