If you are a student trying to keep up with all the assignments you have to finish, the projects you have to work on and the exams you have to study for, you probably feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day to get everything done on time. Don’t be too harsh on yourself if you lag behind sometimes. Studying is serious business and it’s not easy to stay on top of all your student tasks and have a social life at the same time.
That’s why so many students find themselves in a similar scenario: cramming for a test and then forgetting everything they’ve learned in a matter of days. That can help you perform decently at an exam, but it’s not going to do much for your long-term learning goals. And that’s what every student should aim for – assimilating information, retaining it for long periods of time and using it effectively when needed.
But how can you go from being an average learner to becoming a study machine and checking all the items off your to-do list? Well, you certainly can’t stretch time, nor can you learn a semester’s worth of information in one day, but there are some smart methods and techniques that can help you become a better learner in time. So, grab a pen and paper and start taking notes.
Never stop learning
When it comes to effective learning, consistency is key. You know the saying practice makes perfect? Well, it’s all about being constant with your learning and practicing your skills regularly. Think of your brain as a muscle that you have to train constantly in order to keep fit. The more you learn, the easier it will be for you to retain new information and expand your knowledge. The moment you stop learning, your brain will start to lose its sharpness and it will be harder for you to study at the same pace you once used to.
Learn in different ways
Research has shown that different study methods stimulate different areas of the brain. As you can assume, the more areas of your brain you activate while studying, the easier it will be for you to understand new concepts and retain new information. The takeaway here is that you should try to go beyond your usual study routine and diversify your learning methods. This can imply reading class notes, watching videos, taking online classes, listening to podcasts, joining a study group etc. You don’t have to try all the study methods under the sun, at least
not in one single session, but do try to vary your techniques for better results.
Pass on your knowledge
Memorizing information is one thing, but understanding it and truly learning is a completely different story. So, let’s say you’ve learned something new and you want to make sure it will actually stick with you and you won’t forget it the next minute. How do you do that? Experts agree that one of the most efficient methods to achieve this goal is by teaching others what you’ve learned. When you share your newly assimilated information and skills with others you gain a greater understanding of the topic at hand and you manage to strengthen your knowledge. And if you don’t have anyone around to listen to your teachings, you can just create an imaginary apprentice and pass your knowledge onto him.
Another great way to boost your learning sessions is to use something called relational learning. The idea is pretty simple and straightforward. You connect the information you’re trying to assimilate with things from the past that you already know. Human memory works by association, so you’ll have greater chances of retaining new information if you connect it with other relevant information and learn things in context. It doesn’t matter what kind of connections you make as long as they’ll help you learn facts and concepts more effectively.
Put things into practice
When studying, most students focus all their efforts on theoretical learning. Learning the theory from textbooks and other materials, or by attending classes, plays a very important role in the study process, but you should not limit yourself to theory alone. There’s more to learning than reading, writing and listening to what other people say. A lot of students completely ignore the practical dimension of learning. We’re saying you should put the things you’re learning into practice if you want to improve learning. If you want to study photography, get your camera and start taking pictures. If you want to learn a new language, try to speak it as often as
possible. The best way to develop new skills is by gaining practical experience.
Study in small chunks
We’ve already mentioned in the beginning the well-known cramming before the exam technique that so many students use to help them get through their exam sessions. While this technique can serve its short-term purpose, you won’t become a better learner by employing it.
The smartest and more effective method is to break up your learning into smaller chunks and take regular breaks. You can’t possibly maintain the same level of focus if you study for hours on end.
However, if you study in shorter sessions and take breaks in between, you’ll be able to stay focused on your task and assimilate information faster.
Know your learning style
Scientists are still debating if learning styles are an aspect worth taking into consideration or not, but empirical evidence proves that learning habits and preferences have a say when it comes to helping people study better. It can’t be denied that not all people respond to study techniques the same way.
Some learn better by reading, others by listening or using visual aids and so on.
It’s important to figure out how you learn best, so you can enjoy more productive study sessions. You don’t have to limit yourself to one or two learning styles. Test them all out and see which learning strategies work best for you.