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Successful Studying With the Feynman Technique

When I first came to college as a science major and started taking science courses, I thought I had everything under control. Chemistry? Biology? I got A’s in both in high school. For freshman-level courses, how hard could they be?

Then came the exams. My first Chemistry exam I got a D. Same with Biology. I was shocked. Reviewing notes a bit every night got me through high school. What happened here?

These grades gave me the wake up call I needed. I went to my professor and asked about what I could do to improve my studying habits. My professor went on to tell me about something called the Feynman Technique, and, to this day, it has gotten me B’s and A’s in every college course I have taken since.

Essentially, there are four steps that my professor told me about that can help anyone to learn, remember and explain any topic. They are as follows:

  1. Pick a topic and start studying it. This is when you should look over your notes from lecture. Try to understand it as best you can, reviewing it and recalling what the professor said in class.
  2. Explain it in your own words. After reviewing the notes, put them to the side and write down the information and anything you need to know on another piece of paper from memory. Try to explain the material to someone else in a study group. As my professor said, “If you can teach it to someone else, you know it.” Try explaining it to a classmate, and then let them explain it to you. This way you can correct each other and ensure you have a solid understanding of the material.
  3. Study what you miss. When you find yourself struggling to explain something or not remembering a specific answer to a question, go back to your notes or the textbook and study just that until you have a firm understanding. Then, try step 2 again with that information. If you’re still struggling to understand something, go to your professor during office hours and ask for help.
  4. Use analogies and keep it simple. To understand and remember the material, try using analogies that relate the content to something in your life. This personal connection will make the information more memorable so you can easily recall it for tests and quizzes. In addition, trying to explain the material in simple terms will help you make clear sense of the it. If you can simplify the topic enough for a child to learn it, you will understand it.

    This technique can help you understand the concepts and ideas of essentially anything. College is a challenge, but using effective study methods such as this will save you time, spare you pain and boost your grade.

Patrick Scubelek is a Junior at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania majoring in Environmental Biology