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How to Study: Kalid Azad Joins WTFP to Talk Motivation, Energy, Intuition, and Improving Your Learning Process


Click here to download the free “How to Study” Hangout PDF Quick Reference Guide you can take with you

You know that feeling you get when someone, off-hand, informs you about something you’ve been doing wrong for YEARS?

“Oh, you know if you do the loop this way instead of that way your shoes won’t keep coming untied, riiight?”

“Dude, you do know if you just raise your seat by like 3” pedaling up-hill will be like 10 times easier, riiight?”

“Hey man, you do know you don’t have to click, hold, and wait for like an hour to highlight those 3,000 cells in Excel, you can just press “Ctrl+Shift+Down,” riiight?”

(You’re welcome for those 7 of you out there who just face-palmed because you didn’t know that last one…)

Literally the second someone shows you something like that, you immediately think:


(Photo: memegenerator)


It’s so so simple, yet you would NEVER had known, had they not mentioned it to you…

How to Study

Each week, I get a ton of questions and feedback from you guys about studying.

“How did you managed to study for all your courses in university? In September I’m taking math,chem,bio,physics and psych and at the moment I’m feeling pretty stressed but it looks like I have a real big load  I’m going to tackle.”

“My number one problem is not able to reproduce what I have learnt during exams. I am a Mechanical Engineer and I took Dynamics last semester. That class killed me yet I spent the most time studying it (over 20 hrs/week). Maybe it was my technique: Reading the textbook, lecture, HW then office hours. Another problem is procrastination and sleeping  in.”

“My biggest challenge in my technical courses: Staying focused while studying and doing homework… really that’s my biggest challenge right now. I find myself distracted and having a hard time focusing.”

Turns out, in most cases, all we really want to know about is one thing: HOW TO STUDY.

  • How to study in these heavy, math-based technical courses I’m taking for my degree.
  • How to study when I feel like I have no time, or really just don’t feel like it.
  • How to study more effectively, so I don’t feel like I’m wasting my life in a textbook.

It’s just like what we talked about above – studying is something that we, as students, are faced with every single day, yet know very little about. And each time we figure out some new little tip or tweak that works, it’s FACE-PALM CITY, because we’ve already spent hundreds, or even thousands of hours doing it the hard way.

Well thankfully (for you and for me), there are a few rare souls out there like my friend Kalid Azad, who make life easier for all of us.

Kalid, who runs BetterExplained (dedicated to delivering clear, simple insights for math-based concepts) is a master at making the complex seem simple. His intuition-based learning system was key to his success as a computer science student at Princeton, and will have you face-palming left and right – in a good way!

He’s helped thousands of students grok math in a whole new way, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with him to put together something special –  just for you guys.

This last weekend, Kalid and I co-hosted a hangout where we talked shop: sharing our best practices for studying, and covering exactly how to make real tangible improvements to your study process. We also answered a TON of Q&A from you guys (thanks for all the great questions!!), focused on getting you better, and more consistent results from your learning process.

So check out the video (time-stamped notes below so you can pick and choose), and enjoy!

Click here to download the free “How to Study” Hangout PDF Quick Reference Guide you can take with you

Key Content

Intro [0:59]

Prime the System: How to structure your study routines to optimize for learning [4:03]
“In-Context” Learning: How everything fits together [4:43]
Baseline vs. Progressive Learning [5:38]
The Goldilocks Principle: How to unlock motivation [11:00]
Routines to prime yourself for learning (pomodoros, etc.) [15:01]
Brain Preparation: How to get the most out of lecture [20:00]

Absorb the New Stuff: How to take notes (and how not to) [24:23]
The “Get-It-All-Down” Principle [26:23]
What you should take notes on vs. what to safely ignore [28:00]
The Consolidation Method: How to organize and process your notes [30:16]

Learn: How to connect concepts to solving actual problems [36:30]
Why Kalid LIKES making mistakes [38:55]
The 3 types of knowledge [40:40]
The Reverse Learning Technique [41:03]

Practice: Becoming a problem-solving machine [41:38]
Active Recall: Solving problems from scratch [45:14]

Perform: Pulling it all together when it comes time for the exam [47:43]
Exam Rehearsals [48:53]

Reverse Learning Example: Projectile motion physics problem #1 [53:30]

Active Recall Example: Projectile motion physics problem #2 [1:11:15]

Question & Answer

How do you maintain a balance between passive and active learning? Reading becomes boring after a while – on the other hand solving problems tires you out.” [1:20:28]

Questions on Getting Stuck: (1) “Do you guys ever get bored or stressed when there is a question you cannot solve? Like you’re been practicing the questions for weeks, but then another new question crops up near the end that makes you doubt your confidence?” (2) “My theory is strong, but when it comes time to solve the problem I get stuck.” [1:23:18]

How can I overcome the problem of leaving everything to the last minute and making myself think that, ‘It’s easy I’ll do it later” or, ‘It’s too difficult, I can’t do it?’ Now I’m 3 weeks away from the exam and low on confidence.” [1:25:26]

Questions on Note-Taking: (1) “I think the Cornell note-taking method is very effective, what do you think of it? And what’s your take on visual note-taking?” (2) “I’m getting a new laptop for the fall. Are there any particular features that can help with schoolwork such as active digitizer for notes or are these just distractions?” [1:28:46]

How to maintain focus throughout a study session. [1:37:00]

“Can you give an example of how the Reverse Learning Technique could be used for a subject like chemistry? Kalid I like your analogy technique. Could you give some examples of how to use it to learn chemistry better?” [1:38:12]

How do you set up your study schedule? How would you incorporate these study techniques into a daily routine when you have a lot of material to learn?” [1:42:48]

What’s the best way to go through a day when I don’t feel motivated at all – i.e. a very ‘down’ day?” [1:48:19]

How can I make physics less tiring and an easy subject?” [1:51:38]

“Next semester I’ll be taking 19 credit hours of all technical courses (5 courses). What advice do you have on managing and excelling in multiple high-demand classes at once?” [1:53:52]

“I’ve recently set up a mechanical habit-based system of working which has helped me develop a bias towards action, doing some work as soon as I site down at home. How would you balance this with making sure I’m performing high-value work? I often find myself starting with admin busywork rather than putting in the thought to work on something genuinely useful.” [1:59:08]

Links & References Mentioned

Math, Better Explained – Kalid’s first book [1:31:53]

Calculus, Better Explained – Kalid’s calculus course [1:32:18]

Study Hacks for Engineers – Tom’s study course [1:33:40]

Master Organic Chemistry – study resources for chemistry [1:39:03]

So tell me…

Based on what you learned, what’s ONE thing you’re going to implement into your study routine that will make the biggest impact for you? Write it in the comment section below – I’ll read and respond to each one!

Thanks again for the great questions and feedback! If you liked the hangout and want to see us do another one, let us know in the comments!

  • Daven July 2, 2015, 4:20 am

    I want to excel!

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