Hi friends, hope we’re all keeping well.
These days I’ve really been in the thick of school and studying, spending practically 12 hours a day on school premises.
For some reason it’s just really motivational and energising to study around like-minded people who are also working hard to get into their college courses. It has definitely amplified my desire to study and the effectiveness.
So, being a student with no life, every study session sees me deploying many different types of study techniques. It’s important, in my opinion, to not study the same way for every subject ,or else you’ll quickly become bored and dissatisfied. Furthermore, I truly do believe that studying in different ways can help you have more fun, while maintaining focus on your work.
Thus, in this blog post I would like to rank my top 5 favourite techniques to help make my study more effective, more impactful, and have generally more positive and desirable results. Keep in mind these aren’t limited to only memory techniques, but can also range from apps to tools.
Mind maps are definitely a viable method of studying. Unfortunately, they won’t be on this list as I don’t tend to make them as much, unless it’s for a book I just finished reading.
Doing textbook practice questions is also an excellent way of studying. Active recall has been proven time and time again to be the most efficient way of retaining learned material. While textbook practice questions won’t be on the list, I can assure you that a close relative of this type of technique will appear.
The final honourable mention I will give is to the retrospective timetable. Ali Abdaal made a brilliant video explaining how you can use it and it’s benefits, which you can find here. Essentially, it’s the complete opposite of a conventional study timetable (where you plan ahead of time what you’ll study and when), and instead you decide on what to study based on the quality of your previous study sessions. I won’t spend much time on explaining it in detail, but will definitely make a future blog post discussing it, which I will share here. (Future me here, check out this post for a more in depth look at the retrospective timetable!)
Now with all the honourable mentions out of the way, it’s time to start ranking!
5: The Feynman Technique
This method was coined by the world-renowned physicist Richard P. Feynman while he was in Princeton. This devilishly simply, yet highly effective technique has been praised over and over by people from all fields of study and walks of life.
Let’s say you have trouble understanding a certain concept in your studying, for example point discharge in physics. You then want to pretend to explain this concept to a 10 year old child so as to help them understand it as well. Naturally, you will then also need to imagine what kind of questions those pesky 10 year olds might ask during your explanation.
“Okay so, when there’s a large concentration of positive charge at the sharp point of an object,-“
“What’s a large concentration? What is a positive charge? Why is this charge at the sharp point of something?”
“Em, large concentration means there’s lots of it. Charges can be positive or negative, but I’m just saying positive for this example. The charge is at the sharp point because of the charge distribution. Anyway, this large concentration of charge ionises the surrounding air, and the negative ions are attracted to the positive charge at the sharp point which-“
“What does ionise mean? How does ionising work? Why are the negative ions-“
And you get the point. You’re essentially trying to bombard yourself with questions about the thing you’re trying to explain. It is when you realise you don’t know how to explain something, that you focus on this bit and try to understand it more before going back to trying to explain it again.
This technique is fantastic because understanding something will always triumph over memorising it. Once you’re absolutely confident you understand a certain topic, you’ll find yourself having a much easier time memorising it for exams as it will stick with you so much better!
With that being said, the reason it’s at the bottom of the list is because of the limits of this technique. You can’t really ‘understand’ keywords, dates, names, places, and other core facts you need to memorise for subjects. It works best with complicated concepts and ideas, but is unfortunately, in my opinion, mostly limited to those areas too.
All in all, the Feynman technique is a solid technique, and definitely deserves a spot on my top 5 list.
4: The Pomodoro Technique
This is a fairly simply technique that can help get you out of common study slumps. Whenever you feel completely unmotivated to do any work at all, I would recommend you try this method out.
Essentially, you want to set a timer for exactly 25 minutes, where you will then focus on studying as much as possible with no distractions. When the 25 minutes is up, you set a timer for another 5 minutes, in which you will take a small break (i.e go on your phone, eat a quick snack, etc.). You will then repeat this cycle.
For some reason, 25 minutes seems like a magical number to me. It’s a perfect balance between a long half hour and a short 20 minutes. Ideally we would want to spend more time studying, but this is nonetheless a good method to actually help motivate you to start. Additionally, as I keep going through more Pomodoro sessions, I find myself naturally increasing the study time to 30 minutes, then to 35 minutes, then 45 minutes without an increase in break time.
All in all, the Pomodoro technique is best applied when in a study slump to help kickstart the session, but doesn’t provide much help in actual, solid studying.
3: The Mind Palace
What can also be known as a memory palace or the Loci method, the mind palace can be an extremely powerful technique if used correctly, potentially the most powerful.
Visualisation in your mind’s eye is one of the best ways to memorise anything you want to commit to memory. The details of making a mind palace can get quite murky and hard, and definitely too much for me to describe in this post. If you want to know more about the mind palace, I would recommend checking out the Superhuman course in Udemy by Jonathan Levi. This course is what introduced me to the world of memory markers and mind palaces, which has, as a result, completely changed my approaches to learning.
Essentially, the backbone of the mind palace is the principle that we remember places extremely well. Think of your own bedroom, your kitchen, your main toilet in the house. I’m almost certain you can visualise in your mind’s eye almost every nook and cranny, every space, where almost every object is placed in those rooms.
By using the mind palace, we create things called memory markers, which are basically funny, bizarre, strange, but striking and memorable images in our mind (that contain the information we want to remember), and then placing them in certain areas of familiar places in our head.
There will definitely be a future blog post dedicated exclusively to the mind palace, which you will be able to find here. But all in all, if I had to give a con to the mind palace technique, it would be that sometimes it can be quite cumbersome or tiring to make and maintain them.
Aside from that, the mind palace is absolutely a top tier study technique that deserves a high spot on this list!
For those who don’t know, Anki is an excellent flashcard software that is available on all platforms. Flash cards in general are an extremely good way of studying since it has active recall, but Anki just takes it to another level.
In comparison to some other popular flashcard apps, Anki has quite a few notable advantages that makes it superior to its competitors. The first and possibly most obvious is it’s superb spaced repetition system. You will not learn anything that is crammed into you in a short period of time, but you will have much stronger chances when you are tested on that information over spaced periods of time. Anki combines both active recall and spaced repetition to make it one of the most, if not the most, reliable and effective study tool that I use.
Another advantage of Anki is the many custom add ons you can import to help customise your cards and study system. Some of my favourites include Frozen Fields and Heatmaps, but I’m sure there are many others that I’m forgetting to say right now. As I said, it’s definitely a good idea to mix up your studying methods from time to time, and the fact that Anki has so many optional add-ons (for free of course) gives them a huge competitive advantage in my book.
Not to mention that it is also open source, there truly is no other software that comes even close to beating Anki in terms of effectiveness and efficiency!
1. Past Exam Paper Questions
And here we come to my personal No. 1. While I accept that it may be a bit conventional, there simply is no other better way of practicing an exam BY practicing an exam (done properly, of course).
In general, if you have access to past exam paper questions for the subject you’re studying for, you will absolutely 100% want to prioritise them when studying. Naturally, try do them within the normal time and truly do test yourself by not having notes nearby.
When done with other techniques (e.g. Pomodoro Technique and the Retrospective Timetable), past paper questions truly are king. It is the ultimate way of utilising active recall to study, and helps give you real experience tackling the actual exam.
Hopefully you guys will have found some useful nuggets of information and resources here and there. So far, this has been the longest and most time consuming post to make, and I’m particularly proud of it.
And that’s about it for this post. Remember to stay safe and healthy, and I’ll see you guys next time 👋🏼