By Lakshya Nagar
Coming off of a well-deserved, yet all too short, Thanksgiving break, it’s quite normal to long for the end of the semester and the start of our winter breaks. But there happens to be one roadblock left: finals. Although finals are very important, they don’t have to be as nerve-racking as they are made to be. A well-managed study schedule and an efficient reviewing method is all you need to be on your way back home and starting your holidays. There exists a particular method, the “Feynman technique”, which should be of use when preparing for finals.
For those not familiar with Richard Feynman, he was a famous theoretical physicist known for his work with quantum electrodynamics. His contribution to the field led to him receiving the Nobel Prize in physics category. Throughout his career, Feynman also worked on helping the development of the atomic bomb, the idea of nanotechnology and quantum computing (aren’t you glad you aren’t taking a final in those topics?). Even in his youth, Feynman was far beyond his peers, teaching himself college level calculus and trigonometry at the age of 15, but how did he do it?
It is a common notion that people retain 80-90 % of what they learn when they teach it to someone else. This happens to be the basis of the “Feynman Technique.” When Feynman came across a topic he wanted to know more about, he simply grabbed a piece of a paper and started to write anything he already knew about the topic. He would write as if he was making notes for someone oblivious to the subject. Through this process he would be able to spot obvious holes in his knowledge, and he would then turn to experts in the field who could fill those holes. Once he felt as if he had a better grasp on the topic he would repeat the process until he found more gaps in his understanding. Hopefully, you’ve retained a good amount of information over the semester, and aren’t oblivious to what you’ll be tested on. If so, the “Feynman technique” should be extremely helpful in pinpointing what is not understand about a topic, understanding them, and then finding more things that aren’t correctly comprehended. The ultimate result will be a high level of understanding and therefore higher preparedness for finals.
Leta Moser speaks on this topic to assess the validity of the “Feynman Technique.” Leta is a learning specialist at the Sanger Learning Center (SLC) and provides individualized academic support to students at the University of Texas at Austin. Leta and the SLC advocate students to balance studying by both “taking information in and explaining or producing something as an output.” Although the SLC doesn’t use the Feynman technique by name, they surely do encourage students to make a study cycle that involves quizzing themselves to understand strengths and weaknesses. In fact Leta proclaims that, “self-quizzing is the main predictor of student success on test.” Now to efficiently make use of the “Feynman Technique”, Leta also recommends a form of distributive practice rather than cramming. This allows more information to be retained, and therefore better test scores. This advice may not be unheard of, therefore why should one try the “Feynman technique?” According to a recent survey done by the SLC, “90% of students who have been receiving help through the SLC and have used self-quizzing techniques” have seen improvement in their grades. Why not try it?
If you’re more interested in self-quizzing techniques or would like to know about other study strategies that could help for finals, be sure to attend “Surviving Finals 101”, hosted by the SLC, on 12/4 from 6-7 PM in JES A115. Good luck on all your finals and have a great winter break!