Six steps to learning difficult subjects quickly

Throughout our lives we encounter situations where we need to acquire new skills. Sometimes it's nice to have a method for acquiring the basics quickly. Paul's Tips has a technique for learning difficult subjects quickly.

Here's a strategy I've found useful for learning dry and difficult material quickly. At various times, I've used it to build up my knowledge of subjects like economics, investing, writing and computer programming languages. Some people have been surprised at how fast I can learn these kinds of skills, but I think anyone can do it with the right plan. Of course, you can use this to teach yourself interesting things as well, but most people don't have any problem learning stuff that's fun.

His steps:

  1. Bombard yourself with information — Don't try to slowly digest the material you're trying to learn; immerse yourself in it. Read it quickly, so that you're drowned by it.
  2. Identify the key concepts and make them yours — Try to comprehend the Big Picture. Don't worry about the details. Recognize the broad overview so that you can understand the fundamentals of the subject.
  3. Only memorize what absolutely has to be memorized — Don't fret over details that can be referenced later. Most subjects have specific facts that you must know. Learn them. But don't worry about details that can be obtained through reference works when needed.
  4. Get some feedback on your understanding — Find some sort of comprehensive practice exam and take it. You will probably do poorly, but from your results you'll be able to tell what you learned and what slipped your mind. Try to correct your mistakes as soon as possible.
  5. Bombard yourself with some more information, but from another source — This is the key step. Find some other source — not necessarily another textbook — and use it to glean as much information as possible. Maybe use multiple sources. Try to focus on your weak points after your first reading.
  6. Get some real-world feedback — Find a community fluent in the knowledge you've tried to learn. See how well you fit in. For example, if you've tried to learn a language, see how well you can interact with others who speak the smae language.

I've never tried to acquire skills with this or any similar method, yet I recognize that it might be useful in certain circumstances. It doesn't seem appropriate for a subject that you need to learn thoroughly — your college major, or something germane to your career — but it might be useful in situations where you're trying to acquire secondary knowledge.

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Michael Halls-Moore
Michael Halls-Moore
13 years ago

This is an interesting idea. I particularly like the fact you “bombard” yourself with information, rather than digest it slowly.

I might try this next time I’m trying to learn a new programming language or even a foreign language!

It seems to be working for my parents, they’ve just moved to France and are picking up French pretty quickly. Maybe immersion is the way forward!

Donna
Donna
11 years ago

I have found that if I stare into something long enough, eventually it will make sense to me. So, the idea of immersing yourself is a good one. Just keep doing it, finding the familiar as you go along. Keep connecting the familiar until you’ve gotten a comprehensive understanding.

Alex
Alex
11 years ago

Nice job waiting until the end of the article to say that you have no idea whether or not this will work.

Heather
Heather
10 years ago

As a med. student, this is really true. If you really need to learn something efficiently, kinda like I do right now, it’s easiest to set aside a block of time and read straight through. After you’ve read it all through once and confused yourself thoroughly, you go back with friends to quiz each other and find out where you’re weak in understanding. It’s amazing how much discovering your weaknesses like that actually turns your weaknesses into your strengths. Why? Because you have thoroughly embarrassed yourself by not knowing it, so your brain has an emotional connection and a particular… Read more »

Durry
Durry
7 years ago

Hi,i work as teller in a commercial bank and im considering to take banking courses to get a promotion. But i find it really difficult and even impossible to learn. As if my mind can’t assimilate… thanks for the interesting ideas. I hope that it works…

Naina
Naina
4 years ago

I am in 9th standard I am learn everything but sometimes I forgot everything and sometimes I didn’t learn it is very difficult for me to study and I am feel very bad that i didn’t learn my work and my teacher punished me i tried my best but i didn’t learn my work plz help me what i am doing

Baski
Baski
4 years ago
Reply to  Naina

You just have to concentrate hard. Repeat the same more than once. Don’t Assume that it is MuST to learn it. Be easy on you. Only if you are relaxed, you can pick things up. Don’t worry about what would happen if you don’t learn it properly But just concentrate and read. Do not think of future effects. Just be present. Read them with a smile and show some love to what you are reading. You will be surprised to see the results. Believe that YOU CAN and you WILL. All the best.

Abraham
Abraham
4 years ago

I’m a 3rd year medical student and i’ve been having some problems with how i study for exams . I dont know where to start and then the stress.. Well. Anyway i just want to know how would i be able to study a difficult subject in short period (2 days)

Leonard Mesiera
Leonard Mesiera
3 years ago

well I’m really having problem reading programming languages, I don’t know, I have all the materials yet I can’t seem to grasp all of the idea. I really want to learn programming. Thank you

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