Effective learning methods presented
Learning is an integral part of studying. The goal should be to learn as quickly and sustainably as possible so that the material sticks. We present 8 effective learning methods for your studies!
You’ve probably heard the saying “I have to be able to visualize it”, or you’ve said it yourself. Many people learn better through pictures and/or graphical representations than through text, yet most knowledge is conveyed in writing even in times of digitalization. But written words are nothing else for our head than abstract symbols strung together, which it tries to interpret. But the brain thinks much better in pictures.
You “translate” a text, e.g. an essay, into your own visual language. This is not about aesthetics, but about drawing visual crutches through which knowledge is better remembered. Therefore, visualizations are a helpful and effective learning method.
Historical facts, for example, can be drawn as a timeline, and you can visualize statistics with diagrams in a way that is clearer and easier for you to understand.
This is how you implement the learning method: Draw facts that you want to learn. In chemistry, for example, this can be molecular chains for illustration. If you are studying civil engineering, you will necessarily have to draw static constructions. Sometimes pictures are created in our mind’s eye that have little or nothing to do with the actual fact. But if they help you remember a fact, wonderful! Draw them and memorize them well. If you then call up the picture in your mind, the associated fact will come to mind much more easily.
It is also a good idea to draw symbols that are found in the learning text. You can also use geometric shapes such as overlapping circles, triangles, etc., whatever comes to mind. The trick to visualizing is that you are working creatively, increasing your ability to remember. You help your brain to remember the content better.
#2 Build mnemonic bridges
Mnemonic bridges form strong links that remain in the memory for a long time. They are therefore an ideal, creative learning method. Mnemonic bridges are small detours that you take mentally in order to remember facts better. You can also imagine a mnemonic as a crutch for your memory.
This is how you implement the learning method: The most important thing with mnemonic devices is that you create a mnemonic that is easier to remember than the actual learning material.
For example: You want to remember the 9 amino acids that are essential for humans. These acids are tryptophan, threonine, phenylalanine, valine, histidine, lsysine, isoleucine, methionine and histidine. Not particularly easy terms, are they? Here’s what you can make of it with a mnemonic: Torsten and Theresa plan various hours, for listening to independent mentors and helpers.
Does such a sentence completely replace learning? No, as I said, it is only a support, its initial letters are reminders for you to better remember the amino acids you have learned in the exam.
#3 Summarize the material
In the method of summarizing, it is crucial that you separate the important from the unimportant. Scientific literature can sometimes be voluminous, and not every lecturer succeeds in condensing the really important points. For you this offers a chance to deepen your knowledge and to store it effectively with this learning method.
You steam the learning material to essential key points, which you write down on paper. You pull together learning scripts, scientific texts, documents from lectures, exercise scripts, etc. and extract those key points that are relevant to the exam.
Important and honestly exhausting with this learning method is to separate the important from the unimportant information. You can use older exams as a guide for this. Also, talk to your fellow students to find out what information they consider relevant.
This is how you implement the learning method: Don’t just read the material, write down the most important points by hand. In this way, you actively engage with the material. Your brain doesn’t just passively consume the material, but is encouraged to actively engage with it. In this way, you will also quickly notice whether you have actually understood the material.
Tip: You can write the bullet points on a laptop, tablet or smartphone, but the learning material is better memorized if you write them down by hand.
Once you have written down the key points, imagine that you have to give a lecture on the topic. All you have are your bullet points. Give the lecture aloud at home and you will quickly find out where you still lack knowledge. Look up this missing knowledge specifically and then complete your bullet points. Repeat this method of summarizing until you can speak confidently and confidently about the topic even without notes.
#4 Reading and Marking
For this learning method, you’ll need three highlighters in different colors.
Red highlighter: very important content
Yellow highlighter: important content
Green highlighter: good to know, but not very relevant
This is how you implement the learning method: First read the text you want to learn from completely. Then read it a second time and mark the text passages according to the principle of the colors given above. Do this intuitively and without much thought, but at the same time be sparing with the use of highlighters. A document that is too colorful is more likely to inhibit learning than to promote it.
Put the text away for a few hours and then read the marked passages again. Make notes on the text passages if you feel that this will help you to remember the information better.
Tip: You can also compile keywords and key points from Reading & Marking in a mind map. You can find out how to do this in the section on the mind map learning method below.
#5 SQR3 Method
SQR3 is an abbreviation for Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Review. The method is suitable for summarizing extensive learning texts. We will start from one text for the explanation, but you can learn several texts in a row with this method.
This is how you implement the learning method: Let’s briefly go through the individual steps:
In this first step you do not read the text completely, but you get a rough overview. Scientific texts follow a logical structure, which you take advantage of here. You skim the table of contents, chapter headings, and summaries such as the conclusion.
Ask yourself why you are reading the text. Sound funny? The point is that you’re not just reading through the text, you’re pulling the information from it that is relevant to the exam. Imagine that the text is an interlocutor who is supposed to answer questions for you, and write down those questions, such as:
What information do you expect to get from reading it?
What is the main message of the text and how will it help you with your (upcoming) exam?
With the questions from step #2, you have symbolically put on reading glasses with which you now read the text, focusing on answering the questions you wrote down specifically and in writing. Also, write yourself marginal notes on the text if they seem useful to you in order to reinforce the key messages.
In this step, you will summarize your answers and notes. The rule here is not to simply copy, but to form new sentences and to shorten them rigorously. This is tiring, but it helps your brain form new connections that are even more memorable.
Read through the summarized notes and match them with the questions from step #2. Were these questions answered sufficiently and satisfactorily?
Most excitingly, can you connect the insights you gained from the text to existing knowledge? If you succeed in doing this, you will automatically create new mnemonic connections, which will help to consolidate the material even better in your mind.
#6 Draw Mind Maps
Mind maps are ingenious maps for your memory. With them, you combine the learning methods of visualization and summarization into one effective learning technique. Mind maps are graphical, map-like representations of thoughts, facts, contexts, etc. The individual information components of a mind map are connected with lines and/or arrows. In this way, topic clusters can be created that are easier to memorize than mere bullet points on paper.
This is how you implement the learning method: Mind maps can be created both by hand and on a PC, tablet or smartphone. For the analog version, we recommend a large sheet of paper (at least A4, better A3) and different colored pens. Digital mind maps can be created excellently with free tools such as the basic version of Miro or with XMind.
Whichever version you choose: Start your mind map with the central point in the middle. For example, the topic you want to learn, such as the principle of “photosynthesis”.
#7 Read notes aloud
Reading your notes or learning content out loud is one of the most effective learning methods. By repeating the content not only mentally, but also in the form of speech, you stimulate multiple areas of your brain. You can also turn on a voice recorder or your smartphone’s voice recording app to listen to what you’re reading later for reinforcement.
This is how you implement the learning method: Collect your notes or bullet points and find a quiet, undisturbed place. Now read the notes aloud. Focus on the content, not on whether you read quickly or without stumbling. It is much more important that you grasp the information as you read aloud. That way, you’ll remember it for a longer period of time. Some people swear by this method of learning to play the recordings when they fall asleep, so that they can store the knowledge while they sleep.
#8 Use flashcards
Flashcards are the classic learning method, and still highly effective. Especially for the memorization in the long-term memory, learning with flashcards is said to be particularly practical. Use a system with a card index box. The 5-slot system has proven itself here. Each subject stands for the learning frequency, i.e. how often you pick up a card and repeat the material on it.
- Tray 1: Repeat flashcards every day
- Tray 2: flashcards are repeated every other day
- Tray 3: Flashcards are repeated once a week.
- Tray 4: Flashcards are repeated once a month
- Tray 5: Flashcards are repeated shortly before the exam (1-2 days before)
This is how you implement the study method: Get flashcards and a flashcard box. Ready-made learning sets are available for this purpose. Now label the individual cards with questions about the subject matter. The answer to the question is the content to be learned, which can be found on the back of the index card. If you succeed in answering the question correctly, the index card moves to the back, subject by subject. At the end of this learning method, all flashcards are ideally in tray #5 and the learning material has migrated into your long-term memory through constant repetition.
#9 Do e-learning
At the latest since Corona, e-learning has become a matter of course. In the meantime, there are a number of online courses with which you can deepen your knowledge. A great advantage of e-learning is that you can learn exactly when it suits you. Whether it’s during the day or at night, at the weekend or during the week, it doesn’t matter. Tests and mock exams are helpful interactive ways to take full advantage of this learning method.
Here’s how to implement the study method: Check out e-learning options online and at your college. Most universities offer free, in-house e-learning courses and downloadable learning materials. You’ll also find private providers quickly with a simple Google search. Look for student discounts and rates. When you book courses, stick to the learning stages provided so that you reach your goal quickly and efficiently with this learning method.
#10 Learn in a group
Alone in a quiet room, the ceiling quickly falls on your head. Learning together is often better and more effective. You can also act out exam situations in which you slip into different roles. For example, a fellow student takes on the role of the examiner and questions your knowledge. This social training is particularly helpful in preparing for oral exams, for example, to reduce test anxiety.
In addition, all members of a learning group benefit from the synergy effect: everyone contributes their know-how to the group, so that questions that arise are answered quickly and learning gaps are closed.
This is how you implement the learning method: Talk to fellow students with whom you want to form a learning group. Make sure that you are at approximately the same level of knowledge. In addition, the group should have a maximum of four members, otherwise there is a high risk of distraction and unrest. Arrange regular meetings (at least once a week) to review the material. During the learning sessions, write down everything that you want to deepen later at home with other learning methods (visualizing, reading aloud, etc.).
Which learning method is best?
There is no one perfect learning method that works for everyone. Find out what type of learner you are to find the right learning method for you. You can do this by trying several learning techniques – preferably all the ones we’ve listed here. Over time, you’ll notice which learning techniques stick with you the most. Combine the most effective learning methods for the best results. We wish you success in your exams!
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