General Question

newtscamander's avatar

Your best learning techniques?

Asked by newtscamander (2825 points ) October 24th, 2012

I’m asking for your most effective ways of gaining knowledge when studying for exams or deepening your expertise on any topic. For me (I seem to be a visual and auditive learner) it’s easiest to work with flashcards, write the facts down repeatedly, write them onto walls or big pieces of paper that I walk by throughout the day, or tell someone everything I remember from my recently acquired knowledge. And as I am currently beginning to prepare my usual techniques to study for my A-levels, I thought I might look for some more inspiration on Fluther!

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14 Answers

tom_g's avatar

Record yourself (using your phone or digital recorder) either explaining a subject or describing relevant information. Then go back and listen to these recordings later.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I don’t do well with straight memorization. But tell me why something works the way it does, and I’ll get it instantly and retain it. So with me, it depends on the subject.
@scuniper What subjects are you studying?

wonderingwhy's avatar

Repetition, three times spread out during the day, then get a good nights sleep and refresh first thing in the morning. Then application, application, application. Also turning it over in my head during the day poking at and exploring different aspects of it helps a lot. And of course there’s always the hear/do(apply)/teach it method.

newtscamander's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe English, German (I live in germany), Biology and social studies. Basically, I have to know the topics we looked at in class during the last 3 years off by heart.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@scuniper For biology and social studies try the cause and affect angle. That works best for me. For the languages if I understand the root of words I grasp them easier, if that helps at all.

newtscamander's avatar

English and German won’t be a problem- I just need to freshen up my memory by reading the books we worked on. How exactly do you look at something from the cause and affect angle? How is that done in practice, could you give me an example with a theoretical topic?
@wonderingwhy Application? How does that work? Do you mean testing yourself?
I seem to be rather narrow-minded right now… I guess I should take a break from studying and clear my head a little ;)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@scuniper Okay, How are bacteria and viruses different and how do you treat a person suffering from an infection from either? Antibiotics will kill bacteria, but not touch a virus. Then how do you prevent an infection? Why does a vaccine work on one and not the other? Why is anthrax so deadly? The cells contain a toxin within them. Once a person get’s enough cells growing in them, they’re going to die because killing the bacteria releases the toxin. How does penicillin work? It mimics folic acid. The bacteria picks up the folic acid for it’s cell walls. But it’s not folic acid, so the cell dies.(I’d have to double check to make sure it’s folic acid). Once I know how something works I can walk through the progress and retain it for a long time. Social studies works similar. Why do people do what they do? They have certain needs ranging from survival, food shelter and clothing, to entertainment. When one need is met they move on to the next. That’s why every country is only a few meals away from riots. That’s way oversimplified but the principle works. Does that help?

lifeflame's avatar

Explain the concept to someone who is unfamiliar to the subject.

snowberry's avatar

For memorization of several sentences or even a long passage, I write down the first letter of each word of a sentence and put each string of letters on a separate line.

So if I were to memorize this famous passage by Robert Frost, it would look like this:

WWTAITIK
HHIITVT
HWNSMSH
TWHWFUWS

MLHMTIQ
TSWAFN
BTWAFL
TDEOTY

Here’s the text

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

I begin to memorize with the last line and say it using the first letters of each word as a clue. Then I learn the next line above that. It works quite well because the new material is always the stuff you say first. Does this make any sense to you?

newtscamander's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I get it, that sounds logical, basically like a question and answer game ;) Thank you!
@snowberry That’s what I use to memorize biological processes, like the conduction of nervous stimuli, just a series of letters, easy to remember, thanks!

wundayatta's avatar

I read. Or attend a lecture. Or both. Take notes. Write a synthesis. Discuss it with someone. Write it again (in an exam, when I was younger).

Jeruba's avatar

I treat content knowledge and process knowledge differently. Most of my classes have involved content knowledge. Some are cumulative, and that makes a difference too.

With content knowledge, such as philosophy or the social sciences, when I read the material through the first time, I mark, highlight, and annotate with care and thought so that my notations will serve as a good review tool. At review time I can concentrate on the things I’ve marked.

I pay attention to what the instructor emphasizes and write down anything that amounts to guidance about the exams. Writing practice essays is a good strategy for me. So is finding an accommodating audience and trying to explain major themes and topics aloud. A review session with a few other serious students has been very helpful.

Coming at the material from different angles and working it over from a number of points of view helps to cement it, especially when I do it in writing. Creating lists and tables and filling in their contents by hand makes me process the material in different ways and see useful relationships.

With languages, it’s always the vocabulary that I have to work the hardest on, so flash cards do help. Grammar seems to come very easily to me.

With process knowledge I’d like to say that I practice problem-solving, which is what I ought to have done, but in truth I always just abandoned myself to chance. I haven’t taken a process-knowledge course in a very long time and most likely never will again.

colinross's avatar

Weightlifters work and progress at the same rate. To learn, work and compete with another student. It becomes a game.

newtscamander's avatar

Thanks everyone, I’m getting on rather well with my learning, interesting to hear some fresh ideas!

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