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Rapid Learner is Now Open for a New Session

About once per year, I offer a new public session of my course, Rapid Learner. This is a six-week program that is designed to make you a better student, professional and lifelong learner. If you’ve found my essays on the science of learning helpful, or found my learning projects interesting, this course shows you how to do it. Click here to sign up...

Why You Need a Learning System

In this lesson series, I’ve talked about why it’s crazy we’ve never been taught how to learn. I’ve discussed how cognitive illusions trick you into using lousy studying methods. I’ve also explained why we get stressed over studying and how to beat it. Today, however, I want to talk about the importance of having a learning system. Tips Versus Systems...

How to Approach Any Exam With Confidence

You know the feeling: sweaty palms, tightness in your chest and the tunnel vision that centers on the exam paper sitting in front of you. You feel like you should know the answers, but you keep forgetting. You glance at the clock and realize you’re falling behind. When the exam finishes you feel awful—you know that you knew more than what you wrote...

Which Matters More: Method or Motivation?

In the previous essay in this series, I complained about how we were never taught how learning works. As a result, we often guess at which methods to use when studying. Sometimes, we guess badly. To illustrate, here’s a question for you: when studying for a test, which matters more, the method you use, or how motivated you are to learn the material?...

You’ve Never Been Taught How to Learn

Think of all the classes you’ve ever taken in school: math, history, biology, or social studies. Now think about all the classes you took in school for how to learn better. Can you even think of one? We spend decades of our lives in school. After we graduate, we spend another few decades dealing with a constant bombardment of learning challenges in...

Reader Question: What Classes Should I Study to Land a Job?

Reader Talal asks: I have a question: Single variable calculus (MIT) Mathematics for computer science (MIT) Harvard CS 50 (Harvard) Intro to algorithms (MIT) Design and analysis of algorithms (MIT) Leetcode practice problems Are taking these courses enough if I want to get a job at big tech company? Not being a professional programmer,...

Reader Question: Avoiding “Flashcard Hell” and Finding Enjoyable Studying Strategies

Reader Garrett writes: I recently received my acceptance letter for medical school. Your content, ideas, and email exchanges helped me so much on this journey. So, I wanted to share that with you and thank you. Ultralearning shaped much of my approach to studying during undergrad.  I want to spell out a problem I am thinking through and see what...

Variability, Not Repetition, is the Key to Mastery

Bruce Lee is reported to have said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” With all due respect to Mr. Lee, he might have been wrong about this one. Variability plays an essential and oft-neglected role in mastering complex skills. Considerable research shows that practicing in...

Why Didn’t More People Take the MIT Challenge?

Ten years ago, I finished a personal project to try to learn MIT’s computer science curriculum on my own. Strangely enough, the project was both a resounding success and an abject failure. The project was successful as I largely did what I set out to do. I managed to hew closely to the content in MIT’s undergraduate computer science curriculum. And...

Recent Reading: 7 Books on the Science of Learning

How does the mind work? Why do the best writers get the most writer’s block? Is the process of evolution the key to understanding the development of thought? Here are some selections from my recent reading. 1. How Can the Human Mind Occur in the Physical Universe? by John Anderson Given the title, you might be expecting this question to be rhetorical....

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