How to learn anything via The Feynman Technique

Studying hard but still got the memory of a goldfish? Got an upcoming test that you really need to ace? ? We’ve got you covered!

Ever heard that the best way to learn something, is by teaching it to someone else? Well, turns out, it’s truer than you know! Research actually shows that students who study when expected to teach something not only learn at a faster rate but are also able to achieve better exam results! Named after its ‘founder’ Richard Feynman, the Feynman Technique is known as the best way to learn anything. The technique helps you learn new concepts, revise previously learned portion, or simply to study anything a LOT more efficiently. ? The idea behind the technique is simple: If you want to understand something well, try to explain it simply.

In addition to being a brilliant scientist, Feynman was also known as the ‘Great Explainer’. In fact, he even prided himself on being able to explain complex topic like quantum physics to literally, anybody ? In his biography ‘Genius: The life and science of Richard Feynman’, James Gleick explained the method with which Feynman used to ace his university exams. First, he would open a fresh notebook. On the title page, he wrote down ‘NOTEBOOK OF THINGS I DON’T KNOW ABOUT’. He then reorganized his knowledge ? He broke down each branch of physics into smaller portions, ensuring that he thoroughly understood each topic before finally combining them together. To make it clearer, the Feynman Technique contains the following steps:

  1. Decide the topic you want to start studying about: You can use this technique to learn about pretty much any concept or topic. Write down everything you already know about the chosen topic on a page, and add to it every time you learn something new about it.
  2. Pretend to teach your topic to a child: Make sure you’re able to explain the topic in the simplest of terms ? This should help you understand what your problem areas are, as they’ll be the ones in which you get stuck during the explanation or find yourself resorting to complex terminology. Adopt a child-like mindset- constantly ask yourself “Why?”. As adults, we tend to accept information as is. Adopting a child-like mindset will encourage you to get more curious, eventually helping you gain a deeper, more thorough understanding of the topic ?
  3. Review: Go back to the problem areas and learn them. Use the source material and/or the internet to thoroughly understand the topic. Keep this up till you can explain the topic fully in simple words.
  4. Repeat: Repeat the process while using simple terms to explain the topic entirely. Use examples and make connections wherever possible to ensure that you’ve completely understood the topic. Make sure your explanation can be understood by someone who doesn’t already know the topic like you do ?‍♂️

Using this technique, not only do you gain a deeper understanding of what you know and don’t know, but you’ll also find yourself better able to retain the newly learned information ? Once you’ve done that, you can further enhance your knowledge by creating flash cards, using spaced repetition (spacing out your studying), etc.

Use this technique to ace the next test you’ve got, or even just to learn something new. Go get ‘em, tiger! ?

Advice from Naomi: I’m a visual person vs reading or mugging up. I even find myself grasping information better when I hear it vs reading it. Thus, what I find myself doing often when I need to study is, either reading out loud what I’m reading (vs just reading it in my head) or finding that topic on YouTube. What YouTube usually does is, it makes that topic more fun and interesting with graphics, visual art, 3D diagrams (when it comes to engineering) and more. This personally makes me want to learn more!

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