Learning how to learn is a key to success in school and in life. A lot of attention is paid to creating good study habits, which are invaluable, but understanding and using multiple learning strategies are important, too, in learning how to learn. Here are several things you can do to help you learn more readily.

Study Learning Success Factors

You'll need motivation to learn how to learn efficiently, because it involves effort on your part. Motivation is a critical success factor and for children, parental motivation and involvement are vitally important. Other learning success factors include early childhood education/stimulation, early success in school, and proper rest and nutrition. Make sure you or your children get sufficient rest and adequate nutrition to learn most effectively.

Understand Different Learning Styles

Learning styles describe how people prefer to learn. There are different learning style theories and their value is debated, but learning how to learn efficiently depends in part on what your learning style preferences are.

Some people prefer visual modes of learning; others feel better learning via auditory methods while still others prefer kinesthetic or "hands on" learning. (There are other learning style models, too.) The challenge is to do well in all learning styles but to know what your preferences are when choices are available so that you can be most efficient, in school and out. See the Resources section for articles on Learning Styles for further information.

Employ Multiple Learning Strategies

Learning how to learn efficiently also involves using multiple strategies to learn difficult material and to aid retention of new subject matter. You'll need to learn these strategies or skills well: • How to read textbook material • Personal time management • Good note taking • Listening effectively • Preparing written summaries • Preparing flash cards • Effective studying • How to prepare for tests/exams • How to do written assignments such as term papers

Writing helps the mind learn and retain material. Effective reading saves time and improves learning. See the Resources section for a link to the excellent Dartmouth Academic Skills Center for more detailed information on these and related strategies. Also see the article below on "How to Learn Efficiently and Effectively."

Use Learning Motivations

Why do you need or want to learn the subjects that you are studying? Keep in touch with your goals and the payoffs that learning can provide. Specific motivations aid you both in learning how to learn and in learning particular subjects. Look up the average lifetime earnings for the income rewards deriving from higher levels of education. These alone should be powerful motives for making the effort to learn.

Develop Good Learning Habits

Good habits make productive behavior easier. Habits also make learning how to learn a practical skill by using the techniques involved over and over until they are almost automatic. Education and study burdens are lessened tremendously by developing and sticking with good habits, such as studying right after classes are over (while the material is fresh), having a quiet and comfortable place to study, taking short breaks each hour but reading and studying for at least five hours every single day if in college. Make sure you use any valuable time between classes to review and study the earlier class and to prepare for the next one.

Reading is More than Fundamental

Effective reading is the most crucial skill you'll need in school and in learning how to learn. Get all the help you need if you have any weaknesses in reading. And read everything you can in the time you have, in order to get comfortable with all types of material, and especially read deeply in subjects that interest you the most.

Learn How to Learn

Keep a "Learning Journal" to record your learning goals, preferred learning styles, most productive learning strategies, and key learning habits that you think you'll need to succeed. Then record your actual time devoted to learning specific subjects so that you can monitor and adjust your efforts as required to get the results you want. Become a scientist when it comes to your own learning behavior and you will truly have learned how to learn.


  • People are different. You need to learn how to learn in ways that suit you best. But effort will always be a requirement and should not be underestimated.

  • Never give up! Get help if you need it.


  • Review the resources below for additional helpful information.

  • Study with a buddy when you can, especially when preparing for school exams.