Book review- How We Learn

Book: How we learn
Author: Benedict Carey
Ratings (My Pov.)- 5/5
I often wondered as to how I score so well when I don’t even work that hard. I don’t study in a quiet and empty room (well I rarely do this). I don’t study for 3- 4 hours straight, I often get distracted and start to day dream and I don’t even complete most of my targets that I set.
It all seemed like a stroke of luck when I started to score well while in middle school. But then two years later, when I entered into my freshman year (9th class) of highschool I thought that I want to be like other kids and work hard too, you know, study 8-9 hours daily, so that I can do even better. And I did this. I studied for long hours before the exams but found that instead of increasing, my score was decreasing. Drastically. I reached from an amazing 94% to 80% in the mid terms of my freshman year.
So I thought I want to learn how to learn and score well. That’s when, while watching a YouTube video I got a suggestion to read this book. I already loved to read back then, so I said ‘why not?’ And bought this book online.
No. I wasn’t lucky. All this time, I’ve been unknowingly applying some of the best learning techniques and then foolishly considered this as a waste of time, and tried to stick to the normal ways of learning.
I was seeking some normal study timetable and does and don’t’s in this book But as I read this book I realized that boy I was so wrong all this time to think that all this time I’ve been retaining more knowledge, scoring more marks because I was lucky and blessed with a sharp mind! And studying for long hours was my stupidest mistake.

In this book Carey briefs us with some learning tips. Though most of you might be shocked after reading this.
Some basic tips;
  • Distractions and napping can sometimes aid learning.
  • Taking a test on a subject before you know anything about it improves subsequent learning.
  • Sticking to one learning ritual slows us down. We work more effectively when we continually alter our study routines and abandon any “dedicated space” in favour of varied locations.
  • Whenever we are preparing for any sort of exam we should match our surroundings to the exam centre as much as we can.
  • Studies find that the brain pucks up patterns more effectively when presented with a mixed bay of related tasks than when it’s force feed just one.
  • Music ( background music like rustling of leaves) enhances science aptitude.
  • Forgetting is often a friend of learning. Without a little forgetting, you get no benefit from further study. It is what allows learning to build, like an exercised muscle.
  • Psychologists hypothesized that features of the study location – the lighting, the wallpaper, the background music – provide the brain “cues” to shake free more information.
  • Recall is better if the environment of the original learning is reinstated.
  • Daniel Willingham, a leading authority on the application of learning techniques says, “I put them to put the notes aside and create an entirely new outline, reorganising the material. It forces you to think about the material again, and in a different way.”
  • To retain and build foreign vocabulary, science definitions, or other factual information, it’s best to review the material one or two days after initial study; then a week later, then about a month later. After that, the intervals are longer.
  • The fluency illusion is so strong that once we feel we’ve nailed a topic or assignment we assume that further study won’t help.
  • You don’t really know a topic until you have to teach it and make it clear to someone else.
  • While solving math or other spatial problems, three best incubation breaks can be –
  1. something relaxing like lying on couch and listening to music,
  2. Something mildly active like surfing the net
  3. Or something highly engaging like, writing an essay or digging into another homework.
  • Interrupting yourself when absorbed in an assignment extends its life in memory and pushes it to the top of our to do list.
  • Varied practice is better than the focussed kind, because it forces us to internalize general rules of motor adjustment that apply to any hittable target.
  • A world of impressions swirls in our head when we turn the lights out and, according to this theory, that’s when the brain begins top sort out the meaningful from the trivial.
  • Unconscious downtime (sleep) clarifies memory and sharpens skills. It’s a necessary step to lock in both. In a fundamental sense, sleep is learning.

My views:

I think that this book is a must read for students of even professionals who need to learn new things everyday. It’s a book which is based on research and the discoveries of scientists, psychologists and different professors from the best universities if the world.
Carey is very careful in addressing the readers with adequate evidence to each of his learning tips. In fact, if seriously followed, this book can be a life changer for people who’re trying to learn some sort of language or people who need to sharpen their mental skills.
The best part of this book is that it challenges us to question our methods and makes us consider new ones which are mostly contradictory to the ones we use.
Let go of what you feel you do should be doing, all that repetitive, over scheduled, driven, focussed ritual. Let Go, and watch his the presumed enemies of learning – ignorance, distraction, interruption, restlessness and even quitting – can work in your favour” – was the very last message of this book
Thank you

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