How to learn better and faster – tips for more effective learning
With these tips, learning doesn’t have to be an activity we persistently put off, and which, once it’s time to finally get it over with, becomes tedious and exhausting.
If we approach this activity correctly and with a positive attitude, success is inevitable, because learning is not difficult in itself, instead, it is our wrong approaches, methods, beliefs and habits that make it difficult, making us procrastinate. Let’s familiarize ourselves with tips to learn better and faster, which will make studying much easier in the future.
Methods for faster and more effective learning
The SQ3R method
The SQ3R is the answer to the question of how to learn better and faster. It is a reading comprehension method named for its five steps:
- Survey – Skimming the material, identifying the main points, reading sub-headings, prefaces and content without memorization.
- Question – This step involves asking the questions Who, What, How, When and Where. The idea is to identify the key content points, and this is done more easily by asking questions than by rote memorization.
- Read – Reading the material carefully, focusing on it, and finding answers to the questions from the previous step. In this stage of learning, you should try to memorize as much as possible, to actively think about the text, and to understand what you’ve read.
- Recite – After reading the material in detail, try to answer the questions in your own words, i.e. to reiterate what you’ve just read. This step helps us to store the information we are processing into our long-term memory.
- Review – The most important step in the learning process is a final review of the previously studied material. When you finish studying, review what you’ve learned to make sure you understand and remember the material.
Global and partitive learning
A strategy that can help us master the material more easily and efficiently is using a global or partitive (combined) method, depending on the type of material.
- Global method also known as holistic learning is more suitable for material that is not particularly extensive, and is connected into a whole in a meaningful way.
This method involves actively reading the material to achieve the optimal level of comprehension that permeates the material, main points and ideas.
- Partitive method also known as combined learning is recommended for learning extensive and difficult material that’s not connected into a meaningful whole.
As its name suggests, this method involves splitting the material into chunks – logical units, which facilitates memorization of the material that is not connected in a meaningful way.
Discover your learning style
Knowing our personal learning style helps us be more productive when learning. Once you become aware of the learning style that suits you best, you will approach learning more rationally by immediately starting to learn in a way that matches your needs and preferences.
Learning styles (types of learners):
This style best suits individuals who prefer learning through observation and the material presented visually, in the form of images and text. Taking notes, underlining the key points, using highlighters of different colors, using charts and maps, presenting the material through pictures or PowerPoint presentations, etc.
Dominant auditory learners learn most efficiently by listening to the material, so the most suitable way to cover the material is to read it aloud. If auditory learning is your dominant style, studying in pairs or through discussions and debates will help memorize the material better. In addition, you can record yourself reading a lesson, and then learn by listening to the tape, ask someone to review your presentation of the material, or record teachers as they give lessons.
3. Kinesthetic (tactile)
This learning technique is typical of people who like to be on the move, who are physically active and whose speech is accompanied by a lot of gesticulation. They should walk while reviewing the material, study in a standing position, take notes, underline, draw and do everything else that involves motion.
Factors of successful learning
1. Find yourself a study space
Experts say that efficient learning requires a designated study space. This advice is based on the fact that our brains ‘love’ order, therefore, it will be much easier to focus and begin studying if we are used to studying in a certain room/corner.
According to the advice of experts, this room or space should be well-lit, and not too hot or too cold. Efficient learning requires a desk cleared of all unnecessary clutter, and containing only the books and tools for learning, because order helps us achieve optimal focus.
2. Define study time and breaks
Just as it ‘loves’ order, our brain also ‘loves’ plans. It will be much easier to concentrate if you study at the same or approximately the same time on specific days (or every day), especially if you need to master some extensive material. Remember, planning study time is good for you.
In addition, don’t forget to take short breaks every once in a while, because short breaks improve learning and help us commit facts to our long-term memory. You can break learning into 45-minute blocks followed by 5-minute breaks, or you can make a different schedule according to your pace. Keep in mind that effective learning requires breaks between study sessions, and how you will organize them is entirely up to you.
It is important to note that breaks between study sessions should not be too long so as not to disrupt concentration. The aim is to remain focused on your task – short breaks will help with it, whereas long breaks will distract you, and prolong learning unnecessarily.
3. Repetition is the mother of learning
Reviewing the material covered is a very important part of the learning process, and something that should not be neglected. As our memory is divided into short-term, operational, and long-term memory, reviewing the material is necessary to first transfer the material from short-term memory to operational memory, and then to commit it to long-term memory.
Only when the material is stored in long-term memory, we can say that we’ve truly mastered it. To achieve this, we have to repeat the material we are learning in the following order (according to the German psychologist Hermann Ebinghaus): immediately after learning, then 15-20 minutes after learning, 6-8 hours after learning, then 24 hours after learning, and finally, 2-3 weeks after learning. This order of reviewing the material will help us store it in long-term memory, making it permanently memorized.
4. Don’t use rote learning
Unless you have to memorize exhaustive lists of data that have to be reproduced in the same order as they are written. When it comes to all other types of material, try to learn with understanding which can be done by reading the material in detail to get the gist of it. You can ask someone to help you and provide their own interpretation of the given material, because other people’s interpretations may help you reach new insights or discover new perspectives, which will certainly improve your understanding of it.
One more thing, even if the material seems too difficult and confusing at first glance, don’t give up! Think of it as a great challenge that you want to overcome, a challenge that maybe requires more effort and dedication on your part, but it certainly doesn’t exceed your capacity to master it. You will feel very proud and pleased with yourself after you’ve mastered this seemingly insurmountable obstacle, thus strengthening your self-confidence for some future challenges. So, please don’t use rote learning.
5. Create deadlines and goals for yourself
Our brain works more efficiently when we determine rules and order, i.e. deadlines and goals in advance. Defining deadlines and goals concerns the overall plan by which we must finish what we’ve started. This kind of organization increases productivity, because it has been proven that people are more productive when they are operating within a deadline.
Defining short-term goals will help your learning process, but you should be objective and realistic when setting those goals. It is important that our short-term goals are achievable in order to fulfill their function – to motivate us.
6. Reward yourself for a job well done
Acknowledging the success we’ve achieved and congratulating ourselves for a job well done is an important part of learning, because it positively impacts our self-confidence, and consequently learning. If we know how to reward ourselves for a task/goal well done, it will have a positive effect on our approach to learning in general, and learning each new thing will be easier than learning the previous one.
Be disciplined and strict with yourself when learning, but also be proud of yourself after fulfilling a task, because this is how learning will stop being a tedious task to be postponed until the last moment, and become a challenge that you gladly confront, and a way to develop your cognitive abilities and self-confidence for some future challenges.