Self-Study VS Formal Study
I believe we are entering an era in which self study is more important than formal studies. With almost any subject available online for study in the form of eBooks, online courses, and videos, self study is easier than ever.
But self study is very different from formal classes. And for those of us who grew up accustomed to having a teacher tell us what to learn and when to learn it, self study can feel very daunting. So it is important for us to first learn how to self study effectively.
These five tips will help you effectively study almost any subject you choose.
1. Plan Your Studies
Don’t just grab the first book you see on the topic and start reading. Have a game plan instead. Organize your thoughts on a piece of paper and write the following:
- What subject do I want to study?
- Why do I want to study it?
- What do I hope to achieve from this study?
- What do I already know about the subject?
- What is the most effective method for me to study it?
- What is the best starting point for me?
By figuring out the above, you can choose your first book/online course more rationally and work accordingly.
2. Start at the beginning
It is never a good idea to jump into an advanced book or course if you are new to a field.
I see this all the time in Islamic Studies. New students who haven’t learn the basics of Islamic principles and Arabic grammar yet ask to be taught the highest level academic books.
If you do this, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Everything has a system and an order.
So the wise thing to do is to start at the beginning with the most basic course/book. Find out what is an introductory course or book in a field and study that first.
This is especially important for subjects that have their own language. It is essential to learn the lingo of the subject before studying the subject itself.
3. Make time to study and stick to it
Self Study requires self-discipline.
The reason many of us lack self-discipline is because we are accustomed to teachers and parents telling us when to learn. But you are your own teacher now. So it is your duty to tell yourself when to learn.
Set a standard study time and stick to it daily.
It could be an hour in the morning or evening, or any time you prefer. Simply choose a time that suits you and train yourself to stick to it. (Hint: Choose your peak concentration time or time with least distractions)
This level of self-discipline is crucial for ensuring that you complete your studies and don’t go off track.
4. Hand Written Notes are key
One problem with online education is that too many of us depend on others for notes.
We like to download notes and email them to each other. We assume that just reading someone else’s notes is enough. It may be enough for short-term study, but not long term learning.
The key is to hand write your notes (not type them). This helps your brain store information in your long term memory and understand it deeper.
Whether you are reading a book, reading an article, studying an online course or watching a YouTube video. Whatever it is, make sure you have a pen and paper nearby. then write down everything you learn in your own words.
That last part is crucial.
Writing it in your own words means you have understood it. It also means you are less likely to forget it.
To study even deeper, rewrite your notes into small summaries. And then write your own reflections on it as well. All of this will help you actually learn deeper.
5. Test Yourself
Testing has a place and purpose i.e. to help you realize how much you remember and understood.
So with self study, it is your responsibility to test yourself. The purpose of such a test is to check if you understood the work clearly. This helps you find the gaps. Then you can then go back and restudy the areas that remain unclear.
How do you test yourself?
There are many ways.
My favorite is to rewrite a summary of each lesson from memory, and then check if I did it correctly.
Other methods could be to make up a self-quiz, get a friend/family member to test you, or to take an online quiz on the topic.
Self study is highly effective if you do it right.
Plan your studies, start from the beginning, and make a time and stick to it. Then make sure you take down notes, rewrite them for understanding, and test yourself.
Doing all of this will ensure you gain maximum benefits from your self study.