How do you learn difficult subjects

Learning methods during studies - this is how you learn effectively

frequently asked Questions

There are innumerable learning methods, and you will definitely try a few until you find the right method or combination for you. However, it has always proven its worth Create a learning plan, that you work off for yourself.

Don't be overly motivated, but realistic. A study plan that is too tight creates more frustration than it helps you. In addition, the learning method of repetition has proven itself over decades.

These are some of the learning methods that will help you with the Exam preparation could help:

  • Visualization
  • Summaries
  • Read & mark
  • Repetitions with index cards
  • Mind maps
  • Donkey bridges
  • Audition & Discuss
  • Old exams
  • Create a learning plan
  • E-learning

Flashcard learning is an extremely popular method. Many of them already know it from school, even if you haven't necessarily used it yourself. But at the latest when you are studying, you need a very good one Exam preparation, with which you can effectively memorize a lot of material. For this purpose, learning with index cards is perfect.

Write your lecture documents in your own keywords on the index cards and use colored markings to keep track of things (e.g. technical terms blue, examples green). Don't forget to number the cards so you don't get confused.

It may have been easy for you to get good grades at school with little study effort or a certain learning method, but that can change during your studies. But don't panic, it only takes a little adjustment and you're back on the road to success.

The following learning tips could help you during your studies:

  • Create a learning plan
  • learn intensively with the slides in the lecture
  • Test yourself with old exams
  • Form study groups
  • Search for questionnaires
  • Use introductory literature

If you have an oral exam, chances are you'll be pretty excited beforehand. It is all the more important that you are perfectly prepared. When you go into an oral exam or presentation like this colloquium, you must have really understood your topic and the terms. If you are unsure of some things yourself, use the Internet and read up any missing information.

Make bullet points that will help you not to lose the thread and practice your presentation several times with the respective program. Then give an exercise presentation in front of your family, friends or fellow students.

Relevance of learning methods in studies

Many different learning methods have evolved over the years to enable students to learn effectively and efficiently according to their own abilities. The path to success does not look the same for everyone.

If one or the other is still unsure which are the best learning methods and which are even available, we have one in this article Overview of the best learning methods to learn effectively.

This way you can easily find out how to learn best and what to look out for in the various learning methods. With our tips you can then relax in the Exam preparationstart and get the most out of your learning time!

Definition: learning methods

In principle, learning methods mean to control and optimize the learning process so that one can learn effectively (Götz & Bieg 2015: 98). Learning methods are used to organize the material to be learned. There are, for example, interdisciplinary or subject-specific learning methods (Götz & Bieg 2015: 99).

The learning methods used can be visual or auditory. You first set the learning goal, proceed step-by-step with learning and use various learning methods, such as reading, group work or mind maps. Regular checking of the learning progress is also part of the learning methods.

The right preparation

How you work best and what it means for you to learn “effectively”, of course, you have to decide for yourself. Which learning method is right for you depends a lot on what you want to achieve with your learning.

Here it helps to deal with a few basic questions before starting the learning phase in order to find the right learning method:

Questions to find the right learning method

  • What is my goal in learning: Pass the exam or acquire permanent knowledge?
  • How much time am I willing to invest in learning: a few hours a day or once a week?
  • What are my priorities: are certain exams more important than others?
  • Who can help me if I have problems: I look for myself Private tutoring or maybe I prefer to attend a crash course?

When you have answered these questions, you can start planning your learning phase and finding the right learning method.

First of all, you should have the material you need to study. At this point, I (and you!) Assume an ambition and interest in passing the exam. Otherwise you would certainly not have looked for and found this text about learning methods. A Interest in the material or at least the ability to make it reasonably interesting are also part of the preparation of learning methods. At this point, Hyams speaks of an “intrinsic motivation” (2004: 76). That, as well Concentration and calm in the learning process, bring you into the flow with which you can learn effectively.

TOP news about learning methods

legal tribune online
Learn properly for the exam
"Paths beyond the index cards"

Read now

Frankfurter Allgemeine
Learning methods: learn by writing
"Superiority of the primer method"

Read now

Overview of best learning methods

Here we show you an overview of the best-known and most popular learning methods for students. In the table you will find the learning methods explained at a glance. For more detailed explanations, you can read through the individual learning methods below and thus find the right learning method for your exam preparation. Just click on the method that interests you and you will be taken to the relevant area on the page.

Learning methodsHow to use this learning method
VisualizationsFor example, helpful when learning vocabulary: recording, arranging, using structures, associating images (Lehner 2015: 90).
SummariesReduce learning material to the essentials; use your own words for this
Read correctlyRead the text according to precise specifications and gradually edit it (overview, ask questions, answer them, reflect)
Index cardsOne card, one question, one answer. Place cards in different compartments of a card box. Query yourself and, depending on success, pass the cards on to one subject (Heister 2007: 43).
Learning methods with hierarchies / mind mapsCreate different levels, become more fragmented and relate the levels to one another (Lehner 2015: 79). Categorizations or clusters (see mind map) can also be helpful.
Establish links / donkey bridges• Learning strategy: Linking content in order to create connections that anchor knowledge and make it accessible (Esselborn-Krumbiegel 2007: 143).
• Another idea here is to invent donkey bridges, abbreviations or word associations (Heister 2007: 36).
Audition• Additionally auditory learning
• Either alone or in a group: present part of the content, ask each other questions
Old exams & exam simulationPractice the exam under real conditions in advance
Create step plan / learning planAs with a learning plan, a targeted, step-by-step approach is taken; edited various contents and retrieved knowledge
E-learning offersVideo lectures and online offers for crash courses e.g. B. at Studybees


Often, when there is too much text, people lose sight of the true message and begin to skim the content only briefly. In this way, however, important things can quickly be overlooked and connections not understood. With the help of Visualizations as a learning method however, this can be avoided.

Many students find it easier to complex content remembered by not using them as text but rather save it as a graphic in the brain. This makes content that is difficult to convey very easy to understand.

If you want to try out visualization as a learning method, you can, for example, show the sequence of a process in the form of a table instead of dealing with the running text.

Tip: For this learning method, design your graphics so that you can see the important points straight away. For example, mark step sequences in color or adjust the font size of the individual points according to their importance!

When it comes to learning methods to visualize the subject matter, it also helps to Illustrate and present difficult terms or contexts. This can look like this, for example:


Most students do not enjoy reading scripts that are hundreds of pages long. Especially when you consider that usually half of what is in the script is not really helpful. For this reason, the majority of students take up Summaries as learning methods back.

When summarizing as a learning method

  • become the most important information of the various scripts from lectures, tutorials and exercises are brought together and combined in a single document.
  • Unimportant topics are dropped, while your own examples and notes flow into the summary.
  • Advantage: all important content is compactly arranged according to topic, instead of scrolling from lecture to lecture to find the right information.

Read & mark

In order to learn effectively, it is often necessary to read the literature. Various are suitable for this Learning methods for reading. I would like to introduce you to the PQ4R technology here. In the picture you can see how Lehner describes this (2015: 63).

The SQ3R method is also based on these learning methods (although the “Reflect” step as described by Schott (2015: 30) is missing here.

Specifically, this means the following for the process of the PQ4R learning method:

1. Get an overview & skim learning material

2. Formulate questions about the subject matter

3. Go through learning material, read & answer questions and mark difficult points

4. For the memorization process: Establish links & create examples

5. Check knowledge: reproduce content & answer questions independently

6. Summarize & reproduce the most important points freely

With these learning methods, a is relatively self-explanatory in the first phase Overview of the literature. In addition, from Ask the text beforehand. In this way you can extract as much as possible from the text and get a good impression of what is important and where. Through the task that you set yourself, you retain a lot more because you are looking for answers to your questions (Lehner 2015: 63).

The phase Read and Reflect - Reading and reflecting - offers the opportunity to work intensively on the text. Work with markers here and think carefully about whether something is important and how it relates to the learning objective and its content. That is an important part of these learning methods. Here is a good example of what something like this can look like (Lehner 2015: 65).

The final phase -Recite & Review- this learning method offers a more intensive reflection of the text. Correlations can be reevaluated by and large, contents justified and summarized. To reproduce the content in your own words in order to internalize it is probably the most important part of these learning methods.

Again, briefly summarized the most important things about this learning method:

Learning methods: PQ4R techniqueExplanation
Preview & Question• Overview
• Formulate questions
• Orientation as to what could be relevant
Read & Reflect• Read
• To mark
• Notes
• Answering questions
• Create links between content
Recite & Review• Review
• Deepening
• Play it in your own words
• Sum up