My average mark at the university is 4.2 out of possible 4.5. Sure, I’m not the only one who manages to perform well, and the reason I am writing this is not to boast of my achievements. However, I dedicate relatively small amount of time to studying. Seriously, I study much less than other people.
Of course, sound performance might be due to my natural abilities because I really like to learn new material.Yet I believe I managed to succeed thanks to the way I study. I never cram in the last nights before the exams. Instead, I choose to properly manage my time and save efforts.
I call it “holistic learning”. Its basic principle is organizing the knowledge into a scheme, a web, focusing on the connections between ideas. This allows me to see a complete picture instead of random bits and pieces of information.
Building the knowledge.
I like comparing studying to building a house. The knowledge we receive is like bricks, stones, and glass that all combined make a whole. Our mind can be explained in similar terms.
Memorizing – you do not use bricks to build a wall, you just stare at them to remember their location.
Cramming formulas – it’s like walking around a house with to learn how to avoid hitting the walls.
Holistic learning. If you do not study just for the sake of it but want to apply the knowledge further, you might want to see the bigger picture. In this case, focus on relations between different parts, for example:
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1.Metaphorically thinking…Compare new, complicated information to the ideas that are already familiar to you. Analogies facilitate understanding.
2.Use all your senses. It is difficult to learn abstract ideas, so try to create a picture you could “feel”.
3.Imagine you’re a teacher. By explaining the new material to someone who doesn’t know it yet, you not only help this person but also save many hours you would spend on learning.
4.Building connections. While reading a book, make sure every new piece of info is connected to the previous bits and pieces.
5.Be mobile. Choose a concept you are studying at a random and try to explain it. If you can do it, you are on the right way!
6.Build patterns. Different concepts may have similar patterns: try to identify them to make the learning easier.
7.Lay a solid foundation. Make sure you have a general understanding of the topic: it will help you accumulate new knowledge.
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8.Do not be too harsh. Cramming will serve you no good. Instead, learn new ideas step by step.
9.Model it. Models are concepts that may not exist in reality but are helpful in understanding new things. For instance, imagine a red plane in a blue sky to learn what a subspace is.
10.Keep it in your head. Notes and textbooks are of no use if you do not understand the new material. It doesn’t matter HOW you learn it but you must understand it.
Remember, it is quality, and not quantity that matters.