How to learn and study

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My micro-econ prof at business school once said, “I love models….Brazilian, Russian…in that order”. I love models too. Often times frameworks and models help cut across ill defined problems and clarify things and focus team energies in a matter of minutes. Super helpful. That said with close to three and a half million product and strategy models out there recalling the right frequency density pain model or the right 7S’s often take the right kind of learning. I found the below two guides from reddit very interesting.

Elon Musk put it “I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying. One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”

E is elaborate. Think deeply about the material and make other associations with it. At the most extreme, this can mean truly understanding the concept, why it works, how it relates to other concepts, and how it’s applied. But on a simpler level, it can be the following: Does it remind you of something else? Can you make a song out of it? Can you visually imagine it? How does it apply to you or your life? Instead of taking the material at face value, do something with it. The reason this is important is because of reminders. Memory works by having a network of associations.

from HOW TO STUDY BASED ON HOW MEMORY WORKS (reddit thread)

Memory works (to put it simply) in 3 stages: attention, encoding (storing/associating with other info), and retrieval (remembering).

To optimize the final stage, you have to optimize the first two stages.

This means you have to pay attention to the material, and you have to encode it well. (Which I’ll explain below.) Additionally, if you repeat the process, you reinforce it. By retrieving something, you start to pay attention to it again, and then you are able to re-encode it better than before.

To optimize encoding, remember GOAT ME.

G is generate and test. i.e., quiz yourself, or otherwise come up with the answers on your own without just reading them.

O is organize. This reduces the load on your brain and helps create reminders just by coloring, position, or associations with nearby material.

A is for avoid illusions of learning.

There are two kinds of memory: familiarity/recognition and recall. Recall is what you want. That’s where you can remember the information on your own, as you might be expected to do on a test. If instead you actually organize the highlights and quiz yourself on them, highlighting may be useful.

T is take breaks. This is HUGE. If nothing else, walk away with just this tip. Your memory works best if you study in frequent, short sessions rather than one long cram session.

M is match learning and testing conditions. This is based off the principle of encoding specificity, which states that, if you want to optimize memory, then the conditions surrounding encoding (e.g., where you are when you study, how tired you are when you study, etc.) should be the same as those surrounding retrieval (e.g., where you are when you’re tested, how tired you are when you’re tested, etc.). This is because the conditions themselves serve as reminders.

E is elaborate. Think deeply about the material and make other associations with it. At the most extreme, this can mean truly understanding the concept, why it works, how it relates to other concepts, and how it’s applied. But on a simpler level, it can be the following: Does it remind you of something else? Can you make a song out of it? Can you visually imagine it? How does it apply to you or your life? Instead of taking the material at face value, do something with it. The reason this is important is because of reminders. Memory works by having a network of associations. One thing reminds you of another. If you’ve thought deeply about it, you’ve probably associated it with something else in memory, which can then serve as a reminder. You can think, “Oh yeah, this is the term that inspired me to draw that silly stick figure to represent it. And I remember what the drawing looked like so now I remember what the term means.” Additionally, the quality of the memory will be better if you have elaborated on it. Elaboration allows for a lot of creativity and individuality among studiers. Choose whichever method of elaboration works for you. Maybe you enjoy making up songs, drawing doodles, creating stories, visually imagining it, relating it to yourself, or just pondering about it. If you’re studying history, you might try to think about it visually, imagine what people would have said or looked like, watch them in your head doing their historical stuff, or maybe you’d like to draw a quick doodly comic about a particular event, or maybe you wanna think about why this even was significant, or how it relates to another historical event.

On effective techniques (from Reddit study guide)

Most Effective Techniques

  • Practice testing — any form that allows you to test yourself, including using actual or virtual flashcards, doing problems or questions at the end of textbook chapters, or taking practice tests.
  • Distributed practice — studying material over a number of relatively short sessions. The best way is to study a section, sleep, then test yourself on that section

Moderately effective

  • Elaborative interrogation — use “why” questions to make connections between new and old material.
  • Self-explanation — provide your own explanations for problems while learning material
  • Interleaved practice — mixing different kinds of problems or material in one study session.

Least effective

  • Highlighting and underlining textbooks and other materials Rereading Summaries.
  • Keyword mnemonics — the use of keywords and mnemonics to help remind students of course material.
  • Imagery use for text learning — creating mental images to remind students of material.

About the author

p m

is a generalist. very lazily believes specialization is for insects.

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