Have you ever wondered why you tend to score well in some subjects but not in others?

Some subjects might come easy to you, but others might actually feel painful.

You may think, like I used to, that you’re just not good at math or whatever the subject is you’re having a hard time in.

But I can guarantee you that it has nothing to do with being good or bad at a subject – you’re just untrained in the strategies that it takes to learn that subject.

What’s going on is that you simply don’t have the right tools and techniques you need.

School tells you what to learn but not how to learn it – so not feeling good about any subject is simply a lack of a system for ‘how to learn’.

If I asked you to get into the driver’s seat of a car, and told you to drive without showing you how to drive, would you be able to do it?

And if you can’t, does that mean you’re a bad driver?

Of course it doesn’t – it just means that you haven’t learned how to drive properly yet.

So, today, I want to share with you the ways you can master any topic – by learning how to learn.

Table of Contents

1. Find Out How You Learn Best

2. Create Mental Movies When You Learn

3. Know How to Instantly Access Your Visual Memory

4. Make Associations and Connections by Asking Yourself, “What Does This Remind Me Of?”

5. Know the Best Brain Conditions for Learning

5 Ways to Master Any Topic

1. Find Out How You Learn Best

Brain and Learning Expert Shares 5 Ways to Master Any Topic

Imagine asking a chef who has never touched a musical instrument to play the violin or asking a violinist who has never cooked to bake a complicated cheesecake.

Because the skills they possess don’t match the task they’re given, they’re probably not going to do a great job, right?

This is what happens when you don’t know how you learn best – you’re not matching your preferred learning style to what you’re learning, and therefore, you end up struggling.

There are three main learning styles, and your learning preference is some combination of these, with one or two styles dominating.

If you’re a visual learner, you quickly grasp information in text, and in visual forms like maps, graphs, charts, tables, diagrams, and so on.

You turn what you read into pictures in your mind – which is one of the keys to learning and remembering anything faster, as I’ll explain in the next section.

If you’re an auditory learner, you pick up information better by listening. You can remember word for word what your teacher said in class, or a conversation you had ages ago.

If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you’re more of a doer. You like physically interactive classes like P.E and lab exercises, or anything that involves you moving around and being active.

Now, like the chef being asked to play violin or the violinist being asked to bake a cheesecake, if your learning style doesn’t match the subject, you’re going to find scoring well difficult if not impossible.

This is why it’s so important for you to know what your learning style is. When you know how you learn best, you can match your learning preference to the strategies you use to learn.

If you’re an auditory learner, instead of spending hours stuck at your desk reading, you could be using text readers and audiobooks to better absorb information.

If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you know that you learn better when you’re moving around, acting out what you’re learning or pretending you’re teaching a class on the topic.

So, first things first – find out how you learn best by taking this Learning Styles Quiz!

I cover a lot more about the characteristics of the different learning styles and specific strategies that work for each in my course Total Recall Learning – so do check in here for more!

2. Create Mental Movies When You Learn

Brain and Learning Expert Shares 5 Ways to Master Any Topic School typically favors visual learners, since a lot of the material you cover in class is in text, and you sit your tests and exams in a written format too.

If you’re an auditory or kinesthetic learner, the reason you might be struggling in class could simply be the mismatch between your learning style and the style you’re being tested in!

Your learning style isn’t a fixed thing – just as the chef can learn how to play the violin, and the violinist can learn how to bake cheesecake, you can also add and adjust learning strategies to improve your learning.

And one of the key strategies that comes naturally to visual learners is turning everything they learn into mental movies.

Let me show you why this gives visual learners such an edge with this little exercise.

First, imagine the Mona Lisa. You probably just instantly got a picture of the famous painting and the lady with the equally famous smile in your mind’s eye, right?

Now, if instead I asked you to recall an entire paragraph of text from your history book describing the Mona Lisa, line by line, instead, which task feels harder?

The reason images pop in your mind faster than remembering long strings of words is because your brain uses a huge chunk of its surface area – 80% in fact – in visual processing.

Your brain can extract and process images tens of thousands of times faster than it can decode combinations of letters and their meanings.

Visual learners naturally convert what they read into mental pictures and movies in their heads. As a result, when they need to remember what they learned, they can conjure up that picture a lot faster than if you were trying to remember all the paragraphs you read and notes you wrote.

Your brain also processes images and gleans meaning a lot faster than it can with text.

You might not be able to recall a lengthy explanation of how the digestive system works because it’s so technical and wordy.

However, if you can visualize a diagram showing a bite of food travelling down your mouth, through your throat, to your stomach, and all the things happening inside your body during this process, you have faster, more automatic and complete understanding of what you’re learning.

This is far better than memorizing, because you actually understand what you’ve learned and are able to recall it and apply it better as a result!

Won’t that be helpful the next time you have to sit an exam?

3. Know How to Instantly Access Your Visual Memory

Brain and Learning Expert Shares 5 Ways to Master Any Topic Try this – go up to a friend or a family member and ask them to picture the Mona Lisa in their minds, just like I asked you to do earlier.

Tell them to think about the painting in as much detail as they can.

As they visualize the painting, I want you to track which direction their eyes move in.

You’ll likely notice that as they concentrate on picturing the painting in their mind’s eye, they’re eyes are moving in either an upper left or upper right direction.

This is because, even though they’re not conscious of doing it, they’re accessing their visual memory.

And this is possible because of something called the eye-brain connection, something I discuss in much greater detail in Total Recall Learning.

Studies show that the movement of your eyes help activate different regions of your brain, and therefore help you activate different types of memory.

If you’re looking down, for example, either to your left or your right, you’re accessing your kinesthetic learning.

If you’re scared, nervous or anxious about a specific topic, and the negative emotions are interfering with your performance in that subject, it’s because of the mismatch between the learning style you’re trying to use, unintentionally, with what you need to learn.

However, understanding the eye-brain connection is like being in the driver’s seat of your brain – you can shift gears at will to switch learning styles on-demand.

By looking up to your left or to your right, you’re helping your brain switch away from the kinesthetic style to the visual learning style that helps you access your visual memory as well as create images out of what you learn.

And this is the secret to faster learning and memory, and mastering any new learning!

Find out more about the visual memory eye positions at Total Recall Learning!

4. Make Associations and Connections by Asking Yourself, “What Does This Remind Me Of?”

Brain and Learning Expert Shares 5 Ways to Master Any Topic Guess what? Along with visualization, connecting pictures and making associations are among the tricks memory champions use to recall things like hundreds of random names and numbers.

This is because your brain learns best through creating associations and images. When it can connect something new to something you already know, it gives your brain a marker to find the information again.

Say you’re encountering something completely new and unfamiliar for the first time, like a new language.

You might feel intimidated by the words, sentence structures and grammar rules that are totally unfamiliar to you.

This might switch you into your kinesthetic learning style, which doesn’t match how you’d be able to learn and recall this new language better.

To switch yourself back into the visual learning style, look at the words you need to learn, and ask yourself “What does this remind me of?”

For example, imagine you’re learning the names of all the seasons in French. “Le printemps” is spring, “l’automne” is fall, “l’été” is summer and “l’hiver” is winter.

Take a look at “le printemps.” For now, without thinking about the meaning, ask yourself, “What does this remind me of?”

You might break the word down into two words you do know – “print” and “temp”.

Now, connect this with a picture in your mind. Imagine yourself taking a reading of the temperature outside with a thermometer and printing out the image of a nice day outside.

This creates a mental movie in your head, of you standing at your computer with a thermometer, printing out an image showing the pleasant temperature outside.

Not only is this much easier to remember, because of the reasons you read about earlier, but it’s also personally relevant to you, and creates meaning out of something that might at first feel like a random word.

Because of the mental movie you created, you automatically know that “le printemps” means spring!

Let’s look at another example – “l’hiver”, which means winter. Remember, look at the word and ask yourself “What does this remind me of?”, and conjure up an image of this connection in your head.

“L’hiver” rhymes with “shiver” – so you can imagine yourself indoors, looking out your window at all the snow outside, shivering because it’s so cold!

And that instantly reminds you of the word “winter!”

You took the word, created an association by connecting it to something you already know, and by conjuring up a mental movie of that association in your mind, you can now process and recall it much faster!

Try it out yourself – look at the French words for summer and autumn, and ask yourself “what does this remind me of?”

Try to create images that are as colorful, animated and humorous as possible – your brain likes and remembers images like this the best!

5. Know the Best Brain Conditions for Learning

Brain and Learning Expert Shares 5 Ways to Master Any Topic You already know that the brain recalls images tens of thousands of times faster than text or sound.

But that’s not the only way your brain learns best.

Owner’s Manual for Your Brain

Knowing how your brain learns and creates memory is like owning the instruction manual to your brain – you know exactly how to unlock your full learning potential.

First things first – your brain is made up of billions of neurons or brain cells. What you learn, the memories you create, the skills you pick up, are possible because of the connections your brain creates between these neurons.

The more active these neural pathways or associations are, the stronger and more permanent your long-term memory.

On the other hand, the less frequently you use these neural connections, the weaker the memory – and in fact, if they aren’t regularly used your brain simply discards them.

So, in order to retain and recall whatever you learn, you need to make sure these neural connections are as strong as possible.

Retrieval is one way of doing this – this is the act of consciously pulling out a memory from your brain. It gets the neural pathway to activate, and the more it activates, the faster and more efficiently you’ll be able to pull up that memory.

Think about something you’ve probably done a thousand times, like tying your shoelaces. You barely even think about it, because you’ve done it so many times that the neural connections are working at the speed of light.

So, the more you retrieve what you’ve learned – by practicing math equations, doing sample quizzes and review exercises – the stronger, faster and more efficient your memory will be.

Reviewing what you learn is important as well. When your brain encounters specific information frequently, it activates the neural connections for these more frequently as well. And this does the same thing – your brain can process and recall this information much faster and more efficiently.

Another extremely important tip about brain-based learning – chunk your studying.

Think about it this way – when building a skyscraper, construction workers don’t just dump a mountain of bricks on top of each other.

They have to lay the foundation, wait for it to set, and then carefully and meticulously build upwards, brick by brick.

Learning occurs in the same way. If you try to bite off everything you need to learn in one go, your brain chokes on information overload. It doesn’t get the time to digest what it’s learned before it’s ready for the information to build on top of that.

Neuroscientists and learning experts – myself included – recommend keeping your study sessions 20 to 25 minutes long, separated by 5-minute breaks.

When you do this, you don’t overwhelm your brain’s capacity to store information temporarily, in what’s called your working memory.

By taking a break in between learning, your brain has the chance to start reviewing what you just learned, finding connections with what you already know, coming up with ideas and solutions for it.

If you don’t allow your brain this time to absorb what it’s learned, it’s like you’re stacking up a house of cards that could just collapse at any second.

Just 5 minutes in between your study sessions, followed by a quick review session when you get back to learning, can help build up your long-term memory so much more efficiently!

With these 5 ways to master any topic, according to a brain and learning expert who has watched these tips change the lives of her students, I promise you learning success!

For many more brain-based tips and more information about all the methods I mentioned here, do check out Total Recall Learning!

pat wymanPat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com and an internationally noted brain coach known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.

Pat’s superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, such as Total Recall Learning™. Use coupon code LEARNMUCHFASTER to make the course $27 today! Save $70!

Pat is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!

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