So, you picked a book from your shelf, or you opened a content to study on your smart phone, then you asked yourself, how will I be able to study and know what is written in this book? Well, the truth is that you can learn everything in the book and even learn more and keep learning more. To achieve this, you have to adopt a study technique. And that is what I will talk about in this article. How to understand and remember what you studied.
Understanding and Remembering
The art of knowing lies in better understanding and remembering of what you read. And it’s these two concepts that I will buttress. Understanding and remembering can be achieved in many ways. Understanding involves creating a mental model of the subject being studied, while remembering has to do with recalling the understood knowledge when needed. A lot of people resort to memorizing, well, that can be dangerous because once you forget a dot in the line of what you want to remember, connecting the other dots can be difficult.
Understanding what you are learning
Though, there are numerous study techniques out there that have proven successful when used, I will teach you two methods I employ in my learning that have really helped me and is still working for me.
Start with one particular material and expand with other materials:
Every good writer has information in his/her book, but they way the writer puts forth the information might not be simple for some to comprehend some topics in the book. This can be as result of the pattern the writer used in presenting the information or the tone of the writer or the writer’s use of English or his choice of words, etc.
Notwithstanding, if you want to learn any subject (idea or information), you have to pick a material. This material can be a book, a video, an audio, etc. when you pick this material to study, let’s say you want to study rocket science, so you pick a book on rocket science, now, let’s say this book talked about everything you need to know to become a rocket scientist.
So, it must contain topics like mechanics, aerodynamics, thermodynamics, projectiles, etc. now, let’s say you are starting with learning mechanics, the writer in his/her own words may not have presented some terms in a way you can easily understand them due to his method of explanation, or he may have quoted ideas that you are not familiar with or you don’t just understand they way he presents certain ideas.
You do not have to drop the book to pick another one, instead, what you do is, you look for other materials that will explain better that particular area (mechanics) in the writer’s material you could not understand, use these other materials to clarify the idea, once you have done that, you once again return to the original material, by this time, if you reread the original material, you will understand what it was talking about, and by now, you have expanded your knowledge about that topic. So, this is what I meant by “start with a particular material and expand with other materials.”
This involves cognitive exercise while studying, it involves you engaging your brain actively while learning. With the rocket science instance, let’s evaluate this example. Let’s say you have learned from the book that you need to streamline the body of a rocket because it has advantages, so you drop the book for a moment and ask yourself some questions like:
Question: Why do we need to streamline the body of a rocket?
Then you answer after brainstorming what you studied
Answer: Because it improves the rockets aerodynamics.
Then you ask yourself again, how exactly does lack of streamlined rocket body affect the rocket’s motion?
Then you answer after brainstorming what you studied again
Answer: well I don’t know.
This your last response “well I don’t know” will urge you to start searching the impact of non-streamlined rocket body on a rocket’s aerodynamics. If the original material you are using did not explain this concept, you can consult other materials which can explain that. Maybe you use the internet to do the searching. By so doing you will very much understand the concept you are studying.
Active recall helps a lot in learning, I have used it and I’m still using it. Also, when you study, study as if you are preparing to teach. If you can comfortably teach a subject, it simply means you understood the subject, and by teaching a subject, you hardly forget it, that is why professors know a lot about a topic, because they teach the topic always.
Remembering what you studied
Not being able to reproduce what you studied as and when needed is very disappointing. The fact is that you will forget anything you don’t practice over time. That is what we call Forgetting Curve, this idea hypothesis the decline of memory retention in time. This curve shows how information is lost over time when there is no attempt to retain it.
The key to remembering what you studied is “periodic recall” of what you studied. One of the ways to achieve this is with the method called Spaced Repetition.
This is a method where the learner remembers a certain idea while having the remembering process-time increase each time the idea is remembered. For example, if you are tasked to remember the idea today, the next time you will be asked to remember it might be the next day, then three days later, then one week later, then two weeks later, then one month later, then three months later, then six months later, then one year later, etc. with this technique you can decrease the effect of the forgetting curve thereby being able to retain whatever you have learnt.
If you put these techniques into practice, you will not regret doing so, because it will help increase your learning capabilities which are your ability to understand and remember whatever you studied.