16 learning techniques to help you study more effectively

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

High pressure on both students and professionals to learn vast amounts of information for study and the work environment can make learning challenging and time-consuming. Adopting different learning strategies can help reduce pressure, study with greater efficiency and retain information for longer. If you find studying a challenge, it's beneficial to improve your workflow with new techniques, improve your time management and build your long-term studying confidence. In this article, we suggest 20 different learning techniques that can help you study with a better workflow.

How do different learning techniques boost your capacity for learning?

Using different learning techniques presents information in ways that are easier for you to properly process and store in long-term memory. Traditional book learning and repetitive recall can work in many cases, but varying personalities tend to process information differently. You can experiment with different solutions and examine how well you retain information using each method. By adopting different learning techniques and finding which one suits you best, you can boost your capacity for learning and retain more detailed information for longer periods of time.

16 learning techniques to help you study more effectively

There are many ways of presenting information that can help you understand a variety of methods for approaching the same subject. Here, we explore 16 different examples of helpful learning techniques:

1. Flashcards

A common form of exercise to help you build short-term memory is the use of flashcards, as they help you practice quickly recalling short amounts of information. Use flashcards to remember information like key concepts, small details and definitions. You can also make these more effective by using colour codes, drawings and images to facilitate quick recall. Flashcards are often useful for refreshing key concepts before an exam or presentation and you can use them many times over.

Related: 9 memory improvement games (definition and examples)

2. Mind maps

Mind maps are especially useful for mapping different systems and processes and learning how a concept works in its context. You can use mind maps to note down information as you learn, so you can understand a concept in depth by trying to reconstruct the mind map. The mind map method is applicable to many kinds of media and environments, such as engineering, statistics, graphic design and literature.

3. Regular tests

Regularly testing your knowledge in any subject can help with your long-term retention. It helps you determine what further studying you can do to improve. Often, you can find simple knowledge tests and exercises online for your field of interest. You may also create tests or use online generators to develop helpful tests that are just as effective.

Related: Cognitive skills: what are they and how can you improve them?

4. Note-taking

While this is an obvious suggestion, it is all too easy to forget to take notes when you are learning in a non-classroom environment. It's useful to take notes when learning new information, techniques or skills so you can consult them at work. This can be especially helpful in creative industries where you use complicated techniques in a very situational environment and may want to remember the information for future tasks.

5. Audio and video

An alternative to using traditional methods is to experiment with audiobooks, tutorials and voice recordings, if you find it a challenge to learn written information. Some people retain information better using audio or visual memory methods rather than taking notes. The advent of social media and online resources has meant that both basic and expert information on most topics is now available for free in audiobooks or podcasts. Many video tutorials, online lectures and presentations are available for most industries, usually freely accessible on the Internet.

6. Cramming

Perceptions of cramming can vary; some people find it to be a challenging balance, but many find cramming is one of the most effective forms of learning because the high pressure intensifies focus. If you thrive by cramming information in a short space of time, it can be a very efficient way to process new ideas, provided you look after your health throughout the process.

Related: Coping with burnout from work (with symptoms and causes)

7. Positive reinforcement

The psychological effect of rewarding learning with small incentives, such as sweets or hobby time, can sometimes benefit people working hard in long learning sessions. This can help you absorb information with small, rewarded shifts that can make you more willing to work on a consistent schedule. By making your work schedule more manageable and consistent, you may find that you focus better during the sessions.

8. Group study

It can be helpful to discuss challenging concepts with other learners. Group study sessions can highlight areas you hadn't previously identified, allow you to pool your resources and provide the opportunity to receive feedback. Alternatively, simply studying with other people in silence can help you stay focused and productive.

9. Exercises

Most textbooks, online tutorials and manuals include lists of exercises and examples to test your understanding of the subject. You can assess the level of your comprehension by working through the exercises. Try to use exercises productively to strategise your learning and establish what other learning techniques may help you.

10. Error spotting

Sometimes, it's easy to overlook mistakes, especially when a tutorial or textbook explains something without visual aids. When you've completed a piece of work or task, it's a good idea to try to identify where you can make improvements; this is a useful way of improving your work and consistency. If you find it a challenge to identify areas for improvement, you can show your work to a colleague and ask them for feedback, which you can then use constructively.

11. Mnemonics

Education facilities often use mnemonics to retain patterns or sequences using an acronym, for example, BIDMAS (brackets, indices, division, multiplication, addition, subtraction). If you're trying to learn a specific sequence of information, try creating a mnemonic to make the sequence easier to remember. This technique is especially useful for learning complicated processes and systems with easily identifiable components, such as creative workflows or systems in the industry.

12. Interactive software

It's useful to take advantage of online resources to engage with learning information in different ways. Even if you learn easily with traditional methods, trying different techniques of presenting information can inspire you to see the same content in a variety of ways. This is especially common with language-learning websites because it helps you use the language learnt in all its many formats.

Related: Translator skills: definitions and examples

13. Presentations

Creating a situation where you present your knowledge to an audience can encourage you to articulate concepts effectively and give you the impetus to thoroughly learn a subject. Additionally, the repetition of teaching a subject multiple times helps to properly internalise concepts. It's a good idea to try teaching a subject you're learning to friends or colleagues to practice and to receive feedback and new ideas.

14. Wider reading

It's sometimes possible that you don't fully understand a subject due to a lack of wider context or specific details. In this case, further reading about the subject or consulting more specialised literature is an effective learning technique for discovering previously unknown information. The relevance of wider reading to understand your field becomes apparent, as it may help you better visualise the importance of the subject you're studying.

15. Frameworks

It's helpful to establish a solid framework for learning so you can use your time effectively and manage your workload. Think of what works for you when you best retain information and the most productive use of your time. Write these down and create a list of steps for approaching new material, such as a reading phase, note-taking phase or exercise phase. This can help make you more consistent in approaching different material and lead to successful learning practices.

Related: Guide to project management frameworks (plus types)

16. Shadowing

A traditional and tested technique for learning a craft or job can be to find a mentor who's willing to let you watch and learn their methods. Mentorship and shadowing are well-established learning methods; they give you the best opportunity to ask questions and receive flexible tuition. If this option isn't available to you, try approaching colleagues, friends or managers and seek advice. Communities, forums and events in your area of learning can help you find similar resources.


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