Speaking with lots of experience, studying can be hard—especially if you’re using the same old methods as always. Most students prefer common study methods such as reading, annotating, or the Pomodoro Technique. While these are effective to a point, these study techniques will eventually be so exhausted that they have nothing left to give you. That’s when you should consider using a more unconventional method of studying to reinvigorate your learning. The following tips and tricks have proved to be the most effective and interesting I’ve found.
1. Teach the topic
This might sound and feel a bit silly to do, but teaching a topic you’re struggling with to a family member (or even an invisible audience) is a very effective technique for truly understanding something. The reason is that it prompts you to think more deeply and reach for the extent of your knowledge to talk about it, therefore helping you identify any gaps. It helps with retaining the information since you’re more actively engaged and reinforcing your understanding. It also prevents you from going into zombie auto-pilot mode, where you read but don’t comprehend any of the information.
2. Create incentives for yourself
Giving yourself a little prize every time you complete an assignment, fully grasp a concept, or finish a chapter can be a serious motivator. Once your brain finds out about the prize, it has a clear goal, which is to get the reward. It’s also really good for the brain’s reward pathways with the dopamine that will be released upon earning the prize. To put it simply, it’s like dangling a carrot in front of a horse; the carrot is there to keep the horse moving, and you can do the same for your brain. Pick something you really enjoy as your reward, and your brain will want to reach your goal. Although you can be flexible about how you choose to reward yourself, make sure that your treat doesn’t distract you too much. Achieving your goal should be the priority, which means it’s important to avoid addictive platforms such as social media and video games that’ll prevent you from returning to your work.
3. Write a story or song
This is another silly one, but it’s also a solid method. Sometimes (more like most of the time) a textbook is tedious, repetitive, and filled with unfamiliar words that can be a bit frustrating. To make the reading experience more fun and help you better understand the topic, try writing a story or singing a song to retain and connect with the information on a deeper level. It can also allow you to see what pieces you’re missing and fill in those gaps. This can be especially helpful when doing homework for history or English. Writing it in a more creative, emotionally connected language can create a better visual, therefore building a better understanding of a complex subject. This creative method will lead you to learn in a more imaginative way!
4. Make it a game
There are countless ways to make a boring topic into an engaging game. This method will actively force you to think about the concepts as you design the game and as you play. Playing a game you design reinforces your understanding through your motivation to win—similar to our reward system tip. Although it may not be your greatest concern in the moment of designing the game, it’s also helping you innovate and flex your creativity skills. The only boundary you have is to remain accurate concerning the topic; otherwise, the sky is the limit and the universe is your gameboard!
Traditional study methods don’t work for everyone, and they may not always work if you use them all the time. That’s why it’s important to get creative! Keep in mind that these are not the only unconventional methods of study. These are just a few suggestions that work for me and you can put your own spin on them. Study in any way you prefer, only doing what works best for you. However, if you feel you’re missing something when you’re studying, give some of these strategies a try to see if any help you.
Did you know every learner retains information differently from their peers? Don’t do what works for just anyone—find out what your learning style is with this infographic!