A More Efficient Way of Learning New Concepts

The standard high school student spends the majority of their time during the term procrastinating and putting off work. But when it comes to exam time, they turn into machines, working from dawn to dusk, fuelled by red bull and other stimulants in order to make up for the lack of effort during the term.

Such an inefficient study schedule has been perpetrated for years, and have almost become ingrained into most student’s minds as the only way to study.

However, chances are you’ve also been exposed to the usual drone of a teacher or “study experts” who tell you to spread out your study over a period of time and give up social activities, sport or whatever in order to study. Then once you’ve heard such a spiel you’ve probably forgotten whatever they’ve said and gone on with your own methods.

However, what if I told you that you could get top marks by studying less and socialising more all whilst reducing the pre exam stress that many of you face.

Firstly, let’s ‘reinvent’ the way you learn things.

Rote memorisation is an incredibly inefficient way to learn. Moreover, our brains can be broken down from over use and there are countless times of when someone has gone into an exam hall filled to the brim with their memorised essays or pre written answers to come out the other end in a miserable heap due to “mind blanks” or “brain freezes”. As such it’s important to either have a contingency plan in place to stop this from happening, or find a better and smarter way to study.

Chances are the contingency plan will include some form of cheating or unethical behaviour. If you choose this method, then I sincerely hope you get away with it. On the other hand, you don’t have to jeopardise your mark and you can spend less time studying whilst achieving a better mark in the long run by simply learning by connections.

Learning by connections can mean many things. You could use metaphors or diagrams or visualisation in order to remember concepts or formula.

Let me break down the multiple ways to learn by connection.

Learning through metaphors allow you to understand concepts by relating them to things you already know. For example, if we wanted to remember the compound interest formula, you could relate it to either your own bank account where interest gets paid based on what you have in it each month or you could relate it to how trees grow and how money grows. Whichever analogy you think of first is going to be the best one for you to remember it.

Not too sure on how to create a strong analogy or metaphor? Follow the steps below:

  1. Firstly, break down the formula, or concept into bite sized pieces. For formulas you segment different parts of it and for ideas or concepts you could segment based on logical progression.
  2. Now, ask yourself ‘why?’ “why does this happen?” “why is this important?” This will help you look for patterns in the concept.
  3. Finally, you can start thinking about analogies or metaphors that fit the pattern. Using the example above, Compound interest means that the money will grow over time. Something else that grows over time is a tree.
  4. Decide upon an analogy and then explain the concept/idea/formula with it.
  5. Once you can do the above, then continually use the metaphor until it is strengthened in your mind and then repeat this process with other formula or concepts.

This seems like something that causes more work than necessary, but it really doesn’t. Your metaphor is something that you should know previously, so you’ll be relying on previous experiences to remember something knew. Thinking of a previous experience or using previous knowledge of something won’t take much time. If you’re still wary about this approach, then think back to the money and tree growing analogy. That took under a minute to think of.

This strategy is incredibly useful when implemented at the right time which leads me to my next point.

Learning things right the first time. The moment you are exposed to something new, your brain is like a sponge, ready to absorb anything that it has to. However, once you’ve saturated it with that knowledge, your brain will fight to keep the knowledge retained and so any new fixes or clarifications take longer to sink in.

As such, the first time you see something you need to learn it correctly. You don’t need to master it immediately, but just understand the basics and if it’s particularly hard you need to invest time straight away to break it down and understand it.  And the best strategy to learn it perfectly the first time? Relating it to a metaphor or an analogy as stated above.

Finally, despite bashing memorisation earlier, it is needed in some form to supplement our knowledge and understanding. There are some facts in subjects like Economics or History that need to be memorised and quoted word for word. As such you have no choice to memorise them. However, instead of diving straight into memorisation, I suggest you remember these facts by association. What this means is that you try to relate the given fact to something you already know about the subject. Going back to the compound interest formula, the time periods changed based on when it is compounded. This is the same as loan repayments where time periods change as well.  So by drawing two or more similar facts/concepts together you can memorise more in the same amount of ‘brain space’.

Once you associate these facts or concepts then you can use repetition to strengthen your knowledge of them ensuring you have some contingency plan in place should you forget the memorised content.

Admittedly, most of the stuff I’ve discussed above can seem overwhelming to begin with, but once you put them into practice, you’re guaranteed to notice results.

To summarise your plan of attack should be:

  • Learn things the first time round
  • Learn by analogies and connections first
  • Once you’ve done that you can resort to memorisation of key facts and figures.

Following this method will help save time during peak exam periods, as well allow you to study less and socialise more.



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