This article is all about how to study effectively (which takes time), not how to exam cram. If you are in the middle of an exam cram and you need some memorizing help, check out this exam cram article for some great tips to use.
Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to get to the good stuff. Learning is an exciting thing, and learning how to study effectively is a crucial. Repetition is a part of it, but to really know the material for life there is more you should do. Much more. Take a look at these tips below that can help you own whatever it is you are studying whether you are a student, a business person or a life-long learner.
Make learning goals
You need to put a little pressure on yourself to make the most out of your learning experience. Setting goals keeps you moving forward, simple as that. Without them, you’ll find that it’s easy to take short cuts or even stop the learning process all together. When you hit a goal, reward yourself. Positive reinforcement can go a long way to creating strong learning habits.
Give yourself time and be patient
Nothing can be learned effectively when you only have a few hours or days to own the material. Those moments happen in life, and if you are in one there are tips for you here. But to really know your material cold, you need time. Weeks, even months. Sometimes years. It can be a grueling and frustrating journey, but it’s worth it for what you’ll know afterwards. So be realistic and be patient. If you are in school this means begin studying day 1 of whatever class you are taking. You’ll need the time.
Build associations between tough concepts and things you know
It’s tough to remember what you don’t truly understand. And to understand something, there are few better techniques that building associations between tough concepts and things you already know really, really well. This will make those concepts feel more at home in your brain. For instance, if you are excellent at carpentry, maybe there is a way to associate the way something is built to whatever you are learning now. These associations are everywhere, but they are specific to every learner. Look for yours. It will make the learning much easier.
Study each night right before bed
Studies have shown that the brain during sleep does wonders at helping you cement together seemingly unrelated ideas (see the memorizing techniques article). Use this to your advantage. Study things that are giving you problems right before retiring for the night.
Learn by watching others
Book learning can only take you so far when you are trying to totally get a concept. You need to branch out and see what you are trying to learn in action. Something that seems so difficult in words may be an easy thing to process the minute you see another person do it. Plus, when you watch others, you’ll begin to learn the mental and physical patterns associated with the task. It will make jumping in yourself that much easier.
When you can (and when it’s safe), jump right into whatever it is you are trying to learn. You’ll make mistakes, but the more important thing is that you’ll learn from them. You’ll also form the lasting physical and mental habits you need to really own your material.
You may be thinking that this is great for courses and topics where there are things you actually can do like math, sciences and computers, but what about studying history or theories? You can immerse yourself here too. Visit museums. Go to the actual locations where the history occurred. Find experts in those fields and ask them for an hour of their time where you can pick their brain. Even talk to people who lived the history.
Use various media
Vary the media through which you study to keep your brain active. After staring at a book for hours on end, your brain may begin to shut down for any more learning in that fashion. It may be time for a break. Or you could audio record certain key concepts and listen to them or find television documentaries that are relevant to the subject. This can keep the learning going when you’ve hit a wall through another method.
There is no getting away from it, repetition is still a key player in any studying. There are some great tips on repetition in How To Memorize Lines, and many are true here too. Mnemonics like acronyms and acrostics also play a key role here.
Get rid of other distractions
To really study well, you need to set aside the phone, the television or whatever else there is in your life that can take your attention away from the task at hand. If you need to, go to the library to study and only bring the materials you really need. Leave those cell phones at home. Or opt for some noise canceling headphones to rid the distractions around you if you don’t have full control over the environment.