Sheela had spent three days trying to memorise a poem for an oral test, but whenever she got to the third stanza she was stuck. It took her a week to memorise the poem. Sheela often wondered how her friend Nisha did it. She merely scanned a new poem twice before reciting it from memory! Sheela and Nisha had almost the same level of intelligence and came from similar family backgrounds. Why then was there a difference?
Psychologists and educators have the answer: Nisha just knew how to learn better than Sheela did. She had increased the capacity of her brain by applying some skills. Here are six steps to better learning.
Preview the matter first: That is, don’t plunge headlong into reading new, unfamiliar material. You can understand more and retain more if you first scan it or skim over it quickly. Read the first sentence of each paragraph, glance at the table of contents and the preface.
Slow down and read it aloud to yourself: Speed reading is fine for easy material but for more complex works, slower reading is much more effective. Good learners vocalize, either loudly or in their minds, listening to each word as they read. They also actively think about what they read and assimilate it.
Use mnemonics or memory-enhancing techniques: These are like pegs on which you can hang difficult-to-remember facts and figures. For example, for remembering the order of the nine planets, you can make up a sentence with each word beginning with the letter of each planet in sequence (as VIBGYOR for the rainbow colours). The trick is to make unfamiliar material familiar by relating it to something meaningful to you.
Organise facts into categories: For instance, if you have to memorise a jumbled list containing names of animals, types of transport, items of clothing and kinds of occupations, it is easier if you split them into groups or categories. Dividing it into smaller, meaningful portions makes it easier to learn.
Be focused: If we are sure about what we’ll gain from learning something, we learn it faster. We will resist it less. To improve concentration and focus, fix a particular time and place for studying. Use a variety of methods, like writing down what you’ve read or taping it and then listening to it, or making a synopsis or even visualising it as a diagram. Take a break if you become too tense or tired. It will improve your learning capacity.
Follow your own learning style: Each person has his own way of learning. If given the pieces of an object to assemble, each of us uses a different method to arrive at the same result. Analyse your appoach and follow the method that you feel most comfortable with.