Subconscious Learning – Distribute your study time throughout the day. Block out study sessions into 2, 3, and 4 sessions each day. Why? Learning occurs constantly. Blocking out segments allows you to re-engage the material, dig up what you already know, and re-store it. For example, one four hour study session is not as beneficial as 2×2 hour sessions, or 3×90 minute sessions. Rest or sleep at some point during the day. Why? Learning occurs constantly. Study every subject every day!
Context Effect – Vary your routine and study locations. Knowledge therefore becomes independent of surroundings, time, etc…This allows your brain to engage the material in several contexts, enabling it to process the material more effectively. The more environments in which you rehearse the sharper and longer lasting the memory will become. Following each study session, quiz yourself (quizzing yourself is the most effective mode of long-term learning and retention). Make your learning independent of surroundings, time of day, etc…
Learning Styles – Engage every learning style as often as possible. Why? See context effect. Listen, read, write (type and by hand), recite, teach, quiz yourself all the time, make charts, maps, spider diagrams, Cornell notes, etc…Then, immediately go for a walk or a workout while quizzing yourself. Why? The brain engages material more effectively when the body is moving. Study standing up, lying down, sitting, while listening to soft music, in different environments.
Active Learning – Verbatim copying of notes does very little. You must engage the material deeply. Re-write your notes without looking, or simply glancing, and be sure to put them in your own words. Own it! How do you know when you own the material? When you can teach it. Teach it in your head, to a tape recorder, to your pet, to anyone who will listen! Relate the material to current knowledge. Quiz yourself often. Write questions, read them aloud, get someone else to write questions for you. Do the same for them.
Mixed, Multiple Skill Learning – Mix items, mix skills, mix concepts from other classes. Relate your learning to things you already know well. The brain works subconsciously when it is a little confused, so challenge the material by asking questions. Over the long term, these strategies lead to significantly better learning. Therefore, you do not need constant repetition.
Manage Your Interruptions – Studies indicate that when we are interrupted from a task, it takes, on average, 50% longer to learn/complete the task. For example, if it would take you 20 minutes to learn something new, and in the middle of studying that material you are interrupted, it will now take you 30 minutes to learn it (plus the time of the interruption!). So, turn off that phone and get busy! That said, it is a good idea to schedule study breaks. That way, you rest your brain as it still works subconsciously.
Study Process – Big picture first: 1. Browse the chapter for three minutes. Backward, forward, or skip around. This should feel more like play than work. The result is that it sets your subconscious mind to be curious. 2. Overview the chapter – Read summaries, look at the headings. Read the conclusion. Then go back and look at charts, diagrams and tables. At this point, you will have the main purpose of the chapter, with some basic information. This may be all you need at first. You can get more detail as the week progresses. 3. Closer reading: You still do not need to read the entire chapter in this step. Simply decide what information you know that you do not know. Study that. 4. Review and quiz yourself. Repeat as needed.
Taking Notes – Note taking involves actively organizing the material and making it your own. Other people’s notes will not help you until you have put your own stamp on it. Strategies include; 1. Re-write your notes and condense them. Each time you do this, you remember more. Eventually, you can boil it down to one sentence 2. Use pictures, maps, diagrams. 3. Know what you are studying for and tailor your notes to that purpose (do you need detailed notes, or an overview?)
Work With the Information – The more ways we work with new information, or think about something new, the better we learn and the better use we make of it. Make it fun! Play with the information, and celebrate your new knowledge!
Boosting – To review, Study a little, and often. Significant amounts of material require frequent review in short bursts. Bring your notes with you, review when working out, speak into a recorder and play it back while driving, working out (movement of any kind), or simply run through it in your head at odd times. Apply your learning as often as possible. For example, while watching tv, explore ways to apply anatomy, physiology, etc…