How To Become A Faster Learner

The guide to help you finally stop procrastinating. We go through the best techniques to learn faster for your exams.

Author: Chris Lovejoy

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Table of Contents

Student life is tough. There’s so much to do in so little time. If only you could have more free time.

Well guess what, you can. This article is here to tell you how. 

The principles presented below have been tried and tested to help students learn faster. If you spend time now becoming an accelerated learner, you will reap the rewards throughout school and university life.

There are six main things you should do in order to learn faster. Let’s start with the first one. 

1. Decide what your are going to learn

This is arguably the most vital step. Prioritise and decide what the single most important thing for you to learn is, then focus solely on that task. Don’t set yourself unrealistic amounts of work to do, or you’ll continuously get frustrated, but equally, don’t set the bar too low. The best way to start learning is to: 

This is the most time-efficient method of completing any particular task as you will focus all your mind power on one task at a time. If you run out of time and have only finished the top one or the top two, this is not a problem! You have done the most important thing you needed to do, and there is no way in that period of time you could have done more.

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2. Create the optimal conditions for learning

Create the best external and internal environment to enhance your learning. This is one of the best ways to revise effectively.  

Remove any distractions that are going to disrupt your work.

If you are often distracted by your phone, turn it off or put it in another room. If there’s a website you spend a lot of time on, block it. Not sure how to block websites? There are many ways such as the ‘StayFocusd’ extension for Chrome. If there’s something that distracts you, find somewhere to study where that won’t be a problem. Don’t make excuses to yourself – work around whatever obstacles may arise.

Create the right frame of mind to learn.

Be relaxed, calm and confident in your ability to learn. There’s a difference between this and arrogance, which is fragile and unhealthy. Different successful people use different ways to develop this state. Some meditate, others pray, some people have mantras that they repeat to themselves, others visualise the things they can do if they finish their work promptly.

This could be things like spending time with friends and family. Some ideas for mantras include ‘I can learn anything that I want to learn to achieve anything that I want to achieve’, ‘Every day I’m learning more and progressing towards my goal’ or simply the words ‘Ambition’, ‘Success’, ‘A*’ can have similarly positive effects. Feel free to use these or come up with something more personal to you.

3. Prepare for Information intake

This should be guided by you. Before you start, ask yourself the following questions: 

Work out how you best take in information. You may have heard of ‘visual’, ‘audio’ and ‘kinaesthetic’ learners. In reality, everyone uses a combination of the three to varying degrees. Research different techniques, and come up with your own that utilise the different modalities – put them into practice and see what works for you.

4. learn and memorise the information

A lot of research has been done into memory consolidation and it has been well established that spaced repetition is one of the best ways to learn and remember information. Every time you recall a piece of information from your own memory, this memory will be strengthened and thus you will remember it for longer.

A practical way to apply this information is as follows: when you learn some new information, for example in a lesson or a revision session, recall it from memory. You should review your notes after about one hour, then one day, then one week, then one month, then six months and then one year. You will be amazed by how much you can remember, and how long for, if you follow this pattern. Also note that the principle is much more important than the exact time spacing – feel free to adjust it around your life and schedule as required.

A useful piece of free software that can help with spaced recall is ‘Anki’, which is available on computers as well as smartphones. It lets you create your own flashcards, which will present themselves to you at increasing time intervals.

5. Test Yourself

There’s no way to be certain that you’ve taken onboard new information until you test yourself. Here are some suggestions but feel free to come up with your own:

This stage is important as it will highlight what level you understand the information. It is an easy and common trap to fall into to simply rote learn something without truly understanding it. If you develop a true understanding of a topic, you will remember it much better as you will be able to ‘work it out’ based on the parts that you can remember.

6. Reflect and improve for next time

Learning is a continuous process that you will continue to do for the rest of your life, whether you realise it or not. The rate at which you learn is largely determined by the amount of time you spend reflecting on your learning and thinking of ideas for improvement.

The key with all of the aforementioned steps is to experiment continuously and critically assess what is working and what isn’t. Don’t be disheartened if you can’t see obvious improvement at times – progression is rarely linear and if you persist, you will see massive changes over time.

Ask yourself these questions regularly: What worked well and what didn’t? Where could you improve?

Other ways that you can increase the rate at which you learn include:

Ask other people for feedback.

Be accepting of this feedback! If someone is giving you criticism or something you don’t agree with, don’t step in and defend yourself – keep silent for as long as you can and then reflect on what they have told you. Be as objective as you can.

Always be open to new tips and advice on how to learn.

The best approach is to cherry-pick from the inexhaustible information that is out there – try things you hear about and if they work, use them and if they don’t, discard them. 

Congratulations, now you know how to learn faster

Reading this article will mean nothing if you don’t start to apply it to your life, so act now. Repeat these six steps over and over until it becomes second nature. You will be amazed by what you can achieve – there really are no limits on what you can do.

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