How to study faster and better ? How to memorize things ? How to understand better ? How to get ready for the next exam ? Here is my method in five steps to study better with visual thinking and memory techniques.
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If you examine the main difficulties of the students, in secondary school as well as at the university, it seems that “learning to learn” is the key expression. Some teachers event refuse to admit that there is such thing as “learning to learn“.
And yet, I’ve helped a lot of student by teaching them this method : everybody has the potential to learn better. If you get the appropriate method and the right tools.
This is also the method I’m going to talk about at the Biggerplate Unplugged in Utrecht on the 9th of October. Don’t miss that fantastic event !
So, I gathered the five steps and some concepts here on this mindmap : (click on the picture to maximize it. You can also download this Study Better mindmap for free on my Biggerplate page.)
Study Better in Five Steps
I’ll consider each stage in detail in articles to come. But let’s review the whole method here !
First step : Reboost your motivation !
In order to learn, you need to be motivated.
So, think about your studies as a project. Each of your courses can be considered as a project with Smaart goals, deadlines, tasks to achieve.
I personally use an adapted version of GTD with Mindmeister.
An adapted GTD dashboard for students
Define your goals and your motivations : why do I study ? Whom do I study for ? Myself ? My parents ? My professors ? My girlfriend ?
What do I want to achieve ? What kind of profession do I want to do later ? What are the stages, the necessary training, the adequate degrees to reach that long term goal ?
What do I like ? What do I really want to learn ?
If you know yourself and what you want to achieve, if you have the right tool to handle the workload of studies, you can succeed. And guess what ? Succeeding is the best way to succeed ! What I mean is : succeed in small things first, that will strenghten your selfconfidence, and you’ll be able to succeed in bigger stuff. And finally, you’ll succeed in your studies as well!
Second step : get back in touch with your course
The day itself, when you go back home, open your books and reread your notes : read slowly, let the ideas get back to you.
Jot down some notes with a mind map : I don’t know any more powerful or efficient tool to summarize something than mind mapping !
The association of keywords, colours, images, branches, place on the sheet, everything concurs to memorize and understand better than with boring linear notes.
This is the best way to understand the structure of your course, how elements and concepts are linked together. This is something most students have difficulties with…
Try to remember what the teacher or the professor said. Try to identify what you don’t really understand and ask for some explanation. This is the right time to do so : you have fresh ideas, it will be easier to connect the new concepts to what you already know. Futhermore, if you wait for the day before the exams, everybody will be busy and who will waste that precious time to share something with you ?
Third step : reactivate your memory
The secret of memorizing is : first, understand what you learn. Create links and associations with what you already know.
Make another mindmap or complete the one you started at the previous step. Then, try to ask your own questions, with the 5 W’s & 2 H’s method. This is a very old and efficient way to learn.
When you summarized the course with your mindmap, you entered the matter through the professor’s path. It was His or Her structure.
By asking questions over the course, you’ll build your own path, your own way to question and to understand everything.
Fourth step : reuse the course
When you read your books and your notes, you use some groups of neurons in your brain. But when you sit for the examination, you’ll have to answer questions or write a paper about that course. And those are different cognitive skills which use other parts of your brain. So, you have to train the right groups of neurons to succeed…
Use concept maps to grasps the different concepts. Use flashcards to memorize definitions, names, formulas. Use devices like XMind2Anki to turn your mindmap into a deck of flashcards.
Fifth step : revise and exercise
The best way to learn on the long run is to vary the tools and the techniques : use bubble and doublebubble maps to compare two objects or groups of concepts.
Teach ! Tell your stuff to a person who doesn’t know anything about it. This is the best way to learn : why do you think professors know their courses so well ? Because they keep on teaching it !
In order to explain something, you have to understand it very deeply, to the minute details…
So, train, review, exercise, vary the methods and the techniques. This is the secret : use your whole brain !
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