7 unexpected ways to supercharge your ability to learn

If you’ve got an exam or appraisal coming up soon, this one is for you. There is a wealth of contradictory instructions on the web about the various methods of revising and how to prepare your body for a temporary transformation into an information sponge.

In a new piece from Time, Eric Barker has curated a comprehensive list of ways to supercharge your ability to learn – some of which you might not have ever expected.

1. The Socratic method

Unless you’re learning about Greek philosophy, the likelihood of having to understand the Socratic method is minimal. However, the method of eliminating assumption and finding critical focus will both cut down the amount of information you need to learn and improve your critical thinking.

2. Put pen to paper (literally)

Writing by hand will improve your ability to learn. By incorporating a number of senses our brain receives feedback from our actions creating a tactile learning experience that can’t be achieved with screen and typing exercises.

3. Keep that frown the right way round

A negative attitude actually increases your motivation since the self-critical parts of your brain squashes any undeserved sense of achievement. Don’t mug yourself off, embrace that bad mood and use it to your advantage.

4. Failing is the first step to success

Deliberate failure has actually been shown to be more beneficial than attempting perfection in a learning environment. Being guided into your mistakes will help you identify them under test conditions and you’ll feel much more equipped to deal with mistakes later on.

5. Luck does exist

Mentors will always tell you that you “deserve the grade you work for”. However, many studies have shown that superstition will increase performance. The change in self-effacy is so dramatic that it can actually improve your lifespan so, whatever you do, don’t forget that lucky charm.

6. Cramming will get you nowhere

Cramming is a finished fad; the spacing effect is here to stay. The benefit of learning across a long period will help you retain information far better than trying to digest it in one sitting – you don’t need a scientist to tell you that.

7. Learn with your hands

We’re not referring to pottery or building dioramas but rather the subtle effect of hand gesturing. Studies have found that coming up with hand gestures for new concepts can give learners a new representation and way of thinking about particular details.

What now?