How to Learn Effectively

Students who don't ace tests are often labelled as lazy or inattentive. If you aren't doing well in school, or are struggling, then don't dismiss yourself as dumb, or the teachers as useless - it may be a variety of subtle things that are drawing potential away from your learning.

Make things more interesting for you and you will start learning more effectively. Simple things, like learning to listen, taking notes and being more organized can maximize your learning potential more than you'd ever imagine.


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    Figure out which learning styles work best for you. The basics are learning by seeing, doing, and hearing. Think back on something you remember well from class; was it a hands-on activity? Did the teacher give you a detailed essay? Were you given a handout? Once you know how you learn it can be done better. There are also tests available on the internet to determine your learning style.
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    Benefit by doing. Hands-on activities are great, as they stick in your memory and help you more:
    • When you perform experiments in class, make sure that you concentrate.
    • Actually write down notes, even when they're not required during a lecture. The more open your mind is, the faster information will stick.
    • Alternatively, instead of taking notes, record the lecture on a mini-recorder and devote your attention to listening; use the recording to create notes afterwards. This extra step takes time, but makes use of what psychologists call the "dual-coding hypothesis", where you are more likely to learn something if you experience it in two different ways (i.e. listening and writing, in this case).
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    Rid yourself of distractions while learning. Cell phones, music, and your chatty partner distract you from your instructor. Sit in a suitable place, as classes are for concentrating, not talking to your friends. Keep valuables in a bag, or far away enough for them not to attract your attention.
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    Establish good relationships with your teachers. If you hate your teachers, then you will have a lot of trouble learning. Be polite and show respect, and put in some effort, and your teachers will hold a liking for you that will make classes more pleasant.
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    Set small goals for yourself. For example, take notes during class, and at the end of the week, see if you can write a short essay based on the material you've been learning. Before you begin a new unit, write down some questions on the topic, and at the end of each lesson, see how many of them you can answer. Each time you accomplish a goal, reward yourself by buying a CD or item of clothing, going out and having fun, or just taking a break.
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    Make things more interesting by figuring out a way to make classes more pleasant. Find ways to motivate yourself:
    • Find something about the topic you are learning that interests you and focus on learning as much as you can about it. The more you want to learn, the more you will learn.
    • Find a "study buddy" - that is, a friend or classmate to study with. Hold small tests/quizzes for each other, discuss things you don't understand or that interest you, or take notes together. Having someone's company can motivate you more.
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    See if you can summarize what you learned into a little notebook after class. Jot down a sentence or two that you can look back and recall the day with.
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    Ask for help if you're struggling. Many people don't do this. If you find you are struggling, know that almost all teachers want to help you catch up. See if your school has a resource room you could use during study halls or go directly to your teacher. Don't be shy to ask .


  • If you're having trouble understanding your course's material, ask for help from a teacher, parent, or from a classmate who grasps the concept. Don't be embarrassed, or feel stupid, because your studies are very important, and any problems that you're having deserve to be addressed.
  • Try to be more observant. Inside and outside of class, practice listening and remembering details. Think of classes as another way to sharpen your observational skills.
  • Set yourself a large reward to motivate you overall. For example, allow yourself to buy an expensive item or do something luxurious if your overall grades have improved greatly.
  • If your school offers tuition or any kind of special help, consider going for it.


  • A bad relationship with a teacher can mean they are harsher when marking tests, or not as lenient if you forget your homework or get into trouble. It doesn't happen all the time, and you shouldn't suck up to anyone, but keep in mind that teachers can have grudges, too.
  • If you grades/learning has been very low or bad, then it will take time and determination to bring that up. Stick it through, and things will improve.

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Categories: Homework Skills