Quickest, Easiest Study Method

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What is a good way to that will be fast and efficient? IMG_2440small

Take notes in class and on your readings using some of the note taking techniques I’ve talked about before.  Study from those notes using this method, championed by Cal Newport

  • Take a page of notes and cover up everything but the key ideas written in the margins.
  • Look at the first key idea and, out loud, give a lecture on that particular point to an imaginary class (or to your study group).  Take pains to explain thoroughly and give examples.  Imagine that the students are question-happy fifth graders. That means explain in different ways and give lots of example.  Depending on the key point and your mastery of it, your lecture could take anywhere from a minute to fifteen minutes or so.
  • Once you’ve taught the imaginary students everything you can remember on that key point, look at the actual notes.  Take special note of what you forgot or left out and try to get it next time.
  • Go on to the next key point and repeat the process.
  • Remember to take a break every thirty minutes or so to rest your brain and promote better retention.
  • Repeat those lectures each time you review that set of notes.  Aim to be thorough, concise, and smooth in your lecture.
  • [hidepost]Once you reach that point–thorough, concise, and smooth–then you no longer need to do the full lecture the next time you review it.  You can quickly run through the key points in your head, and that will be enough.  At that point, you can take a lecture that would be five minutes long and reduce it to thirty seconds or so of mental review.

This method seems harder than looking over your notes again and again, as most of us do to study, and it is.  That’s because your brain is not taking any shortcuts!  Every time you give the lecture you have to recall the material, translate it into words, and come up with examples–no more skimming over a page of notes and daydreaming about what you’ll do when the zombies attack.

On the other hand, doing it this way takes less time in the long run and gives much better results.  Rote memorization takes much longer to gave you the same level of recall!  An added bonus is that, saying the lectures out loud means that you are hearing the material again, which also strengthens your recall.

One more thing, mnemonics make memorizing anything much quicker![/hidepost]

Updated from Sep. 2008 post.