Unless you are truly lucky, learning does not happen by osmosis. There are some active steps that you must take in order to increase your ability to understand and retain information. Learning is easier for some people than others and different people have different styles of learning that are most effective for them. The important things to remember when honing your learning and study skills are to cut yourself some slack, to not expect the methods that work for others to necessarily work for you, and to develop a personalized plan for learning that is effective for your personal strengths.

Step 1

Determine what your optimal learning style is. There are three basic types of learners: visual, hands-on and auditory. It is important to be honest with yourself about which of these methods helps you retain information best. You might not always have the option of employing these methods, but whenever possible, you should attempt to learn new information in the way that best suits you. For example, visual learners should seek out videos and use flash cards -- methods that allow information to be taken in by the eyes. For an auditory learner, taping lectures and listening to them played back later can be an effective learning tool. For someone who learns best in a hands-on way, conducting experiments and writing out equations and problems can help with the learning process.

Step 2

Prioritize the material that you need to learn and then work to manage your time accordingly. Knowing that you have a test in two weeks allows you the opportunity to draft a learning plan that gives you ample time to learn the material. Rank the items to be learned according to which will need more time to learn and which you will need to spend less time on.

Step 3

Set specific goals for study and learning sessions. If you determine that you want to learn all of the key terms for a specific chapter in your textbook, you will be more successful than if you merely sit down with your textbook and a vague goal of "learning the material." Breaking large chunks of information down into small goals can help your mind to focus better and help you learn needed material.