Tip #1: Learn to Love it.
What I mean is that you’ll never be successful in any topic if you don’t first find something that you like about it. Maybe you want to make meth, well you’ll need to learn what a mole is. Perhaps coffee is your passion, you might want to start brushing up on your O-chem. In any case, changing your mindset about what’s in front of you is literally half the battle.
Tip #2: Visualize.
Athletes at all levels use visualization to help them achieve success. Why should science be any different? The thing is that you have to be willing to be mindful of what you’re visualizing. It’s not enough to form a picture in your mind. You have to give it texture, smell it, watch how it interact with the environment that you’ve created for it.
Tip #3: Make it sexy.
People love sex, that’s why it’s such a powerful advertising tool. When you’re trying to memorize something try making it sexual in some way. If I’m thinking about elemental Oxygen (O2), I think about a model with a 32″ bust (Atomic Weight of O2 = 32 amu) and black “O’s” for well…you know.
Tip #4: Make it Funny.
Wanna have it really sink in? Try mixing sexy and funny. Take the example above and make the model 100 feet tall, wearing a clown nose and with a pterodactyl roar. Bet you won’t forget now.
Tip #5: Quizlet.
As far as far as rote memorization goes, there’s no better tool than quizlet. I am able to sit down and memorize 200 terms in an afternoon using the “Learn” function. Some studies show that handwriting is better for memorization, but something that I feel they fail to recognize is the sheer volume of repetition that you can get with digital note cards.
Tip #6: Apply it Every Day.
There’s no better feeling in the world when you can take something you’ve learned and apply it to something that happens in everyday life. Start to think about the topics you’re learning and make it relevant to you. Not only is it good practice for that test that’s coming up, but you’ll also be able to start making the learning process more fun.
Tip #7: Be Skeptical.
This is arguably one of the most important skills you can develop as a budding scientist. This one tends to get a bad rap. With the rise of militant skeptics, it’s easy to see the adverse effects that it can bring, but it doesn’t need to be this way. It is possible to question things professionally and courteously. All you’re saying is that before you dive into a theory headfirst, you are going to fact check it, and see where errors may have been made.
Tip #8: The Power of Memes.
The mind’s ability to remember a picture as opposed to a word is astonishing. There might be some out there that prefer the traditional way of learning, sitting hunched over a book, but let’s face it I’m going to remember more about a topic if I see a picture of a grumpy cat saying something whimsical. Don’t worry if you’re not super creative, 99% of the memes on here are taken from an outside source, they’re merely a useful learning tool.
Tip #9: What Are You Really Studying?
To every broad subject such as chemistry, biology, math, etc. There’s an underlying theme that you’re going to be studying. Your first priority when you’re exploring a subject is to figure out what the end goal is. For example, to study chemistry, you need to understand that it’s the study of matter, and how one type of matter might interact with other matter given specific parameters. That could literally mean studying the reaction that occurs when you burn the desk that you might be writing this on or the reactions that occur in your body when you drink a cup of coffee.
Tip #10: Practice Problems
Yes, you read that right. Science isn’t your history class (FYI, I love history). It isn’t enough to get the general gist of a topic, or memorize a bunch of terms and call it good. If you genuinely want to teach yourself science, then you need to get comfortable with the technical aspects of the material. This means that you need to work on problems with real implications in the field that you’re studying. If you’re curious as to where to start, take a look at our resources page.
Tip #11: Calculators
Did you ever wonder why you had to learn long division when there was a perfectly functional calculator sitting in your backpack? Then when you asked your teacher, you received one of the most overused and outdated phrases in learning, “what happens when you don’t have a calculator?” That argument breaks down outside of the classroom because guess what? You ALWAYS have a calculator! Don’t waste your time thinking about simple arithmetic, reserve your brain power for higher thinking. Buy a simple scientific calculator like this one, and get comfortable using it, you can thank me later.
Tip #12: Use your resources.
You need to become comfortable with researching information. Google is your best friend, but be warned, make sure that wherever you’re getting your information, that it’s a reliable source. Look at multiple sites and make sure that the information being presented is consistent. Having said that, working in the medical field you learn that doctors and nurses don’t know everything, this applies to student’s as well. You will need enough information to allow you to solve problems. Anything outside of that you can look up.
Tip #13: Wikipedia
Speaking of reliable sources. When I was but a wee lad, the internet was just becoming a thing. I was introduced to computers that used a DSL connection in the 6th grade! I remember sitting in that class and my friends changing an article to include something about the Ninja Turtles taking a dump, or something along those lines. Wikipedia was, and still is, regarded by some as an unreliable source because anyone can change anything on a page, at any given time. Fortunately this reputation is pretty much unfounded at this point. Wikipedia is crawling with bots that maintain articles, and the publication process is pretty cutthroat, when it comes to a human wanting to edit pages. That is why I always start off my research by using Wikipedia. It’s a fantastic springboard to more reliable sites, and it can introduce fundamental concepts, that are difficult to see when using a primary source.