Whether you’re pursuing professional or academic knowledge, you’ve likely found that you eventually hit a wall where your previous studying techniques just don’t work. It can be especially stressful if there’s a big test coming up or the material is linked to understanding how to perform your job better. But instead of trying to keep studying with your old methods, here are a few ideas on how you can revamp your studying and learn more efficiently.
Use the Spaced Repetition Technique
It might sound a little futuristic, but you’re likely familiar with spaced repetition. It’s a technique where you study more difficult or newer topics more often than you study ones you’re more familiar with or that you find easier over an extended period. It’s basically the opposite of trying to study too much material in one session, as it instead spreads it over multiple study sessions.
Using flashcards is a great example of this, as you have to recall each term or definition every time they come up. Spaced repetition takes this one step further by bringing up the concepts you haven’t learned yet at specific time intervals that grow longer over time, which encourages long-term over short-term retention. An app or web-based software is incredibly useful for this, as you don’t have to rely on your own memory or schedule to allow you to come back to the terms since they’re brought up automatically.
Read & Explain The Material Aloud
Something you may not realize about reading in your head is that you’ll start to skip over words or concepts in favor of ones you understand. However, if you’re studying something with particularly difficult jargon or detailed techniques, it doesn’t help you learn if you skip over them. Reading the text or problem aloud can help a lot with this, as you make yourself not only learn what the words or ideas sound like in relation to how they look if it’s a physical concept but also helps you understand how they relate to the other ideas you’ve learned.
And you can take this one step further by explaining the concept to yourself or another person. This way you not only have to have a basic grasp, but you’ll be able to properly explain its significance.
Set Specific Goals
Studying without a goal is one of the biggest mistakes that both students and professionals can make. Without a goal, you’re simply reading or practicing without a way to put it all together or an idea of how it would fit into your daily life or understanding of the concept as a whole. Instead, if you make a specific goal, even if it’s as simple as going over the concepts in chapter 1 of your textbook or course, you’ll be able to put it into context with the rest of the material.
Link The Material to Something You Know
A great feature of our brains is the ability to recognize patterns, and you can use this as a study technique too. If you’re having trouble with a concept from one course or another, you can try to find a link or connection that it has to something that you’re knowledgeable about. Whether that’s pairing up the terms or definitions with a physical action or another similar concept from a topic you’re fond of is up to you, but it’s a great way to learn the material using something you already know.
Try a Different Study Spot
Coffee shops and the library can be great locations to do some studying, but that doesn’t mean they’ll work for everyone. If you find yourself distracted by the hustle and bustle of a busy coffee shop or find the quiet of a library too uncomfortable, try changing up your study spot. If the weather’s warm you might find a nice table outside to set your materials on, or for the colder months finding a sofa or lounge chair on campus or around town where you can stay for a while may give you the new place you need to learn.
Don’t Slack off on Less Busy Weeks
You’re likely used to the ebb and flow of the semester or your organization’s workflow, where you can tell where you’ll have less work assigned or have fewer tasks on your plate. This is prime time to study, rather than take a break. You’ll have more time to dedicate to your studying without a lot of other pressing tasks and if you play your cards right you’ll still have some well-deserved downtime to enjoy.
Set Your Study Sessions on a New Course
Studying ultimately isn’t a one-and-done situation, it requires reconfiguring and constant and focused effort to learn the material. Using these techniques, you can set yourself up for that promotion, ace your next test, or simply gain a better understanding of the material so you’ll be able to use that knowledge in the future.