Effective Study Method: 6 Rules for Developing It

Who I am
Robert Maurer


Develop a effective study method it is not to be taken for granted, especially in a school system that one almost always forgets about teach to learn.

And so, especially after high school, studying for many becomes really difficult.

This was once not a problem: at 20 - 25 years old he had already learned almost everything what there was to know.

Today, however, technical, social and organizational innovations follow one another at such a rapid pace that one has to study, literally, for a lifetime.

This is how most people find themselves, first at university, and then at work, trudging and struggling with books.

However, there is a small number of people who, instead, not only manage with ease, but are even happy to have to study more.

It is about those who have developed an effective study method.

Let me explain how you can make your own one too.

Is there an effective study method for everyone?

Studying is one of the most varied activities that exist, because it is influenced by:

  • Student learning style
  • Type of matter
  • Sources from which we learn
  • Time available
  • Purpose for which we study
  • Presence or not of exams
  • How they occur

For this reason, an effective study method can be compared to a diet: there is no one that is suitable for all occasions.  

In fact, there are those who are in great shape and those who are 30 kg overweight, those who are 50 years old and those who are 20, those who never leave the office and those who are training for the marathon, those who are healthy as a fish and those who have pre-conditions to take into account ...

It is therefore impossible for all these different needs and situations to be exhausted by a single solution.

But what can be done, in diets as in study, is to establish some "sound" principles which, in general, work.

What we are about to see are, therefore, precisely the 6 principles of an effective study method.

Few and simple fundamental concepts, each with its own function and its own deep logic, which will be the starting point to achieve any goal you want.

1. Organize your time and energy.

What matters is not the will to win, everyone has that. What matters is the willingness to prepare to win Tony Jeary

Why do so many students, even very good ones in high school, struggle so much at university?

Why is it so difficult to study and work at the same time (let's not talk about studying, working and having a family)?

Why are you chronically late when studying for an exam or preparing for a presentation or competition?

The fact is that, in the absence of someone to give the rhythm (as it happens for example in compulsory school), most of the people:

  • It gives in to the natural tendency to procrastination, which is the number 1 enemy of results.
  • Does not do accurate plans, neither short, medium nor long term

The first step of an effective study method is, therefore, to make a good study plan, which ranges from what you will do in the next 6 months to how you will organize your day tomorrow.

To do this, you have a whole arsenal of tools at your disposal, such as:

  • Ivy lee's techniques
  • Le to do list
  • The logbook
  • The tomato technique

… and many more.

Pick a few, get planning, and then check your plan every day.

In this way your predictions will become more accurate and it will be easier for you to resist the daily temptation to postpone.

2. Choose the right learning material

It is an extension of the principle, also valid in life, so once a goal has been set, it must be pursued with adequate tools.

And therefore an effective study method can only begin with the choice of teaching materials effective.

Imagine the absurdity of studying biology on a 20-year-old book.

Or that you accidentally photocopied the wrong professor's notes.

Or to prepare a high school math test on a college book.

Or, conversely, try to pass the pharmaceutical chemistry exam by studying in your middle school biology book.

If you make these kinds of mistakes, the results you will get can only be disappointing even when you study a lot.

A medical student told me that, after struggling for 2 months on a book on Radiology, the latest model of the American edition, he had obtained worse results on the exam than his classmates who had limited themselves to studying on the teacher's notes.

He had worked hard but had simply not achieved his goal because he hadn't chosen a suitable tool.

Before starting to study, therefore, take the time to understand what material and how it is convenient for you to do it.

3. Quickly process what you are studying for the first time

Many students come out of the initial phase of the study already with a sensational delay, finding themselves close to the exam or the competition that they have just finished reading the book for the first time.

The reason?

They are not clear on the fact that each phase of the study has its specific objectives, and so they immediately get lost in activities that they should instead leave for later.

When you first put your head on the material you need to prepare, your goal should not be to study it thoroughly but process it as fast as possible. .

In this way you build what the British call the "bigger picture”, That is the overview of what you will need to know.

Think when you do a puzzle: if you don't know the image you have to reproduce it will be very difficult for you to connect all the tiles together.

The same thing happens with what you study: before going into details you have to get a general idea.

When you are studying something new, it is as if you are about to step into uncharted territory: finding your way around is very difficult if you don't have a route map.

Processing the material quickly is as if, before walking into an unfamiliar territory, you were flying over it by plane.

Certainly you will not be able to grasp all the details, but you will see how extensive it is, what its boundaries are, which presumably the most difficult points and which the easiest ones….

It will therefore be easier for you to follow it ..

In this phase of the study, techniques such as quick reading and skimming will be particularly useful (read this post if you are new to skimming).

The real difference, however, will make the mentality with which you study: you will have to control perfectionism and the fear of making mistakes, which are the two reasons why we linger on things even when it is not the case.

(To learn more about this last aspect, read the article Do you postpone exams? Maybe it's because you study too much).

4. Learn the concepts first

Before going into the memorization of the details, and after having processed the material for the first time, you will have to reread it making sure you understand the conceptual part.

In fact, passing to the intensive memorization phase without having digested the conceptual part is a great waste of time.

On the reddit social network there is a section that I like very much and which is called “explain like I'm 5”, that is, explain it to me as if I were a 5 year old.

And the idea is exactly this: you only truly understand a thing when you are able to explain it in such a simple and clear way that even a 5-year-old can understand you.

In the article on Feynman's technique I will explain in detail how this level of clarity and simplicity is achieved.

You can also use concept maps, mind maps and waterfall schemes.

They are tools that have the merit of helping you both understand and memorize, but they take time to compile, so they go used sparingly and just by the way.

That is, it makes no sense to schematize or map everything you study, just as it makes no sense to use maps and schemes for the same topic at the same time.

In the articles below you can learn more about whether and when to use each tool:

Concept maps: learning to ask why

Mind maps: creativity and mental associations

Cascade schemes: analysis and memorization of details

5. Memorize the details (but only the useful ones) with advanced strategies

In the previous two stages of your effective study method, you processed the material and conceptualized it.

In doing so, you will also have memorized in a natural way A lot of things.

Probably not enough to pass your exam or contest, especially if it is a high memory one.

If nothing else though you have already acquired the conceptual framework of matter, and you are clear what and how much you will have to memorize.

This allows you to:

  • Better plan for the next job
  • Focus on what's really important.

At this point you have to do the actual memorization intentional

Underlining in 6 colors, making patterns, repeating 200 times, are all strategies you probably already know and use.

They help you memorize and are simple to perform, but certainly not ideal in one effective study method, Because I am techniques that are slow, tiring, and with which it is easy to get distracted.

At the other extreme, there are memory techniques: very fast and powerful, but also very complicated to really use in the studio.

Among them you will find, for example, the method of loci, phonetic conversion, alphanumeric files, the palaces of memory.

Precisely because I have known and used them for years, in general I recommend them only to those who have a lot of time and motivation enough to learn them.

They're great, but they have a pretty steep learning curve.

In between these two extremes there are then those techniques that have a good balance between performance and ease of use, and are therefore ideal in an effective study method:

  • spaced repetition or SRS (preferably with software or app)
  • the active recall
  • visualization, which can then be your base if you want to learn real memory techniques.

6. Prepare FOR the exam

With that "FOR" you see capitalized in the title, I want to emphasize that an effective study method is not limited to making you learn, but it prepares you specifically for the type of performance you will have to do.

It is really frustrating when you perform less than the effort you put in and what you know.

Yet, not only does it happen sometimes to everyone, but there are people who continually do not perform as well as they could.

They may have an effective study method for studying, but when it comes time to show what they have learned, they go into the balloon.

For this reason, an effective study method must be completed with strategies that allow you to make the most of the type of exam you will take.

Is it written or oral? How long does it last? Is it open or closed? Is it on the PC or on paper? Will you have pencils, calculators, or other tools available? Will you have to exceed a minimum limit or will you be put on a ranking?

Answering these questions will allow you, from the very first days, to make realistic simulations of the exam.

Like this:

  • you will understand your weaknesses
  • you can prepare yourself on the critical elements
  • you will desensitize yourself to anxiety

To learn more, read the article on how to prepare a contest.

Of great importance is, always, practice repeating the material randomly, just like in exams.

Many students tend to repeat starting on page 1 and going all the way to the end, which may be fine for the first reps.

But then, you definitely have to switch to repetition of arguments in random order. For example:

  • put about forty possible questions in a bag (the most difficult, not the easiest), and then extract and answer
  • open a page of the book, and starting from that topic try to talk as much as you can while making as many connections as possible with other parts of the material
  • alternates detailed responses and conceptual responses, in-depth speeches and schematic summaries, written parts and verbal parts.

In this way you will be less bored, you will maintain higher concentration, and you will feel really ready for any eventuality, and therefore more self-confident.

Effective study method: cut it to your size

Here we have finished seeing together the 6 healthy principles that they are at the basis of an effective study method: 

  1. Plan short and long term
  2. Choose the right material
  3. Process it quickly to create your route map
  4. Learn the concepts first
  5. Memorize details with easy and powerful techniques
  6. Prepare FOR the exam

Apply them and you will see that, whatever you study, they will give you good results.

What can you do, at that point, for to make your method even more effective?

You will have to learn how to cut it exactly to your needs.

As we saw at the beginning, in fact, studying is an activity that has many variables, objective and subjective, and therefore a good student must be able to adapt his method to all these variables.

So forget the idea - which I perceive in many students - that you can really study better by applying some recipe slavishly.

And instead, enter into the perspective that you are the only one who can take responsibility to understand where and how it can improve their study method. 

In this way, the search for an effective study method will be much more interesting, and above all profitable.

A greeting. Anthony.

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