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How To Study For Exams – Active Recall





Secret Study Tips Nobody Told You




Before going into this article, I’d like to say that the inspiration for this article was from a video I watched on YouTube (link to the video below). The girl really talked about some realistic tips that I think will work for people, or if not, you would be able to pick some ideas. I added my points too, based on my experiences in school. If you wanna watch the video, here it is;

But, if you want the full gist, with less time, and less data, then let us dive into the article together. 

Please, remember to leave a comment in the comment section about anything about the post.


Striving for Academic Excellence

So you want to become that “perfect student”, “That student”, or “the one that always gets straight A’s effortlessly.” At this point, you probably know what you need to do. Study more, be organized, use the Pomodoro method, test yourself, and make engaging notes, but nothing ever sticks. 

You try your new study habits and routines for like two days, then crash, and ultimately keep being the same old chaotic, hot, messed version of yourself, while those other perfect, students in your grade keep acing their exams without seeming to break a sweat. But no more. 

In this article, I will go over some top-secret, non-basic study tips and hacks that actually work and will help you finally see improvements in your grades. 

The Common Struggles

Identifying the Three Main Challenges

Here are three main issues that I’ve personally faced, and I feel like the majority of students face when it comes to studying and grades./h

  1. you don’t know how to study. 
  2. you don’t study enough. Or 
  3. you don’t study efficiently. 

Problem One: Finding Effective Study Strategies

For potential problem number one, this is just a situation where you don’t yet know the strategies and techniques that work for you and help you get top grades. Here are the general rules for playing the game of getting good grades.

Prioritize Weightier Exams/Assignments

First, it’s really important to note the weights of the assignments and how important the exams are, in order to prioritize your time on the assignments or exams that are worth the most, and make sure that you put most of your effort into them. 

Some courses are 5 units, some are 2 units, so make sure you prioritize reading the heavier ones for exams first. The 5-unit course carries a greater percentage of your GPA than 2 units. Put more effort into heavy courses!

Understanding Exam Composition

Two is knowing what’s on the exams. Obviously, you won’t know exactly what’s on the exams beforehand usually, but essentially knowing if the majority of the exam will be based on the lectures, slides or on the textbook, or on everything. Also, after you get the feedback for your first few assignments or exams, try to remember what the exam was like and whether it was more from the class lectures or slides or textbooks, and just overall analyze the exam in the first couple of assignments and try to figure out what the teacher wants. Also, if you have quizzes in your class, then I recommend trying to write down any questions you remember after the quizzes and seeing if they pop up on the exam later. There are some lecturers who give you the exact questions they do in class, they give them in your exams, and some use the exact examples in their slides. I’ve seen this a lot with my classes, and that way you can get free points because the same questions popped up on both the class questions and the exam. 

Leveraging Past Exams and Resources

Again, if there is any access to past exams or past papers or practice questions in the textbook, it’s great to use them to review and see where your knowledge gaps are, and also, again, see if any of the questions end up popping up on the exams. 

Download Some OAU 100L Past Questions

Download Last Year’s Past Questions (For OAU Science Part 2 Students)

Concentrate More On Your Lecturer Slides/Class Notes

Next, if there is a note or slide for the class, just straight up use that. I don’t really take notes anywhere else since if the teacher made a study guide or their own notes for the class, it’s very unlikely that they’ll deviate a lot from the notes, and it gives you a great structured format to know what to study and what to prioritize.

If you would like to watch a YouTube video or watch a course online on a particular topic, probably you don’t understand from class or you don’t understand your slides. Do not just watch literally everything in the video, (it’s not the Youtuber that wants to set your exams, lol) You may not need everything for your exams. Watch the video with your school slides or class notes, if there were parts of the video that were clearly just from the slides, then watch that portion of the lecture and take the notes from the lecture for that part well.

Get Freshers Materials (Slides and Class Notes)

Download Material For OAU Science Part 2 Students (Slides and Class Notes)

Embracing Diverse Learning Methods

 A major thing here is once you find something that works for you, even if everyone on the internet says handwriting is terrible and passive reading is bad, honestly, if it works for you, just keep doing it. Don’t let anyone shame your weird study methods or your inefficient study methods. Just find something that works for you and that helps you get the grades that you want.

Problem Two: Time Management and Prioritization

Okay, so problem number two is if you don’t study enough or have enough time.

Balancing Extracurricular Activities

So in this case, I highly recommend cutting some extracurriculars, if you just realize you have way too many.

Tracking and Optimizing Your Study Time

Also, I recommend tracking your time for a week or two and just seeing where all your time goes and also tracking how much time you actually study. Because, for instance, if it turns out you only study five hours a week, then you probably know that something you need to work on is gradually building up how much time you can sit at your desk and study.

Efficient Use of Free Hours

Also, a major tip that really helps a little when you have a million extracurriculars and a million classes, is using your time in school wisely. If you can actually set a goal to use every free minute that you can in school to study. It turns out that there sometimes is actually a lot of free time that just floats around. So use your time wisely at school if you can, and you’ll find that you have a lot more time for studying than you expected during the day in school.

Problem Three: Studying Efficiently

Problem number three is that you don’t study efficiently.

Redefining the Study Hours vs. Success Equation

The most important thing to remember here is that the hours that you spend studying do not really equal success.  Because honestly, when it comes to studying efficiently, you do not have to handwrite your notes for everything. It really is just about playing the game that is getting straight A’s and figuring out what is the bare minimum sometimes that you need to do to get those A’s.

Utilizing Online Resources

Another thing that top students do is that they definitely use outside resources that help them be more efficient and study better.

For example, if you look up certain teacher websites, either your own teacher website or you type in a generic class like AP Chemistry, Weebly, online website, you can usually find a ton of free notes, PDFs, and documents that teachers have uploaded to their websites and actually use those as your notes instead of making them yourself. Definitely don’t be afraid of using the internet to research and find amazing resources. 

Seeking Tutoring and Teacher Guidance

 Of course, if you’re really struggling with a specific topic, absolutely reach out to a tutor. Absolutely see, because usually most universities and schools have free tutoring, so try to see if you can find any student tutors or free tutors.

Absolutely reach out to upper-class men if you can and definitely use your teacher as well as a resource, especially if they’re a really nice teacher. Go to their office hours, visit them at lunch if you can, and definitely use them as well. 

Telling God

If you believe in God, you should always tell Him about everything you do, this includes studying too. Tell Him about your difficulties and how you feel, and pray to Him to raise people who will be your friend, encourage, and guide you through. Tell him that you want favor in your studies, He should tell you what to read, and give you strength when you are tired. Let me tell you, he hears every single word you say, and guess what? He can do them all for you. What makes studying more efficient than this?

Cultivating the Right Mindset

Now, let’s talk about the mindset. Basically, when it comes to the mindset, in my opinion, there are three main pillars of this.

Building Confidence in Your Ability to Improve

Number one is the confidence pillar, which is basically the belief that you can improve. Because if you don’t believe it, you’re honestly deep, deep, deep down going to just think, “I could be doing something fun instead of studying and sitting here, and it’s not going to make a difference.”  So, in my opinion, the way that you develop this confidence or this belief that studying does lead to better grades, or that changing the way you study will lead to better grades, it only comes from the results you get, honestly. I understand some people get it by affirmations and all that, and if that works for you, good for you. But if you are going to really try to improve and learn this subject and just see if you can really try for a semester, for instance. And then, once you actually see tangible results, you’ll start to develop that confidence that you can change, and it’s that belief that you can do it that will keep you resilient and motivated and determined throughout the semester, and not have a mental breakdown every time you don’t get the results you want, or you get a bad grade. This ties into the second pillar of how to have a growth mindset.

Fostering a Growth Mindset

 Number two is the growth mindset, but it’s basically that mindset that every failure is something to learn from and shows you what doesn’t work rather than internalizing that failure and basically concluding that you suck. And again, in my opinion, you’ll only deeply believe that failure is not the end of the world. Once it actually comes true, you actually learn from failures and then you bounce back. That’s why pivoting or changing study techniques, if nothing is working for you is super important, so you don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and setting yourself up for failure. 

So for instance if handwriting notes it’s just too slow or too boring for you and you can’t concentrate, then definitely try watching videos or making flashcards or mind maps or something completely different and see if that works for you. It’s better that I eventually figure it out in a year, than just continuing to do the same thing that I did for the past several years and continuing to get bad grades. 

The Significance of Valuing Your Grades

The last pillar is simply placing importance on grades. So, obviously, making grades a priority is important for getting good grades because if you don’t care about grades, if you don’t think it’s important, then you’re just not going to prioritize it. You’re not going to study a lot, and you’re not going to get good grades. So, I highly recommend trying to figure out why you want to get good grades and just really thinking about it. It’s probably not going to come to you in like three seconds. It might take several months, even. But just really thinking like why are the grades important to you? Is it for your parents? Do you want to make them proud? Do you want to get a good job in the future? Are you obsessed with a certain subject, and do you really want to learn it and be amazing? And it really doesn’t matter ultimately what that reason is. You don’t have to tell anyone, but the stronger your emotions are about that reason, the better. Because ultimately when you’re sleep-deprived, when you’re tired, it’s remembering that reason that will help you continue pushing through instead of going on your phone or giving up or not caring.

Playing to Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Alright, this part is playing to your strengths and weaknesses. It’s just basically trying to know yourself and how you work. 

Breaking Down Tasks for Success

Break up your assignments or the things that you have to do into little chunks.  So if you get overwhelmed a lot, I also recommend breaking up tasks into little pieces and then, you know that you’ll have a break after you do a certain amount of things. 

Finding Inspiration and a Supportive Community

Surround yourself with an artificial community or a real-life community of peers who are also interested in studying. This is just really helpful when you feel like you completely don’t care about studying or school, or you’re just really lacking motivation. It can be really helpful to find maybe five to ten people on YouTube or on Instagram. It can also be whoever you see as an academic inspiration, and watching them in your free time to kind of reminds you to kind of glorify the process of studying. And that way, you’re getting motivated, and inspired to study even on your breaks, instead of getting completely distracted by a fantasy book or some really intriguing murder mystery show or something like that, that completely distracts your brain from studying and from school. So basically use your study breaks in your Pomodoro sessions or between study sessions to watch, study people, or study inspirations to kind of help focus your brain on studying. 


In conclusion, the path to academic excellence is an exciting journey filled with opportunities for growth and improvement. By addressing common challenges such as effective study methods, time management, and the development of a growth mindset, you can set yourself on the course to achieving your academic goals.

The key lies in self-awareness and adaptability. Recognize your unique learning style and embrace it. Whether you thrive on the pressure of last-minute deadlines or prefer a well-structured study plan, understanding what works best for you is essential. Don’t fear failure; view it as a stepping stone to success. Experiment with various techniques until you discover your personal formula for success.

Placing importance on your grades can be a powerful motivator. Identify your reasons for striving for excellence, be it personal fulfillment, making your family proud, or securing your future. Let these motivations fuel your determination, especially during challenging times.

Finally, remember the value of a supportive community. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who share your commitment to learning can be a wellspring of inspiration. Whether you find study partners online or in real life, a sense of belonging to a community of learners can reignite your motivation during tough moments.

In your journey to academic success, remain undaunted by setbacks or unconventional study habits. While the road may be long, the destination is worth the effort. So, equip yourself with the right strategies, cultivate a resilient mindset, and draw strength from your unique motivations. With these tools in hand, you’re well on your way to becoming the exceptional student you aspire to be. Feel free to share your own insights and experiences in the comment section below. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and can inspire others on their educational journeys.


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Study Tips

The Feynman Method: An Easy and Efficient Guide to Master Any Topic



The Feynman Technique

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – Albert Einstein (attributed)

When we learn something, it’s easy to convince ourselves that we’ve understood it too. But, are we really learning effectively? Have we understood the concept or simply memorized some sentences?

The problem with the learning techniques most of us use (like highlighting, summarising, and rereading) is that, although they feel intuitively productive, they’re not very effective or useful in improving knowledge retention. So instead of using techniques that will help our knowledge to compound over time, we’re essentially resorting to learning hacks that help us quickly pass a test. This is a trap we’ve all fallen into at some point. I know I certainly have.

Fortunately, this is where the Feynman technique can help.

👨‍🏫 Richard Feynman

During his lifetime, he pioneered the field of quantum electrodynamics, re-invented our understanding of particle physics through his visual representation of subatomic particles, and won the 1965 Nobel Prize in physics. Beyond theoretical physics, he was an influential figure in the Manhattan Project, wrote a detailed report on the causes of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and had an incredible ability to communicate complex ideas with clarity and simplicity.

His name was Richard Feynman.

But it wasn’t his innate intelligence that made Feynman so brilliant (at least, according to the man himself). Rather, it was his systematic method of understanding, simplifying, and explaining difficult concepts that contributed far more to his eventual success.

This method is now called ‘The Feynman Technique’.

Richard Feynman

🤓 The Feynman Technique

The Feynman technique is based on the idea that one of the most effective techniques to enhance our understanding is to imagine that we’re teaching the material to someone who has absolutely no idea about the topic. Like a small child.

By doing this, we force ourselves to explain our thoughts fully and avoid glossing over topics we don’t understand well enough. Through the 4-steps of the Feynman technique I’ve outlined below, we’re encouraged to identify our knowledge gaps, reorganize our thoughts, and ultimately improve our long-term retention of that knowledge.

  1. Identify the topic
  2. Teach it to a child
  3. Identify knowledge gaps
  4. Simplify

We’ll look at each of these steps in turn.

1. Identify the Topic

The first step is to choose a topic we’ve recently studied and/or a topic we’d like to test our knowledge and understanding. This can literally be any topic we want.

My recommendation is to grab a piece of paper and write this topic clearly at the top of the page. Try not to pick a topic that’s too broad (e.g. “medicine”) otherwise, it’s going to be impossible to do step 2 properly. Just identify a topic that’s narrow enough to explain in no more than 5 minutes.

What are the learning benefits of identifying the topic?

  • It makes learning specific – our focus is on one topic area, rather than an entire subject. So we know exactly what we have to know/learn.
  • It keeps things simple – learning a smaller, more specific, topic makes it far quicker to complete the 4 steps of the Feynman technique. So we’re less likely to get bored or give up while learning/revising.
  • We face our weaknesses – when we memorise it’s easy for us to skip over things we don’t enjoy. But by identifying our topic we’re facing our weaknesses and forced to confront what we don’t know.

2. Teach it to a Child

Pretend we’re teaching and explaining the topic to a small child or someone who’s never come across the topic before. The key here is simplicity – explain the concept using simple language. Don’t simply define the concept but, if it is a mathematical concept, for instance, work through examples to show how the concept works in practice.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool” – Richard Feynman

The classic mistake is to treat learning as a passive process. Rereading and highlighting are particularly popular learning techniques, but they’re largely ineffective because we’re not actually engaging with the material actively, it is passive. Teaching, on the other hand, is an active method of learning that is far more effective. After all, we can’t teach something without first understanding it properly.

My advice – take your piece of paper and explain your chosen topic in detail in your own words. Try to keep it brief, avoid technical jargon, and use examples/analogies wherever possible.

What are the learning benefits of teaching the topic?

  • There’s no hiding – when we teach a topic, we can’t shy away from the things we don’t know. If there’s a gap in our knowledge, we’ll quickly find it. Remember: teaching is a feedback loop for finding what we don’t know, not for explaining what we do know.

  • We get external feedback – when we learn through note taking it’s very difficult for us to tell when we’ve learnt something sufficiently well. But, when we try to explain a topic to someone else, they’ll often let us know if they don’t understand something or if our explanation needs further simplification.

3. Identify Knowledge Gaps

In step three, we need to pinpoint the areas we found difficult to explain or had to return to our notes/textbooks to refresh our understanding. If we had to use any technical term in our explanation, we should challenge ourselves to break those terms into simpler components.

If a child would struggle to understand us, we’ve found a knowledge gap that needs to be filled and simplified in step 4. The key is not only to identify complex areas of our own explanations but also to challenge and identify where we’ve made assumptions based on what we already understand intuitively. A child won’t intuitively know much about our topic, so we need to make sure our explanations strip things back to the basics.

What are the learning benefits of identifying knowledge gaps?

  • It is an active way to learn – by identifying where we’re struggling, we become more intentional about our learning. Instead of covering the stuff we already know (like we do when we reread, highlight, and summarise), we automatically focus our attention on the topics that need the most work.
  • Learning is iterative – it’s impossible to remember a topic if we only look at it once. The Feynman technique, however, rewards repetition. By teaching a topic and filling in knowledge gaps multiple times, we’re more likely to encode this knowledge into our long-term memory.

4. Simplify

The final step of the Feynman technique is to rewrite our explanation of a topic in simpler terms. This often involves re-organizing our thoughts so the explanation flows more naturally, finishing incomplete thoughts, and finding simpler examples to break down complex ideas. This may take some time (or may have to be done multiple times) to get right.

What are the learning benefits of simplifying?

  • Understanding starts with simplicity – we don’t understand something unless we can explain it simply. Using technical language or assuming our listener has an existing baseline of knowledge means we’re probably relying on memorization, rather than understanding.
  • We build confidence – if we’re able to teach someone a topic we previously found confusing, it boosts our confidence and encourages us to learn even more.

💡 Why use the Feynman Technique?

Although it appears to be a simple technique, it’s highly effective.

The technique enables us to quickly overview a concept, identify areas that are weaker, and, critically, requires active learning – we are forced to move beyond passively rereading or highlighting and actively think about how we would explain a particular concept in simple terms.

It also automatically removes memorization from our learning process. In school, we memorize pretty much everything and quickly forget it all once we’ve finished our exams. But the Feynman technique goes much further, expecting us to prove our understanding of a given topic and clarify our thoughts.

Finally, the Feynman technique pushes us to explore topics that interest us more deeply. And this is the essence of learning anything: be curious and fall in love with what you’re learning. If we can have fun and enjoy the journey, then the learning will take care of itself.

“Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Don’t think about what you want to be, but what you want to do. Keep up some kind of a minimum with other things so that society doesn’t stop you from doing anything at all” – Richard Feynman

👋 Conclusion

If we want to learn more effectively and deepen our understanding of a topic, there’s really no better method than the Feynman technique. Every student should add it to their armoury of revision tools. In fact, every learner should leverage it to enhance understanding, increase productivity, and improve performance. It’s genuinely so useful regardless of what we’re looking to learn.

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Study Tips

The 5 Rs for Effective Note-Taking



The 5 Rs for Effective Note-Taking

How we take notes significantly impacts our learning outcomes. A successful note-taking technique should aid in remembering, retaining, and recalling information effectively.

Clearly, there are a number of different ways we can take notes when learning stuff. Summarising, highlighting, and creating mind maps are just a few of the most popular methods. And to a large extent, the ‘correct’ note-taking method is a very personal thing. If you’ve already found a technique that works for you, there’s really little point in changing things. Do what works.

But, regardless of our preferred method, a good note-taking + learning technique should have some easily identifiable characteristics. These essential characteristics are known as the 5 R’s of note-taking:

  1. Record – there should be somewhere to take our notes (obviously).
  2. Reduce – there should be somewhere to summarise those notes.
  3. Recite – there needs to be an easy way to test ourselves using our notes.
  4. Reflect – our notes should be related to other notes we’ve already written.
  5. Review – we should regularly revisit our notes to ensure maximum retention.

✍️ The 5 R’s

1. Record

The most obvious aspect of any note-taking method is that we need somewhere to actually write our notes.

Whether we’re sat in a lecture, learning from a textbook, or following an online course, it’s important to have a blank page to write down all the meaningful points and ideas that you hear/read.

My advice is to use bullet points wherever possible as this helps to organize the notes coherently and helps us to scan for the most important information. Other things I’d suggest are:

  1. Use bold headings when moving on to a new point.
  2. Aim for telegraphic sentences (i.e. brief sentences).
  3. Leave as much white space as possible on the page to increase readability.
  4. Include abbreviations and symbols when writing stuff down. This is one of those seemingly minor note-taking tips that seriously helps when it comes to ramping up our learning speed.

2. Reduce

Once we’ve written our notes, we need to summarise everything into our own words.

Summarising is a brilliant way of consolidating our understanding of the information, helps us to see where there are gaps in our knowledge, and there’s even some evidence to suggest it strengthens our memory. At the very least, by condensing our notes we’re essentially stripping away any information that isn’t 100% essential for us to know.

A lot of people will skip this crucial step thinking “I won’t forget this stuff” or “I’ll just summarise it later”, but these thoughts just make our lives so much harder when it comes to revising it later. I find it’s best to summarise everything straight after I’ve learnt it, so the material is still fresh in my mind. But don’t worry if it takes you a day or two to get this step done.

Another helpful tip is to reduce our notes by creating a bunch of questions that we can test ourselves on later. These questions should be focused on the main ideas that we’re learning rather than the nitty-gritty details, because the purpose is to ensure we understand the general arguments/points for each topic.

The idea is that self-testing makes revision cognitively demanding as we have to try even harder to retrieve the information we want. This sounds counter-intuitive, but research shows that this helps our brain to better store and recall that same information in the future.

3. Recite

Recitation involves explaining everything we’ve learnt aloud, in as much detail as possible, without looking at our notes.

The process here is similar to the Feynman technique, which encourages us to identify knowledge gaps by explaining a topic as if we’re speaking to a small child. By doing this, we can’t hide from what we don’t know. If we struggle to explain something, we receive instantaneous feedback that we don’t understand the topic well enough. And, therefore, we’ve got to go back to our notes and learn them a little more.

Recitation is also far more beneficial than passively reading our notes (a common learning strategy for many students). The reason: reciting our notes helps transfer the information more effectively from our short-term memory to our long-term memory.

In one study, students were split into two groups and given 7 minutes to read a text. After a short break, the first group was told to repeat the exercise while the second group tried to recall as much information as possible from memory (i.e. recitation). A week later both groups were tested on what they’d learnt. The results were pretty incredible:

  • 40% of the read-only group answered the questions correctly.
  • 61% of the ‘recitation’ group answered the questions correctly.

Put another way, the simple act of reciting everything we know about a topic helps us to remember and retain more information.

“If you read anything over twenty times, you will not learn it by heart so easily as if you were to read it only ten, trying to repeat it between whiles, and when memory failed, looking at the book” – Francis Bacon

4. Reflect

Our brains remember information by associating new knowledge with the stuff we already know. So by reflecting on the things we’ve learnt previously and connecting those facts/ideas/experiences to our most recent notes, we’re giving ourselves the best chance to learn.

I’ve personally found that reflection is not just a retrospective process. By also reflecting on what we’re going to learn in the future it makes it a lot easier to incorporate and understand that new knowledge when we eventually come to learn it.

You may try to reflect in three different ways:

  1. Build scaffolding – Make a few notes before you start writing your notes to think about what you already know about the topic (i.e. backward thinking reflection).
  2. Make predictions – Write a sentence about what new knowledge you may learn at some point in the future (i.e. forward thinking reflection). Basically, you may make a prediction as to the sort of topics or information that may be relevant and connected to what you’re learning about right now that you haven’t directly learnt about before.
  3. The big picture – Try to think about how your notes relate to the big picture (i.e. present thinking reflection). The best way to do this is to write down 2-3 topics that are similar and write down any areas that confused me, which then acts as a springboard for further research and learning.

5. Review

Finally, we should spend 15 minutes at the end of each day to ‘review’ the notes we’ve written. This is the only reliable way to avoid knowledge decay.

The truth is, our knowledge has a half-life. This means that everything we know has an expiration date, and we’ll forget the information we don’t regularly revisit. So scheduling time for distributed review of our notes (i.e. regularly reviewing our notes rather than, let’s say, cramming it the night before a test) better encodes that knowledge into our long-term memory.

📝 Implementing the 5 R’s

Now we know the characteristics of effective note-taking, we need a seamless way of integrating them together into a single strategy. This is where the Cornell Method comes in handy.

The Cornell Method of taking notes was created by the director of Cornell University’s ‘Reading & Study Skills Center’, Walter Pauk. In his book, How to Study in College, he says that the reason we often struggle to take effective notes is because doing so requires work – we need to put in the time to actively engage with what we’re learning about.

But this isn’t something that most of us find particularly fun or intuitive.

Luckily, the Cornell Method is a guided strategy for actively engaging with what we’re learning, by building the 5 R’s of note-taking directly into it.

The Cornell Method

Using this note-taking method is pretty straightforward. All we have to do is divide a single page of A4 into four sections:

  1. The right column – this is where we write our main notes from the lecture, video, or textbook. Here we are focused on RECORDING the meaningful points and ideas.
  2. The left column – this is where we write down any comments about what we’re learning (like if we agree/disagree) and jot down the key ideas discussed. I also like to use this section to write questions that test the most important pieces of knowledge, then use them as the starting point for RECITING what I remember.
  3. The bottom row – at the bottom of the page, we REDUCE our main notes into a few bullet points that summarise everything into our own words.
  4. The top row – other than writing the topic (e.g. anatomy) and date (e.g. 25/06/2025), I use the top row to REFLECT on the things I’ve previously learnt. This mainly involves finding 2 or 3 related topics I’ve written using the Cornell Method and listing them in the corner of the page. This helps to create a web of knowledge, which I then use to REVIEW multiple topics.

Eventually, we should get something that looks a little like this:

👋 Conclusion

Learning effectively begins with effective note-taking. And one of the best ways to take effective notes is by using a method that incorporates the 5 R’s.

For me, the Cornell Method is the easiest method of doing this.

  • Firstly, we get a clear, organized, and coherent set of notes.
  • Secondly, each section of the page serves a unique purpose, helping us to record, reduce, recite, reflect, or review.
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Study Tips

The Art of Reading More Effectively and Efficiently



It might seem odd to have a blog post devoted entirely to reading more effectively. After all, if you’re reading this, chances are you can read. But reading effectively and efficiently is its own skill – one that we’re never really taught how to do.

Throughout our academic life, we’re programmed to believe that effective reading is measured by speed and breadth. The more we can read, the smarter we look. And the more broadly we can read, the more intelligent we seem.

Because of this obsession, we have with reading more, we miss out on a lot of valuable insights. Wisdom from across the ages, the lessons mastered by people who’ve overcome extraordinary challenges, and the chance to gain knowledge that challenges our beliefs. All because we’re never taught the ultimate meta-skill: the art of reading.

Reading more effectively and efficiently means developing a watertight process to capture ideasanalyze arguments, and ask the right questions. It means identifying the right books to read, understanding the different reading goals, and using evidence-based techniques to increase reading productivity.

In many ways, improving the way we read is the number one skill that can change our lives for the better.

The good news is that reading is a skill that can be improved through practice, dedication, and the adoption of the four levels of reading.

The Importance of Effective & Efficient Reading

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read” – Mark Twain

Books have an enormous impact on people’s life. They’ve acted as a personal mentor and as a vehicle for compounding knowledge.

🧠 Books help us Compound Knowledge

“Compound interest is the 8th Wonder of the World” – Albert Einstein

Just as money accumulates exponentially, so too does personal knowledge as it snowballs and branches out over time. In other words, the more we read and the better our reading processes are, the more our ideas, beliefs, and opinions begin to develop at an ever-increasing rate.

Not only does our brain begin effortlessly creating connections between seemingly disparate pieces of information, but cohesive and creative solutions to some of our most puzzling and perplexing problems gradually emerge. It’s a personal superpower that all of us have the opportunity to discover.

“To develop a complete mind: Study the science of art; Study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else” – Da Vinci

The Reading Objective

Increasing our ability to read more effectively, as a means to unlock our own personal potential, begins by deciding on a reading goal.

🤪 Category 1: Reading to Entertain

In this category, we read books purely for enjoyment. It’s how we spend the majority of our time as readers. There are no rules and there’s no need to think too deeply or critically about what we’re reading. The goal is simple: we can relax and immerse ourselves in the story.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with reading to entertain ourselves.

It’s a healthy way to escape from everyday stress.

🗞 Category 2: Reading to Inform

In this second category, we read books to learn specific facts or information about something. These books are typically easy to navigate and simple in their layout and structure. This lets us consume them effortlessly and jump around to relevant sections without losing the gist of what’s being said. The goal is to learn without judgement.

For example, we’d read the newspaper, a tourist guide, or the Guinness World Records, all to inform. Although we may find aspects of each of them entertaining, we primarily read these things to develop a factual picture of current affairs, a particular location, or some other snippet of knowledge.

Again, for most of us, reading to inform isn’t too problematic.

📖 Category 3: Reading to Understand

It’s the final category of reading – reading to understand – that most of us (including me) tend to struggle with. It therefore deserves most of our attention when it comes to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our reading.

The problem is that out of the three reading categories, reading to understand requires the greatest cognitive effort. It forces us to challenge our preconceptions, critically analyse the status quo, and directly confront ideas that we may not be immediately comfortable with. This is hard. It can be uncomfortable. But it’s the only way for us to level-up our thinking and personal growth.

Ultimately, this is a skill that few of us have mastered. But it’s at the very heart of meaningful productivity and improving the way we read. Therefore, we need a method that takes us from reading at an elementary level (like when we’re reading to entertain and inform) to reading at an analytical or syntopical level.

Let’s dive into how we can do this.

The Four Levels of Reading

While the three categories of reading help guide our reading goal, the four cumulative levels of reading help guide our reading style. These levels were again devised by Mortimer Adler and operate to help us understand a book at a far deeper level than what most of us are used to. As we move up the levels we’ll not only find ourselves more capable of grasping the author’s perspectives and forge deeper insights, but we’ll have a process that works with every single book we decide to read.

This is great stuff.

This is great stuff.

👶 Level 1: Elementary Reading

Elementary reading is the most basic level of reading, where the reader absorbs the information presented in the text without fully understanding it.

This first level of reading is the style of reading that everyone knows how to do, as it’s what we’re taught in school. As an elementary reader, we can easily understand the words on the page, follow the plot, and have a solid grasp of what the book is trying to say.

However, even at this elementary level, it’s easy to screw it up by trying to read too quickly.

Trying to improve reading speed before understanding the fundamentals of effective reading is only going to hinder our capacity to learn new information.

My advice – we should try and first improve our reading level. Then, once we’ve mastered the art of reading analytically, we can worry about reading faster (and we’ll talk more about this later).

“Every book should be read no more slowly than it deserves, and no more quickly than you can read it with satisfaction and comprehension” – Adler

🔎 Level 2: Inspectional Reading

This second level of reading requires marginally more skill than at the elementary reading level. Inspectional reading is useful when the reader needs to get an overview of the topic but does not have much time. It involves looking at the headings, subheadings, and summaries to determine the main ideas of the text.

There are two aspects to inspectional reading: systematic skimming and superficial reading.

Analytical reading involves discovering the book’s central meaning, evaluating the author’s arguments, and developing a thorough understanding of the book.

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested” – Francis Bacon

It involves engaging with the text in a deeper and more critical way. Analytical reading requires the reader to ask questions, make connections, and take notes. The reader must understand the text’s main ideas, arguments, and evidence and evaluate how they fit together to create a coherent whole.

In particular, this level requires us to actively read the book, and “the more active the reading the better” (Adler).

However, perhaps the most critical component of active reading is continually questioning what we’re being told. Specifically, there are three core questions that we should be asking when reading a book analytically:

The Holistic Stage: What is the book about as a whole?

We largely uncover the answer to this question during the systematic skimming and superficial reading within level 2. The main difference is that, in the holistic stage of level 3, we’re tasked with identifying the questions the author is asking and trying to solve. Put another way, what was it the author was trying to answer by writing this book?

Furthermore, our written summary of the book is going to be more comprehensive than a couple of sentences. Think about how the structure and ideas flow in general, helping to guide us to the given conclusion.

The Specific Stage: What is the book saying in detail and how is it being said?

While reading the book, we need to ensure we’ve fully understood the author’s approach and be comfortable with interpreting their thinking. We should take the time to identify the special keywords that the author has chosen, verify our understanding of them, and try to appreciate their perspective.

In each chapter, the author will also make certain claims and propositions, which we should restate in our own words and decide whether or not their argument is strong. We should carefully evaluate how these claims and propositions are connected, and check to see if they flow logically from one point to the next.

The Veracity Stage: Is the book true, whether in whole or in part?

In the veracity stage, our task is to constructively analyze. To show where the author has been uninformed, misinformed, illogical, or incomplete in their arguments, clearly explaining what the shortcomings are and how the author’s reasoning could be improved. If we can’t do that then our criticism is unlikely to be constructive or valid.

“The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks” – Adler

📚 Level 4: Syntopical Reading

The final level of reading is about our understanding of a subject more generally. Whereas analytical reading focuses on our comprehension of a specific book, syntopical reading helps shape our opinion and increase our overall fluency of the wider topic through understanding how different books relate to one another. This may sound a little abstract, but bear with me.

“The benefits [of syntopical reading] are so great that it is well worth the trouble of learning how to do it” – Adler

Through syntopical reading we’re connecting the best ideas on a subject, which acts as a powerful catalyst giving rise to creative solutions and real insight.

How to Read More

Only once we’ve mastered how to read effectively, by working up the four levels, should we think about reading efficiently.

Reading more exposes us to more opinions, helps us build connections between different ideas, and entrenches our existing knowledge. Think of effective reading as a well-constructed rocket, and efficient reading as a necessary upgrade to its performance. It just takes things up a notch.

There are three steps to reading more:

❤️ Step 1 – Love to Read

The first step of reading more is having the willingness to read more. And falling in love with the act of reading itself.

Read what you love until you love to read

In other words, don’t just pick up the classics because “that’s what clever people do”. Find the books written on topics that fascinate you and by those people you admire most. Just as we can fall in love with exercise by finding the sports we enjoy, we can fall in love with reading by finding the books we enjoy. The ‘fun factor’ is essential to productive reading.

Similarly, if you begin reading a book and you aren’t enjoying it, then there’s no obligation to continue. Just stop. We don’t need to finish a book just because we started it.

📱 Step 2 – Make it Easy to Access Books

Make it as easy as possible to pick up a book and read it.

Throughout the day you’ll find numerous opportunities to spend 5 or 10 minutes reading. So keep a book nearby. You don’t know when the next great reading opportunity will arise.

Other than that, try minimizing distractions. 

We provide books here on 9jabaz for you to download for free so that you can access them anywhere, anytime. Check the link below to download any book of your choice, ranging from school textbooks (mostly Nigerian school textbooks) to Christian books. This will help you to read more!

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👀 Step 3 – Work on Improving your Reading Techniques

The final, and least important aspect of effective and efficient reading, is technique. This is typically where most articles on reading begin but I’ve realised that this stuff is pointless unless everything else is in order.

If there’s one reading technique that’s going to help the most, it’s improving our consistency. Consistency really is king.

The final reading technique is speed reading. However, this comes with a word of warning: only speed read books that you don’t want to understand. Why is that? Well, when reading at speed we’re not going to have the time to think about what is being said or develop the insights necessary for true comprehension. 


In conclusion, improving reading skills is a lifelong process that requires dedication, effort, and commitment. By adopting the four levels of reading, readers can enhance their comprehension and understanding of written texts. Moreover, with practice, patience, and perseverance, the art of reading more efficiently and effectively can become a natural part of daily life.

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