7 Effective Ways to Understand Difficult Topics

7 Effective Ways to Understand Difficult Topics


What exactly comes to your mind, when you see this number? Absolutely! That’s the number of hours in a day. Although, the number seems sizable at the first glance, it may seem very less for a student, who has multiple things to complete, every day. Tests, projects, assignments, extra-curricular activities, family & social time, other commitments…the list goes on and on. And when they are such hard-pressed for time, wouldn’t it be nice to study smarter (not harder) and ensure good grades, besides leading a balanced life? Well, it is very much possible and that’s the essence of this blog. On contemplation, we may all agree that getting straight A’s is not the core objective of education. However, learning how to learn is an essential life skill.

Are there difficult topics, in the first place?

There are good number of reasons why certain topics seem difficult to some and not to everybody. Some of the possible reasons are:

  • You heard the topic is difficult and assumed it would be difficult to you too
  • You are not familiar with the basic concepts
  • The course has bulky concepts
  • You tried learning everything on your own, without seeking help
  • You did not grasp the keywords well and faltered on your approach

In this piece, we have put together some of the tried and tested ways to learn effectively and understand difficult topics, without hassles. Let’s go over them one by one:

Learn the same material using different medium

It has been proved that different media stimulate different parts of the brain. The more the number of areas of the brain stimulated, the better is the understanding of the topic, as well as the retention. Hence when a topic is being covered, ensure that you study the same topic from notebook, textbook, workbook, online resources, animated videos (if available), any other reference sources available, and finally teach someone what you learnt. Needless to say, it may not be possible for you to cover all of the above in a single session. Each time you study the concept, you could use a different medium.

Read through the headings, sub-headings & illustrations of the topic, first

Take a moment to visualize the chapter and reflect on the broad purpose of the topic, at hand. When you do this, you are putting your brain in the receptive mode, which will optimize learning and give it a structure, to hang the new concepts on.

Create conceptual chunks of information

As a next step, your focus now should be on building chunks of useful and easily digestible information, which can be retrieved to solve or understand similar concepts or problem, at a later date. This process creates neural pathways, in your brain, that will help you comprehend the tough concept.

Pause, recall & reflect

After you read through the tough concept, close the book and recall the underlying ideas that you have read, in your own words. You may give it some time to sink into your brain, before moving on to the next concept. This process of recalling & reflecting etches the neural patterns deeper into your brain.

Use analogies or comparisons to make the concepts memorable

When you frame the concept you have learnt as a simple analogy, you are connecting it with other areas of your brain. If you go the extra step in writing down the analogy, the concept gets encoded deeper and better into your brain.

Space your studies and your practice

It has been established that our brain is similar to a muscle that needs alternating periods of rest and recovery to synthesize new ideas and concepts. With difficult concepts, you will have to space out your studies – study some everyday, rather than cramming all the information in a couple of marathon sessions. You may be surprised to know that cramming may help your knowledge to stick around for a day and get you to clear your test. However, you may be unable to recall the same concept, when you eventually move on to the next tough topic. Hence, always make it a point to space out your study sessions. Also, never try to multitask, while learning.

Good Habits for Students

Good habits always come handy

The critical habits that keep us healthy and charged up are useful for smart learning too. Eating a healthy and balanced diet, exercising regularly, drinking adequate water (8 glasses a day) and keeping yourself hydrated,  getting a good night’s sleep for 8 hours will ensure that our brain is ever-ready to take on challenging topics.

The bottom line

At Concept Tutors, we believe that struggling with tough topics is a natural and necessary part of the overall learning process.  No child should ever get obsessed with the idea of getting good grades all the time. Our personal teachers stress on the fact that education is much more than just getting good grades.  Their focus areas are learning and growing, so that children can meaningfully contribute to the society, by capitalizing on their strengths. Learning then becomes the pursuit of excellence and success will eventually follow. Good Luck!

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