Boost Your Learning Skills With Our TOP 10 Learning Strategies
There’s a ton of information on learning strategies available on the internet. It takes days to read through the countless tips & tricks from learning experts. It takes even longer if you put them to a test and rate various methods for their effectiveness. No worries, you don’t have to spend that much time with research and testing – because we did it for you!
In this quick read, you find the Premium League of Learning Strategies. All of them had to be highly effective to make it onto our list. The first five are about the best preparation to get yourself in the right place, while the last five are all about learning methods.
Music for focus is a great way to get yourself into the “zone”.
1 – 5 LEARNING PREPARATION
1. You have to be interested in what you learn
We feel resistance when spending time with something that seems to be irrelevant to our lives. Trying to remember information around “boring topics” makes us wish to escape as soon as possible, we anxiously count the minutes until we can get up and do something more interesting. So, if the topic you’re studying is not naturally appealing to you, a bit of acting is needed:
The trick here is to assume the persona of an interested learner. Imagine you are an actor/actress who has to play a math-loving scientist or a history geek who is fascinated by that very chapter you need to know for your upcoming exam.
Each time you sit down to study, take a minute to fully immerse in this imaginary persona and observe what happens. You’ll be surprised how quickly some fascination with the topic dwells up!
2. Team up with a study pal
It is so much harder to keep up the discipline and work for hours when you have to do it all alone. Thankfully, some fellow students offer to be your (virtual) study partner. You can find both girls and boys on youtube who share videos of their study sessions. We particularly liked Kharma Medic’s video because it includes pauses and countdown timers.
3. Use music for focus
Our mind can sometimes appear to be a bit hyperactive and make it hard to sit down and study quietly and concentrated. Scientific research has shown the great impact of music on our mood and our thoughts measurable in the frequency and altitude of our brain waves. Listening to music that is specifically designed to help you tune in to a deep focus helps a great deal here.
Yes, you read it right: We do suggest listening to music during the learning! It is the type of music that makes all the difference between poison and medicine: You need to choose music without vocals, not too loud, neither too fast, nor too slow, created in a way to do its’ subtle magic in the background of your mind. You can find it on youtube.
4. Start an Energy Diary
As you may have noticed, your energy level isn’t the same throughout the whole day. There are some hours where you find it hard to even sit down and open the books, yet at other times you are completely in the zone, focused and awake. Since we are all different individuals it is a great learning strategy to draw your own energy graph: Simply take a calendar and rate your energy level at various times on a scale from 1 – 10. Do this for some days and you will have a clear idea about the hours when your energy is high and when it is not. You then want to align your most challenging learning tasks to the peaks and move less demanding subjects to other time slots.
5. Change the Self-talk
The way you communicate with yourself is of great importance for your performance. Telling yourself repeatedly that you aren’t good at geography doesn’t serve you well when you have to learn for an exam.
Similarly, the thought that you could better be somewhere else, doing something else, is counter-productive when you need to work with an undivided focus on your learning goals.
Positive self-assurance, on the other hand, is a powerful method to correct negative messages you may keep sending to yourself. You will find it particularly useful, even satisfying, to take control and decide which movie is playing in your head.
Observe your self-talk and if it is not in support of an effective learning session make a conscious effort to change that dialogue. You will need to find your own lines, but you may take inspiration from this example:
“Right this moment, I am I’m exactly where I should be and I am doing exactly what I should be doing. I have all the skills needed to excel at learning [geography].”
Handwritten notes are more effective for your memory.
6 – 10 STUDYING METHODS
6. Learn as if you had to teach it
Several independent studies have shown that we remember approximately:
10% of what we read.
20% of what we hear.
50% of what we see & hear.
70% of what we discuss with others.
95% of what we teach.
The famous Feynman Technique is considered as one of the most effective learning methods and directly based on this “learn to teach” concept. It works as follows:
- Study your subject
- Teach what you have just learned in your own words to someone with zero knowledge of the subject. It can be an imaginary person, a talk to the mirror, or your webcam. What matters is to teach it to someone who doesn’t even have a basic understanding of the field you studied, e.g. a sixth-grader. Simplify the concepts to the greatest extent possible, avoid academic jargon.
- Identify gaps: which parts were you able to explain well and which not? The use of a lot of academic jargon implies that you didn’t understand the topic well enough to say it in basic terminology words.
- Go back to your book and study once again. Repeat this process until you can explain everything in simple words and with ease. You now own the topic.
7. Write by hand
When it comes to memory, the act of writing with a pen is far superior to typing on a keyboard. This is due to the fact that writing by hand creates much more activity in the sensorimotor parts of your brain. It gives your brain more ‘hooks’ to hang your memories on.
Another reason to favour the pen is the fact that it imposes on you to think in words, not in letters, which means a significant difference to your cognitive intelligence. You are forced to think words ahead, not letters ahead. The result is a more refined ability to articulate and present your thoughts. Many great authors still create stacks of handwritten notes in the process of crafting their novels.
8. Use a focus timer
We tried and liked the concept of using an interval timer and work in small batches of e.g. 20 minutes followed by a short pause of 3-5 minutes. You will need to find your own ideal durations, but once you have it, it comes in extremely handy to have a timer app that alerts you on the change from work to pause and then back to work.
There are many apps to time your learning intervals. We enjoyed working with the FocusTimer Pro.
9. Focus on one small step at a time
If someone asked you to do 100 push-ups, you would most likely feel overwhelmed (depending on your fitness level you might even cry out “That’s impossible for me!”). If, however, you had to do 20 sets of 5 push-ups, spread over the whole day… It would become a bit less frightening and feel more feasible, isn’t it? Likewise, the goal to read an entire book can feel like a very daunting task, but once you break it down into small steps, e.g. just five pages at a time, it suddenly feels very much within reach.
The key skill here is to learn to deconstruct big tasks into small steps that can be completed within less than an hour. If you organise your study days in this way, you will permanently earn small successes and move forward with an on-going sense of accomplishment.
10. Celebrate your successes
Often overlooked but incredibly important: Acknowledge your hard work and pat yourself on the shoulder for hard-earned accomplishments. It is a nice thing to award yourself some respect for reaching a learning goal, maybe nobody else realises how difficult it has been to climb this mountain.
When you make yourself fully aware of your successes you can use them as motivating stepping stones to continue your learning journey. Most people depend on extrinsic motivation, something from the outside to give them the energy to work hard. Great learners, on the other hand, find motivation in their own progress!
Let’s jump to action!
We love supporting our students on their learning journeys and dearly hope this list can be of practical use for you too. Our native teachers are highly qualified educators and always ready to share their extensive knowledge, study tricks, language hacks, and more. Whether your goal is to ace an upcoming exam, prepare for a study abroad, or discover a new culture – Feel warmly invited to get in touch with us!
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