The good news about learning is that it’s not an inborn talent – it’s a skill you can improve through practice. These practices range from signing up for the best online tutoring service to spreading out your study sessions. Although you won’t learn everything overnight, with a bit of patience and perseverance, you’re bound to become a far more effective learner.
Below are five strategies to help you in your learning journey.
1. Teach what you’re learning
One of the best ways to learn is to teach. The process of teaching requires you to break down complex topics and ideas into their basic (and simple to understand) parts. No longer can you rely on difficult jargon that intimidates others. Instead, you have to translate all that jargon into a language that makes sense to you. Then, you can explain it to others.
The “explain it to others” technique can take a variety of forms. Sometimes, it means standing in front of a class and teaching. Other times, it could mean writing up a blog post, leading a study group, recording a podcast, or even just explaining the topic to friends on your lunch break.
2. Do practice tests
Tests are a great way to assess what you’ve learned. However, many of us get anxious around testing and try to avoid them as much as possible. This is a mistake. Instead of avoiding tests, remove the pressure by taking no-stakes tests.
Low-pressure practice tests allow you to focus on recalling important information rather than worrying about passing or failing. Practice tests may be given by a tutor or taken by yourself. If you use this powerful tool regularly, you’re bound to increase the amount of information you recall.
3. Rest and exercise to improve your focus
Learning isn’t all about spending hours in the library. It’s also about being well-rested and healthy enough to focus for hours in the library. If you’re sluggish and falling asleep at the table, it’s going to be very difficult to learn in the moment – let alone recall what you learned the next day! So, stick to a weekly exercise routine and make sure to get plenty of sleep.
4. Spread out your study sessions
Although it’s tempting to put off studying until the last minute, all-night cram sessions are not great for learning. Most (if not all) of the time, the information you crammed for the test gets lost shortly thereafter. To avoid that unnecessary fate, spread out your study sessions.
Rather than signing up for a coffee subscription to fuel your all-night cram sessions, break up complex topics into smaller chunks. Then, study those chunks individually over the course of days, weeks, and months. Return to them periodically to see how well the information stuck.
5. Approach learning in multiple ways
Most schools tend to focus on one learning style – reading and writing. For those who excel at that style, it’s great. For those who don’t, it‘s disheartening. That’s why it’s so important to know what learning style fits you and then build a strategy around that.
The popular VARK model identifies four learning styles: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. Visual learners may learn best by drawing mindmaps. Auditory learners can excel with podcasts. If you’re into reading and writing, then taking notes is effective. Kinesthetic learners enjoy hands-on activities such as laboratory work. Regardless of where your strengths lie, combining all four styles can turbocharge your learning.