Learning tips for students: The best tips and tricks

There are students who – contrary to all learning tips – always learn their stuff at the last minute. During the semester they go to the lectures, read scripts or books, memorize a little something. But really learned is usually only shortly before the exam – examination anxiety included. Can you do that, but it’s not the best course of action. Researchers say: this is worthwhile at short notice …

Learning tips for studying: The 10 best methods

Surprisingly, very few students – and even fewer employees – actively deal with methods and learning techniques. Granted, many approaches are easy to explain, but need a little practice for optimal implementation.

This investment in time and energy is worth it, because as soon as you master the appropriate method for you, you can open up new content easily and quickly, understand and remember. Not only do you save time, you also save your nerves and have more energy left over for other activities.

Alphabet Method

In the alphabet method, the letters of the alphabet serve as ordering characteristics. Each letter is assigned an image, for the letter B, for example, a book. For example, if you need to remember the notion of relativity theory, you might think of Albert Einstein reading in a book. Such pictures are easy to memorize.

Memory Palace

You have a good imagination? Then this concept could be optimal for you. The principle works as follows: From the contents to be learned, you construct a building mentally. The basic content is the foundation, the key points can be mainstays and details close your thought palace as a roof. If you deliberately let this building emerge and come back several times, you will soon have internalized the content.

Index cards

This learning method is already familiar to many people in the first years of school. The classic approach is to write a term on the front and its definition on the back of the card. For example, a file box may be divided into three sections. At the top are all the contents that are yet to be learned. The second section contains content that you need to repeat and the third contains the terms you already know and only reviews every few weeks.


Those who can not do much with rather optically oriented learning methods are better served with lists. Through different levels, information can be structured simply and clearly. This structure, in turn, can help to easily capture content and understand interactions. For example, to simplify complex content, lists are great. The simplest variant is the well-known to-do list.

Method of loci

This method is said to have its roots in ancient Greece. The principle is based on the linking of places and objects with learning content. For example, when preparing a lecture, you should choose a route that you either walk away or follow with your gaze. You then assign specific content to each point of this route. So you can retrieve this point by point and save the contents so.

Mind mapping

If you are more creative, the well-known mind-map technique is great for preparing content and depicting relationships. Branches with further information and individual aspects depart from the central topic or keyword. The sub-points can form any number of new branches. At a certain complexity, however, a mind map becomes confusing and even electronic solutions can only partially help.


American educator Francis Robinson has come up with the idea of ​​the SQR3 as an elaborate but effective way to work on complex scientific texts. To begin, read only the table of contents and the headings (Survey). Then, you hypothesize what the text might be about, and write down any questions that you want to have an answer to after reading them (Question). The third phase consists of reading the text, but you should be thorough and work with tags and comments (Read). Then you summarize the text section by section (Recite). Finally, review the text content (Review).


One of the most basic learning tips ever: focus on texts and new content to understand the context and statements. Ignore all the details and numbers first and really focus only on principles and structures. Details are then the icing on the cake, which completes your understanding.


If you have a vivid imagination, you should also use it to learn new content. Associate content with images and imagine the described situations and statements as vividly as possible. Work consciously with the most vivid images possible and use, for example, organigrams and mind maps to get the contents – literally – in front of your eyes.


The best known of all learning methods: Repeat the content you want to learn until you can play it back safely. The criticism of this method is obvious: Dull repetition can work with pure factual knowledge, but is time consuming and not very effective. However, repetition may be useful in combination with or as an adjunct to other learning methods.

Short-term learning is worthwhile, but does not last long

Pressure refueling for the head: buffing, cramming, framing – even the synonyms for learning make it clear that this is nothing that comes to you.

Learning is hard work. No wonder then that some try to keep it to a minimum – with maximum learning effect. Tens of learning tips and methods have already been developed for this efficient learning, which also work well.

Not all good at the same time. So you can not avoid identifying those methods that best fit your nature and learning type.

But how is it with the short-term timpani for an exam or exam: Is it worth it?

The psychologists Doug Rohrer and Harold Pashler have some time ago considered optimal learning curves and found surprising results in their comparative studies (PDF):

First, they divided their subjects into two groups and had these vocabulary buffed.

The first group puffed the fabric five times – and thus achieved a very passable result.

The second group buffed twice as hard, ten times. And indeed: With this additional effort, they managed three times as good exam results.

Learning more leads to better grades. But that was not the end of the experiment:

The researchers re-tested their volunteers – after one week and three weeks later. Here again the same result:

The students who had spent twice as long achieved significantly better results after one week.

Three weeks later, however, her advantage was gone.

Now both groups cut in about the same (bad). Or to put it another way: Most of them had already forgotten their knowledge.

A clear argument for short-term learning before the exam or examination – also called bulimia learning. Anyone who tries to internalize knowledge to retrieve it soon in a test, can save the effort of Permapaukens in the rule. In the long run, therefore, he does not keep anymore.

How can forgetting be stopped?

Every day, our brain is flooded with a plethora of information. If we tried to remember all the information, our brains would burn out like a fuse. At the same time, forgetting is vital for us and thus an integral part of our life and learning.

So that our upper room does not run hot, 100 billion nerve cells process every few seconds thousands of pulses and filter new information: Important is permanently stored and unimportant discarded immediately.

When we talk about memory, we mean the ability to organize, store and retrieve information. It is a complex network of different parts of our brain. If we remember something, a connection between different nerves is established. This connection is crucial so that we can learn something new.

How does learning work?

When we retrieve stored information, it is transmitted as stimulus from one nerve end to the other. For the learning process and the memory training, it is then decisive how well the stimulus transmission works:

With a strong stimulus, this is not only passed on, but the receiving nerve responds the next time more on a weaker stimulus. The communication of both nerves is faster, and we can remember this information more easily.

However, if the stimulus is too weak from the outset, the receiving nerve will not react the next time. This connection is gossamer, and we have problems recalling the information in question.

So that learning works well and we can quickly remember what we have learned, we need well-functioning nerve connections. With each new incoming information, the connections between our nerves are recombined. Information from old connections is then no longer available, they are practically overwritten.

You can imagine this process as road works: a road that is broken and not very busy is replaced by a new one. Only the new road leads to a completely different place.

Sweet distraction: why should I learn this?

Displeasure and delaying unpleasant work are not a phenomenon of students alone. Even adults are often unmotivated and listless in the job, any distraction is welcome.

But why is that exactly? Three main causes are usually in the way of learning:

  • Invisible goals

You do not see what the effort actually brings – many students think, why should I learn geometry? I’ll never need that later! However, if they realize that all sorts of useful everyday rules hide behind surfaces and angles, they learn much more readily.

Lack of self-discipline

Learning in the form of buffalo and memorizing is not fun, but sometimes it has to be. Then only bite (jargon: Volition) and good time management help. Without any plan and self-discipline, however, hardly anyone can manage their learning.

Lack of self-motivation

It is indeed not easy to sit down and learn after a hard day. Usually the need for rest and relaxation predominates, the learning is postponed to the next day. Only it does not look much better.

Errors while learning and how to avoid them

The Google effect

We remember certain information worse if we know that it is available online and that we can look it up at any time.

To avoid this error: Try to remember the information itself, not just the location where it can be found. For example, in a statistics exam, knowing the formula you need on page 94 below, if you do not know the formula yourself, will help you a little.

The Zeigarnik effect

We forget a little faster when it comes to completed processes. The Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik noticed this when she sat in a restaurant watching the waiters pick up the orders. She found out that waiters could better remember those orders that were still open.

How to avoid this mistake: Most students only study for the exam date. After the exam, the event is completed for them and the knowledge is no longer important. This leads to the fact that already learned knowledge is forgotten. Try to realize that you will continue to need and use this knowledge.


It is difficult for us to classify and keep things that do not fit into our world view. We want a view of the world that is as consistent as possible. That’s why our brain tends to dispel contradictions. This was discovered by the British psychologist Frederic Bartlett when he read a story about Indians to British test subjects. All evidence of ghosts and supernatural phenomena disappeared from the retellings of the subjects.

How to avoid this mistake: Here it is enough to be aware of this fact. Self-critically deal with the interpretation and reproduction of information. Always keep in mind that your point of view is influenced by your culture.

Negative emotions

It is now scientifically proven that negative memories fade faster than positive ones. Psychologists assume that this happens to protect themselves.

How To Avoid This Mistake: When you learn for an important exam, you get on with a positive attitude. For example, it is much harder for us to memorize complex formulas if we persuade ourselves that business mathematics is the worst subject at the university and the exam will go awry anyway.

To avoid these mistakes is still no guarantee that you will become the next memory world champion. But you help at least in the preparation for the next exam.

Learning tips: Make more frequent and longer breaks!

Now all of these pressure refueling has two major disadvantages: it tires enormously and makes even less fun. But there is one – scientifically guaranteed solution as well: take more breaks in between!

No kidding: When, for example, the scientists Soren Ashley and Joel Pearson from the University of New South Wales in Sydney studied successful learning strategies, you were able to prove that practicing too much leads to progressively smaller learning progress (as with the law of diminishing returns).

Or, to put it in a positive way, learning success sets in faster if you take breaks in between. The best way to do this regularly: When learning new abilities, new connections develop in the brain, in technical jargon these are also called neuronal plasticity.

In order to acquire skills long-term, these changes in the brain must be deepened and strengthened. This is only possible through the transfer from short-term to long-term memory – for example through regular, longer breaks. “If the information and neural changes are not consolidated appropriately, the learning progress will only be noticeable in the short term or will not even come to an end,” says Soren Ashley.

This was also confirmed in Rohrer’s and Pashler’s studies: when they repeated their experiments, they also took breaks between the learning phases – from five minutes to two weeks. Result: Those who took a day off wrote the best tests if they took place ten days later. But if you were examined six months later, the optimal learning break already lasted one month.

The quintessence of it:

  • Anyone who tries to incorporate a complex substance in a short time will perhaps pass the exam well, but will retain little in the long term.
  • If you want to keep the knowledge afterwards (and be able to retrieve it in the later job), you should also learn during the semester, keep pausing and let the stuff sink.

And the more we learn (in the long run), the longer the breaks should be.

The ideal learning strategy would therefore be: reading books intensively, learning, laying aside, going on vacation and then, just before the exam, shedding knowledge into short-term memory again.

Those who take water for exams improve their grades

Researchers led by Chris Pawson from the University of East London and Mark Gardner from the University of Westminster have long suspected that dehydration (also known as dehydration) worsens academic achievement. So the performance of 447 students recorded in different exams – depending on whether or not these drinks were included in the exams.

Result: To take water with the exams, the exam score improved significantly. But please pay attention to the wording: In fact, the scientists registered only the examination results and whether the students had water.

They did not check if and how much water the students drank during the exam. “Our results suggest that adding water to the tests is enough to improve his grades,” says study leader Chris Pawson. However, fair enough to say, this is a conspicuous correlation, not causality.

As proven, however, that drinking helps to reduce stress and stimulate the metabolism and thus to keep the gray cells supple.

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