What are the ways for effective learning

The most effective learning methods for students - learn a lot in a minimum of time


Study stress, exam anxiety and pure despair - these are usually the feelings you have shortly before an exam. But don't worry, it doesn't have to be permanent. Here you will find out the best learning methods and techniques for schoolchildren and students that are guaranteed to work and that I myself use regularly as a medical student.


So I managed to learn most of the antibiotic drugs with mechanisms of action, side effects and contraindications in 1 ½ days without selling my soul for it. You will now find out how you can learn effectively and correctly.



  • Why it is essential to create a learning plan
  • Test yourself (remember the material up to 30% better with this trick)
  • SQ3R method for your learning success
  • "See, hear and feel the subject matter"
  • Learn a lot of facts and figures quickly (memory palace, loci method and major system)
  • Pomodoro technique to keep your brain working at its best

Note: This article only deals with the learning methods and techniques to learn better and more effectively. If you want to know how to increase your motivation to learn and your mental performance, check out my guest article 6 hacks on how to increase your mental performance at.


Why do you even need learning methods? - An overview

Of course, you don't necessarily need learning techniques to get through your studies successfully. But I can tell you from personal experience that learning with a system ...

  • ... Is funny
  • ... helps you to learn more effectively and better
  • ... the learning material is better remembered

So all things that make life as a schoolboy or student easier, right? Then let's get started:


1. Why a learning plan is essential

Yes, I know it's totally tedious and exhausting and you're maybe more of the I-study-2-days-before-the-exam-and-stuff-me-then-all-the-subject-matter type, but that's right and to learn stress-free, it is highly recommended to create a study plan. And not just two days before the exam.



Depending on how extensive your learning material is, you sit down 2-3 weeks before the exam and look through all of the material. Make a rough estimate of how many pages you can study in a day and then make a plan for it.


You take a blank piece of paper and write down exactly which chapters you want to have learned by when and how many pages you have to learn each day. The best thing to do is to plan a small buffer at the end so that you can repeat everything on the last few days before the exam.


And now comes the most important step of the whole thing: You start with the learning plan and adjust it if necessary if you have set yourself too much. But once you've set realistic learning goals for each day, you need to stick to them. Without arguing.

You don't meet up with friends and you don't even watch your favorite series until you have completed your planned study quota for the day.

You can only reward yourself when you have achieved everything you set out to do for today's day of learning.


Conclusion: Divide your learning material into small stages and stick to them, then little can go wrong and the learning stress and exam anxiety are limited.

2. Understanding instead of learning by heart: SQ3R method for your learning success

If you are just about to memorize tons of scientific texts - STOP it! You only use unnecessary brainpower, which you can use much better.

How? It's good that you ask, my friend!


The SQ3R method: ideal for familiarizing yourself with scientific and factual texts © iStock / MEINPLAN.at

With the SQ3R method - this is particularly suitable for understanding and learning scientific and factual texts.



You can imagine the method as a dance between two people who are getting closer and closer and more familiar - this is exactly how it should be with you and the factual text (romantic, I know). So that you can better imagine the whole thing, I have added small explanations for each step.


Step 1: S - Survey

Here you just skim through the text and mark important keywords. You get to know a new person and introduce yourself formally.


Step 2: Q - Question

You ask questions about the text and think about what could be relevant. This way you will read the text much more carefully the next time and try to answer your questions. You find the person who introduced themselves to you attractive and want to find out more about them. To do this, you ask your counterpart a few questions to get to know him or her better.


Step 3: R - Read

Now you go through the text again, but this time thoroughly. You make sure that you understand everything and that you can answer your questions. You like your counterpart very much. You look at her or him carefully again from head to toe. The face, the hair, the body ... you know what I'm getting at.


Step 4: R - Recite

Now you summarize the text again in your own words. This will ensure that you have really understood the text and internalize it. Plus, you'll be able to remember your own words better later and just have to learn your summary more.

You ask your counterpart to dance so that you can get closer to each other. How about tango?


Step 5: R - Repeat

You repeat the key messages of the text and go through all the important points again so that the text is anchored in your brain. Dancing was fun. We can do it again if you feel like it!


After these five steps you should have understood the text and learned it well.


I know the SQ3R method takes a lot more time than simply skimming the text quickly and hoping for the best, but the learning effect is even greater. You don't have to repeat the text 1000 times to remember it. If you consistently implement the SQ3R method, it is sufficient to repeat the text 1-2 times so that it is well stored in the brain.


The more time you invest in understanding the material, the more memory seeds you will sow for your memory.

Test yourself (and remember the material 30% better)

One of the best learning methods for students that has been scientifically proven (Dunlosky et al. 2013) is to test yourself.


Become a quiz master and ask yourself questions about the material you have just learned. This will help you remember the fabric up to 30% better. It pays off if you ask me.



After you have understood, summarized and learned a chapter of your learning material (e.g. with the SQ3R method), come up with questions about the learning material, which you then answer yourself (it works best if you explain the questions to another person so that she also understands and can understand the answers to the questions).

  • Questions can also be made with index cards, which you then go through again and again (a good program for creating index cards on the computer: Anki)


When you are in the lecture and take notes, you can also think of questions for yourself at the same time, which you can then answer later when you go through the notes again.


4. You have to "hear, see and feel" the material

I stole this learning method from a technique in the first aid course. If you want to check whether a person is still breathing, you pay attention to three signs: you can hear the breath with your ear, you can see the chest rise and fall, and you can feel the inhalation and exhalation with your hand on the belly of the other Person.


Learning with all your senses: seeing, hearing and feeling the subject matter © iStock / MEINPLAN.at

You can use exactly this technique while studying so that you don't get breathless with the amount of material (haha). The idea behind it is that you process the learning material through several learning channels and that it is better saved in this way.

  1. Listen to the material

Yes, I know that lectures are usually very tedious and a pure waste of time, but still try to listen to the material - if the lecture doesn't go at all, then through YouTube videos or let a colleague explain the material to you.

  1. Look at the fabric

Go through the material, mark the most important things, watch YouTube tutorials, make mind maps and record the material - especially visual learner types remember the material best through pictures, drawings or videos.

  1. "Feel" the material

Feeling here means that you connect emotions with the subject matter - the best way to do this is by docking the subject matter with what you have already learned, thinking up funny donkey bridges to the subject matter or inventing stories about it. You can find out how to do this in the next point.

  1. Learn a lot of facts quickly

As mentioned above, for my pharmacology exam I had to learn tons of drug facts in a very short time. It is easy to get confused with the mechanisms of action, side effects and contraindications. If you feel the same way and you just don't feel like learning hundreds of facts by heart, I can understand you well - because I didn't either.


Fortunately, you can find a remedy and make learning "fun".


Learning method # 1: memory palace

I first came across the idea of ​​the Gedächtnispalast in the series “The Mentalist” (which, by the way, I'm a big fan - but more on that another time). In one episode, a CIA agent had to pretend to be a former student at a class reunion and memorize all the facts about 30 people: friends, school grades, who with whom, etc. He memorized the whole thing through a memory palace.



For a memory palace, you visualize a place that you know very well, such as your apartment - recall your room, your bathroom and your kitchen exactly.

If you now have a topic with several sub-chapters, about which you have to learn a few facts by heart, reserve a room for each sub-chapter.


Now comes the clue: In each room you now place the facts that you have to remember in certain places so that you can picture them. So you have a picture for each room with the facts of the respective sub-chapter in your head.


Let's go through it with an example:

Among other things, I had to learn almost all antibiotics for my pharmacology exam and they have a lot of subgroups - one of them was the acylaminopenicillins, for example. Acylaminopenicillins include, for example, the penicillins azlocillin, mezlocillin, and piperacillin.


Since my brain was a little overwhelmed with all the creative drug names, I always thought of donkey bridges for them. I remembered the acylaminopenicillin subgroup through an acrylic painting, for example, Azlocillin was Aslan the lion from Narnia, Mezlocillin was his (imaginary) lion brother Meslan and Piperacillin was Pippin from The Lord of the Rings.


So I have a picture in my head that I can imagine for every active ingredient. This can be done wonderfully with all the abstract facts that you have to remember -> just think about donkey bridges that you can well imagine (the more emotional your connection to it, the better).

  • When I go into my room now, the first thing I see is an acrylic painting hanging on my door. If I go into the room, I see Aslan sitting on my desk, who is doing an arm wrestling battle with Meslan, while Pippin lies comfortably in my bed and watches the scenery.

So I remember very easily that the group of acylaminopenicillins includes azlocillin, mezlocillin and piperacillin. You can do this for each room and memorize as many facts as you want - brilliant, right?


To take this technique to the next level, there is the next method:


Learning method # 2: Loci method

From Latin locus = place. This method is similar to the Gedächtnispalast, but you don't imagine your room here, but a certain path that you walk often and know well. You can then place the objects that you want to remember along the way.



Take a shopping list, for example. You want to buy milk, eggs, bread, apples and meat and remember everything with the loci method (very exemplary!).


So you visualize the way you go to the supermarket and place your shopping items along the way (you can be creative and represent everything a bit abstract so that your brain remembers things better).

  1. Milk: When you want to leave the house, a huge milk carton blocks your way out of the front door.
  2. Eggs: After you make it out the front door, the whole path is paved with eggs, all of which you will crush.
  3. Loaf: You meet a French man with a funny mustache who offers you a baguette, which you accept with thanks because it is still very fresh and smells seductive (this also appeals to your sense of smell, which in turn helps your brain to better store the information).
  4. Apples: When you pass a tree, you see Newton sitting underneath, with an apple falling on his head.
  5. Flesh: Finally you have almost reached the supermarket, but you see a horde of butchers with large butcher knives in their hands - when they see you, they run towards you with a roar.

So you see, it is not difficult to remember an infinite number of facts when you visualize the whole thing - it does take a little creativity and preparatory work at the beginning, but the learning material is saved much better if you proceed in this way (and incidentally, it's also more fun than just learning by heart dry).


Final tips:

  • If you need to learn abstract facts, try using donkey bridges to visualize them.
  • Imagine everything as emotionally as possible, so the brain will remember the facts better.
  • Always try to tailor the stories to you personally - include family members or friends.
  • The funnier, disgusting, or scary the donkey bridges and stories, the better.

Memorize numbers easily and never forget them again: Major system

With the major system you can easily memorize numbers such as telephone numbers, dates of birth, years, etc.


Here, numbers are translated into images because the brain can store them much better. However, this learning technique has the disadvantage that it requires a certain amount of preparation time.

You have to remember certain letters for the numbers from 0-9 (see major system from Wikipedia):

0 = z, s, ß, ss (from English zero)

1 = t, d (the small t looks almost like a 1)

2 = n (n has two legs)

3 = m (m has three legs)

4 = r (four has an r at the end)

5 = L (the top of 5 looks like an upside down L)

6 = ch, sch, g (upside down 6 looks like a g)

7 = k, ck (7 is a lucky number)

8 = v, f, w (V8 engine in a VW)

9 = p, b (9 is a mirrored p)


This is the system you have to memorize if you want to become a world champion in numbers. I'm waiting for you so long


Finished? Very good!



Now we come to the actual part. If you now have a row of numbers, you simply translate these numbers into letters and form words with them (vowels do not count here).

1 = t, e.g. tea

2 = Noah

3 = grandma

76 = cook

To the complete list with the numbers from 0-99


Of course, you can also think of words for the numbers yourself. Let's assume you want to remember the date of birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for example (born 1756) - so we have the numbers 17 (t and k, for example counter) and 56 (L and ch, for example corpse) .


We can remember the image in our heads of Mozart sitting at the counter of a bar, getting drunk and a corpse lying on the counter next to him. Voilà and you can already trump Mozart's date of birth at the next party. Once you understand the system, this technique is very powerful, especially in combination with the memory palace or the loci method.


Learning to learn and taking breaks: the Pomodoro technique

As a final learning tip, I would like to introduce you to the Pomodoro technique.,


I often hear from fellow students that they study 2-3 hours at a time, take a longer break and then start a long study session again.

Scientifically, this is not ideal because our brain only has a concentrated attention span of 30-50 minutes. So it prefers to learn in sprints rather than marathons. And this is exactly what the Pomodoro technique makes use of so that you can learn correctly and effectively.



You divide the learning material into blocks and learn a maximum of 30-50 minutes at a time. Then you take a short break of 5-10 minutes in which your brain can recover and then you start your 30-50 minutes again.


The advantage here is that you do not have forever long learning times that overwhelm you and only reduce your motivation to learn, but you have crisp learning sprints that are manageable. In addition, your brain can process and store the learning material better.


You can then use the breaks to meditate, do jumping jacks, or go for a walk. Just give it a try.


Conclusion: learning with learning techniques

There are tens of thousands of learning methods and techniques, but these are my top favorites that really work if you implement them consistently.


Here are the points summarized again:

  • Create a study plan
  • Test yourself
  • Use the SQ3R method
  • Hear, see and feel the fabric
  • Learn a lot of facts and figures quickly with the Gedächtnispalast, the LociMethode and the Major-System
  • Learning sprints instead of marathons with the Pomodoro technique

Do not try to implement all learning techniques at once, but choose a learning technique that you think you can benefit from and implement it consistently.


Do you have any specific study tips or study techniques that you use to learn more effectively? Feel free to write them in the comments!


Johannes Wagner

I am a medical student, 22 years old and come from Vienna. In addition to my love for sports and music, I run the blog The Hero's Journey, with which I want to inspire people to proactively take their lives in hand and grow personally.