Studying Using the Feynman Technique

Richard Feynman was an accomplished scientist, known for his amazing ability to absorb information at an astounding rate. Feynman would often reach the same conclusion as a student of a subject after a brief explanation of the course material, even though the student had been studying the same material for a much longer time. How did he do it? Well Feynman used a technique that is now dubbed as being the Feynman Technique…

Its a great way to absorb information quickly and teach yourself a subject and comprehend the subject in a lot of depth in a short amount of time. This is a great skill to have when studying at university. You can use this technique to help you better understand a topic before a test, to make sure that you can answer any questions thrown at you, its much better than cramming before an exam.

The first step is to choose the concept you wish to learn about. Firstly get a plank piece of paper and jot down the subject you are trying to learn right at the top of it. I like to write it using a different coloured pen, but do it whichever way you find makes it stand out to you. Now all you have to do is teach it to yourself. Try to imagine that you are teaching someone who has never studied what you are trying to teach. Use very simple terminology in your notes and try to add diagrams where you can. Doing this will not only re-enforce anything you have already learnt but it will also point out anything you do not fully understand! Throughout the procedure, keep asking yourself questions about what you are writing about. If a question comes to you that you do not know the answer to go away and learn what you need to know from a textbook or ask your lecturer. Keep going back to the material until you can answer your question yourself (see tips on Reading your Course Material if you need help). Don’t be afraid to say to yourself or anyone that is trying to explain to you that you don’t understand it.

One of the most important tips when using this technique is to use the SIMPLEST language that you can. Try to tay away from terms specific to the subject you are trying to learn about. For example I study Economics and when explaining something to myself using this technique I always try to stay away from using lengthy terms like aggregate demand (even though I know what it means) and instead I say the entire demand within the economy. Also I always like to use analogies. The human brain is configured to better understand stories rather than processes, so I always try to make an analogy for something I am trying to learn. Try using it when taking notes in your next lecture and see if you feel that you better understand the subject that was taught!

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