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How to learn better

Updated: Feb 4, 2023

Key Points:

  1. Learning is very important to our life, but for each individual, the learning styles could be quite different. What we can do is to help you understand and find your best way to learn. You still need to do lots of learning and practices, so that you can improve your learning skills, and study more efficiently and effectively.

  2. WikiHow has many articles talking about learning, but each standalone article can't form a solid and comprehensive solution. Therefore, we have rewritten and integrated several articles together to create a better version.

According to Wikipedia, "Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences." Learning could be one of the most important skills for us. How to learn effectively and better is of vital important for our life. Lifelong learning "is important for an individual's competitiveness and employability, but also enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development."

Here we quote the best way to learn provided by wikiHow, a wiki that is building the world's largest and highest quality how-to manual. Please edit the articles and find author credits at the original wikiHow articles on How to Learn, How to Find Your Learning Style, How to Learn New Things. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

Learning can be a pretty personal thing -- different techniques tend to work for different people, and you may find that the strategies that have helped you understand one kind of topic may not be as effective for another. That's completely normal, so don't worry! There's a lot of contradictory advice out there, but there are also plenty of tried-and-true approaches supported by the kinds of organizations that would know best, such as university learning centers. Those techniques are definitely the best places to start, so we've done the research for you and collected all the best advice here. With a little persistence, you'll likely be able to improve your focus and absorb information more effectively.

Method 1: Absorbing and Remembering Information

  1. Find you learning style and figure out which study method works best for you. Everyone learns a little bit differently. Some people learn best by listening, while others are visual learners. Most people learn best with a combination of learning styles. Whether you are a student or just someone trying to expand your knowledge base, identifying your learning style will show you how best to enhance your understanding of different topics. Most people acknowledge that there are 7 different learning styles that are common: visual, auditory, verbal, physical, logical, social, and solitary. People often associate with several of these styles. To identify your primary learning style, try taking the VARK questionnaire, here: Your Visual Score indicates if you are a visual learner; your Aural Score indicates if you are a auditory learner, your Read/Write Score indicates if you are a verbal learner; your Kinesthetic Score indicates if you are a physical learner. People who are good at math are often logical learners. Social learners learn best in groups or with at least one other person. Solitary learners work best independently. If you are most effective without the help of others, you may be partial to this style.

  2. Taking advantage of your learning style. Study more effectively. Knowing your learning style can help you retain information in a more effective manner. If you choose the best way for your brain to learn, you will pick up on concepts more quickly. Arrange your study sessions around your learning style. Combine learning styles. Most people learn best by using a combination of learning styles. Don't be afraid to use different methods to approach one topic or lesson. Combining learning styles can really accelerate the rate at which you learn. Use your senses. Once you have identified your learning style, you can begin using all of your senses to increase your knowledge. For example, if you are an auditory learner, you will learn to value your hearing. Try using a tape recorder to record lessons instead of just writing things down. Know your strengths. When you are trying to grasp a new concept, look for the most effective way to convey the information to your brain. Choose a method that fits your learning style. Don't be afraid to utilize more than one method. Learn more efficiently. Once you have identified your learning style, you will likely see a change in your mental capabilities. It will likely take you less time to learn a new concept. You will also likely retain information better. Gain confidence. If you feel more comfortable learning new skills or information, you will be more confident. Confident learners tend to learn more quickly and effectively. You will be more likely to seek out new information.

  3. Identify your learning strengths. Learning strengths are similar to learning styles, but they focus more on your specific skills and areas of intelligence. Try taking a test like this Strength Assessment to figure out what your key intelligence strengths are: You can then adapt your learning methods to your areas of strength.

  4. Break down what you’re learning into manageable chunks. If you try to absorb everything there is to know about a topic all at once, you’ll soon find yourself overwhelmed. Whether you’re reading a chapter in a history textbook or trying to learn how to play the piano, focus on one piece of information at a time before moving on to the next. Once you’ve mastered each piece, you can work on putting them together into a coherent whole. For example, if you’re reading a chapter in a textbook, you might start by doing a quick skim of the whole chapter or even just scanning the chapter headings to get a sense of the content. Then, do a close reading of each paragraph and try to identify the key concepts.

  5. Take notes while you learn. Taking notes can help you engage more fully with the material you are learning, making it easier for your brain to understand and absorb it. If you are listening to a lecture or an explanation of a topic, jot down the key points as you listen. If you’re reading, write down key words, summarize important concepts, and make note of any questions you have about the material.

  6. Summarize information you have just learned. Summarizing is a good way to test your knowledge and help clarify your understanding of a subject. After learning something new, whether you heard it in a lecture or read about it in a book, take a moment to write a brief paragraph or a few bullet points summing up the key points.

  7. Keep your learning sessions brief and frequent. Instead of spending hours of your time studying a single subject each day, spread it out into multiple sessions of 30-60 minutes each day over the course of a few days or weeks. This can help prevent you from getting burnt out, and will also ultimately help you retain the information better.

  8. Use multiple learning modes. Most people learn best if they combine different techniques, or modes of learning. If you can, combine different learning approaches that tap into all your senses. For example: If you’re taking a lecture course, try taking notes by hand and also recording the lecture so you can play it back while you study. Reinforce your knowledge by doing the appropriate readings and using any available visual aids (such as graphs or illustrations). If possible, try to actively apply the knowledge you’ve learned, as well. For example, if you’re learning to read ancient Greek, try translating a short passage on your own.

  9. Discuss what you are learning with other people. Talking about what you’re learning can help you gain new perspectives or make connections that might not be obvious just from reading or studying on your own. In addition to asking your teacher or fellow students questions, share your own perspective and understanding of what you’ve learned. Teaching other people is a great way to solidify your understanding of a subject. It can also help you identify areas where you can improve your knowledge. Try explaining something you’ve learned to a friend, relative, or classmate.

Method 2: Staying Focused While You Learn

  1. Take frequent breaks while you study. If you find your focus wandering, try breaking your study time up into 25-minute sessions with 5-minute breaks in between. This is called the Pomodoro Technique. Using the Pomodoro method will keep your brain sharp and help you focus more deeply. During your breaks, don’t focus on what you’re studying. Try meditating or visualizing a relaxing scene instead.

  2. Find a quiet and comfortable study environment. Studying in a noisy, uncomfortable, or poorly lit area can make it harder to concentrate and absorb what you’re learning. Different people learn best in different environments, so experiment with studying in a variety of places and see what works for you. For example, if noise tends to distract you, try working in a quiet study room at the library instead of at a table in a crowded coffee shop. Look for a study area where you can sit and spread out comfortably, but don’t get so comfortable that you fall asleep. You may want to avoid studying on a couch or in bed, for example.

  3. Put away your phone and other distractions. It’s easy to get sucked into social media apps and games or to keep checking your email when you should be studying. If your phone or another device is distracting you, try switching it off or putting it somewhere out of reach (like inside your bag or a desk drawer).

Method 3: Applying Critical Thinking Skills

  1. Ask questions about what you are learning. To really engage with what you’re learning, it’s important to do more than just absorb and remember information. As you’re learning, stop and ask yourself questions. Exploring these questions and looking for answers will help you gain a deeper understanding of the material. For example, if you’re reading about a historical event, you might ask questions like "Why did this happen? How do we know what happened—what kinds of sources do we have? How might things be different today if this event hadn’t taken place?" If you’re studying a discipline that is new to you (such as biology or law), try writing a list of 25 key questions that your discipline seeks to answer. This can serve as a good foundation for your exploration of the topic.

  2. Look for connections between concepts. When you’re learning about a topic, try not to view it as a series of unconnected pieces of information. Instead, look for ways that ideas and information relate to each other and to your own knowledge and experiences. This will help you put the things you learn in context. For example, maybe you’re studying how physical anthropologists use skeletal material to understand how people lived in an ancient society. Think about how your own activities might affect what a future anthropologist or archaeologist would see if they discovered you—e.g., would they notice wear and tear on your elbow joints because of your tennis hobby?

  3. Examine sources of information critically. Don’t accept everything you hear, see, or read at face value. When you’re learning, consider where the information comes from, how reliable it is, and whether it is current or outdated. For example, you might ask yourself: "What evidence does this author provide to back up their major arguments?" "Is this information up-to-date?" "What are the sources for this information?" "What are the qualifications of the person presenting this information? Do they have any agendas or biases?" "Are there alternative interpretations of this issue that might also be valid?"

  4. Try to identify key concepts in the material you are studying. Whether you’re looking at a full course in a particular topic or just focusing on an individual lesson, try to pull out a few key themes and concepts. Doing this can help you organize your thoughts and define your focus as you learn and study. For example, if you’re taking a class on American history, you might find that themes of American identity and diversity come up again and again. Consider how the information you are learning in the class relates to these themes.

Method 4: How to Learn New Things

  1. Is it ever too late to learn a new skill? The answer is: absolutely not! Learning new things is beneficial at any age, and it can change your life in many ways—from giving you a career boost to helping you discover a new passion. All you need is enthusiasm, focus, and some helpful learning strategies. From cooking to learning a new language, here’s a list of tips and techniques that will help you learn any new skill you desire.

  2. There are lots of ways to learn! Take a class, find a mentor, or self-teach. Use lots of different learning materials from books to online videos. Learn by doing and use experts' work as a guide. Try teaching someone else to hone your understanding of the subject, and give yourself tests. Make a practice schedule. Work in short bursts, practice often, and get rid of distractions. Challenge yourself, and reward yourself for progress.

  3. Teach yourself using many sources. The best learning materials vary based on the skill you want to develop. You're capable of learning new things without paying for a class or tutor! Gather any materials you need and track down a few reliable sources you can use to learn. This includes textbooks, online video tutorials, podcasts, blog posts, and movies. Do an online search for sources and check your local library for helpful books.

  4. Learn through practical experience. The most effective way to learn something is just to do it! Books and tutorials are excellent primers, but try to start performing the new skill as soon as possible. Learn through trial and error rather than spending all your time on theories and memorization. Apply the ideas you learned from lessons and find out what works best for you in practice.

  5. Take a class or online course. Classes offer informative, guided instruction on your chosen discipline. Check out the course listings at your local community college or look for class offerings at local churches, free schools, community recreation centers, and cultural centers. Check local magazines and online listings for independent teachers and tutors, too.

  6. Find a mentor. Mentors offer valuable expertise and perspective that can help you learn. Find an expert in the skill you want to improve among friends, family, and coworkers. If you don't find anyone, try reaching out to others in your community or industry. Be polite when asking someone to be your mentor; describe your existing skills, your goals for the future, and what you hope to learn.

  7. Compare your work with an expert's. Study experts to help you find and hone areas that need improvement. Find an expert in your chosen discipline and look up examples of their work, then compare it to you own. How does their technique differ from yours? What can you change about your work to better match theirs? Identify successful techniques they use and practice them in your own work.

  8. Teach someone else. Teaching a skill enables you to understand it better too. Why? Because by teaching someone else, you first have to think critically about the skill or subject and break it down into easily explainable pieces. Ask a friend or coworker if you can discuss what you've been learning with them. Make an informative presentation about the subject or start a blog about your learning process.

  9. Set a study or practice schedule. A plan will help you stay committed to your new pursuit. When learning a new skill, set a practice schedule and stick to it. Commit to spending at least 20 hours learning the skill; research shows that spending 20 hours on any skill will dramatically improve your understanding and ability. Reserve practice time for days when you have plenty of free time and the time of day you feel most alert.

  10. Practice the hardest things first. By improving weaknesses, you'll get more skilled overall. Practice makes perfect; the best way to learn new things is to practice regularly until you've mastered the discipline. Challenge yourself and prioritize anything you find particularly difficult, spending extra time correcting and improving your weaknesses. It's hard to get better at something if you ignore the parts you don't understand.

  11. Test yourself. A test will show you how much of the material you remember. Quizzes aren't the most fun part of learning, but sometimes they're exactly what you need. Set up a test for yourself when you learn a new skill or concept. Find a practice exam online or draw up your own test and a rubric you can use to grade yourself. Testing shows you how well you've mastered the material thus far and what you might still need to work on.

  12. Reward yourself at important milestones. You'll gain more motivation if you reward yourself for progress. Set learning goals that you can reasonably accomplish, and then reward yourself when you accomplish each goal. Ensure your goals are incremental and allow small rewards along the way rather than waiting for one big prize at the end. When there's a concrete reason to pursue a goal, you're more likely to stick with it for the long haul!

  13. Master a skill you’re passionate about. You’re more likely to keep learning when you truly enjoy the subject. Why not learn something that fascinates you, or chase a long-help passion? Think about the skills that have always interested you or made you think, "I wish I could do that!" Learning a new skill improves your mental well-being; it doesn’t have to be about career advancement. You can learn things purely for the joy of it.

  14. Improve job-related skills to give yourself an edge. Learning skills relevant to your job can help you excel in your career. Ask yourself what would make you a better candidate for a promotion. Coding ability? Writing skills? Foreign language fluency? Management training? Look for classes you can take or books you can read that'll give you a better understanding of your field. Ask your boss about what training the company offers and explain your goals to them.

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