The key to effective learning is understanding and applying the knowledge in practical situations. Sure, there are multiple ways of reaching that goal, depending on the type of learner you are, the subject of study, and the different study techniques you will use. We will walk you through some of the most effective study techniques for students. You may be surprised, but the first step to effective learning in any subject is learning how to learn.
Let’s start by talking about motivation. What drives your learning is very important because you shouldn’t learn for an exam just to pass it, you should learn so that something sticks with you in the long run. Even though it’s natural to forget a part of that information, Of course, you will forget a good part of it, but the essentials should stay with you long after the test. Getting into this mindset before you proceed with the actual study will change how you approach the content you want to learn. Instead of using tricks, repetitions, and other things which might help you remember for a short while the relevant information, you’ll make a real effort to understand and find uses for that knowledge.
The second point I’d like to emphasise is that you’ll find a lot of information on how to learn, the best study techniques, and so on. But what matters most is for you to find what works best in your case. You need to be a little introspective and get to know yourself. And if you fail a test or exam because you weren’t effective at learning, take it as a good thing because it will teach you a lot about your own learning process.
The four types of learning styles
Before we go into study techniques, let’s first understand what are the different types of learners out there. According to Wilfrid Laurier University, there are four types of learning styles, mostly based on which sense we use primarily to gain new knowledge:
1. Visual learner
As the name suggests, visual learners process and learn new information by seeing it. It means that reading a lot of text or listening to someone won’t really help you remember things. You should use pictures, diagrams, symbols, and flowcharts in order to help you remember information. You can also use colour coding and replace certain repetitive words with a symbol. It will be much easier for you to remember that image instead of the word itself.
2. Auditory learner
If you are the type of student who learns best through listening, it means that seminars, workshops and lectures are very important to you. In addition, you should read the text you’re studying out loud, discuss it with someone else if possible, or try to teach it to someone else. Because you are sensitive to audio cues, you’ll probably remember the tone of voice and even be able to recall information based on changes in tone. Music will probably come in handy for you as well, but remember to listen to something that is not too distracting but that can work as a background that accompanies the information you’re processing.
3. Read/Write learner
As you can imagine, this type of learner can accumulate information best by reading and writing. In practical terms, it means that the easiest way for them to learn is to read the course text, notes, etc, and then proceed to write it down. It’s also very helpful to write it in your own words. If you can’t do it well enough, it probably means you didn’t fully understand the concepts yet, so it’s worth revisiting them.
4. Kinaesthetic learner
If you are a kinaesthetic learner, it means you learn by doing, and so you use all senses in this process. It also means you need to apply the knowledge in practical situations, do exercises and involve movement in your study sessions as much as possible. Now, this may come naturally or easier in certain fields of study that are more practical, but it may seem counterintuitive for others, like humanities. In this case, you’ll need to become a bit more creative. For example, you can create a pretend lecture on your own and present it in front of your pet or roommate, making sure to incorporate as many sensory cues as possible.
Toppers study tips for students
Now that you have probably figured out which type of learner you are, it’s time to look into some effective study tips. These are rather common sense ideas that will certainly help, but you should remember to choose what fits best with you. And if unsure, just give it a try and see how that works out.
Students who achieve high marks constantly usually follow similar rules that help them learn more efficiently because it’s not really a question of how hard you study but how you do it. Try implementing these simple steps:
Know yourself: understand what your strengths and weaknesses are in terms of different subjects as well as particular areas of a subject. Focus on those weaknesses and find help to improve your understanding – from tutors, classmates, youtube videos, etc.
Have discipline: what works for others doesn’t have to work for you, but find the strength to create a schedule and stick with it.
Be motivated: why do you want to learn and be better at your chosen subject of study? You should be able to answer this question. Once you know the answer, your motivation will be much stronger, and learning will come easier.
Set small goals: motivation influences you in the long run, makes you determined and keeps you focused on a big goal. But you need to be practical about your learning as well. That’s where setting small goals really helps. They are easier to complete, give you the satisfaction of having achieved something, and help you reach your bigger goal one step at a time.
What is the best time to study?
The answer to this question will often point in the direction of the morning hours when your brain is rested and natural light keeps you alert, but there is more to it. Chronobiology, or the science that studies our circadian cycles (in simpler terms, how our brains and bodies perform at different times of the day and night), shows that there are certain hours more fitting for certain activities and that people have different natural rhythms. According to Dr Michael Breus in his book The Power of When, there are two windows during the day when the brain is most perceptive at learning something new: from 10 am to 2 pm and from 4 pm to 10 pm, while the worst time for learning is from 4 am to 7 am.
What is the best place to study?
Dedicating a space for learning can be helpful: this way, once you get into that space, your mind will know that “now it’s the time to study,” so it will be easier to be productive. However, for some people, especially kinaesthetic learners, it might not be the best idea to always study in the place. It might help you stay focused on the study material if you mix and match the study space a bit: maybe one day you go to the library, one day to the park, one day you sit at your desk, and one day you study from bed. Test things out and see what works for you.
How do you study?
If you’re asking how to go about studying, one of the most important tips to concentrate on studies is to keep distractions away: don’t watch TV, play video games, chat with your friends, listen to distractive music, scroll on social media, or answer calls and texts on your phone. If you are learning, don’t do anything else. Of course, in general, this is good advice, and it’s worth trying all of it. However, there are some opposing views out there as well. Kris Alexander, professor of video game design at Toronto Metropolitan University, tells the story of how he was able to pay attention during a lecture in his senior year by playing a video game. The reason is the lecture was very text-based and his primary way of learning was by listening, so the game helped him focus on the professor’s voice instead of the slides with walls of text.
Three popular study techniques for students
Finally, let’s go through a few popular study techniques you can try. Now that you have a better understanding of what kind of learner you are and what are the general recommendations for a more efficient study experience, you can look into some specific learning techniques.
The Feynman Technique for studying
The Feynman Technique is a learning method developed by Richard Feynman, a Nobel-winning physicist who claimed he owed his scientific success to the way he learned and not his innate intelligence. According to him, anyone could achieve similar results as him if they learned the right way. The method involves breaking down complex concepts and explaining them in simple terms in order to understand and remember them better.
There are four simple steps involved in the method:
Choose what you want to learn: it could be a topic, a concept, and so on. Write it on top of a page as a title and proceed to write everything you learn about it.
Explain it in simple terms: you should explain everything you understand about that topic in a way that a 12-year-old child would understand as well. According to Feynman, if you can’t explain it in simple terms, you just don’t understand it well enough yet.
Return to the source material: if you find that your explanations are still a bit confusing, abstract, or still use complicated terms, then you need to understand the topic better. To do so, you have to return to the source material and reflect on what you learned, refine your knowledge, and then further simplify it.
Review and teach: you can try teaching someone else everything you learned. Additionally, think of some analogies which will help you make your points clearer. If they understand everything, then you’re good. If they don’t, repeat the third step.
The Pomodoro Study Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is basically a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique took its name from the Italian kitchen timer shaped like a tomato and called a “pomodoro.” Cirillo used this timer to break down his work and study time into 25-minute long intervals. Every 25-minute learning session should be followed by a short break of 5 or 10 minutes. The method improves your focus and productivity.
Mind maps are visual tools that can be used for studying, although they are not limited to this. In simple terms, it means organising information in a visual way so that you can see it all at once, just like a map. To create a mind map for studying, follow these steps:
Place the main topic or concept in the centre of your blank page. Write it in a clear and concise way.
Identify the main ideas or subtopics related to your central idea and create branches radiating from the centre.
Add additional branches to represent the supporting details or subtopics for each main idea.
Remember to use keywords and concise phrases instead of writing lengthy sentences. You can also use images, symbols, and colours to make absorbing and remembering the information easier.
Find relationships and connections between the different ideas or subtopics. Connect them with lines, arrows, or other appropriate visual elements.
Now that your map is ready, you can look at it as often as you’d like and even hang it on a wall so you can see it all the time. The great thing about mind maps is that they help you grasp complex concepts and recall information easily.
As a final thought, effective studying involves understanding your learning style, finding what works best for you, and applying appropriate study techniques. Also, remember that motivation plays a big part in long-term learning, as it encourages a deeper understanding of the subject matter and its practical applications.