i never got the second part of your question, i’m sorry!
the optimal way to study a subject thoroughly is by employing active recall, rather than passive. active methods of studying include:
- flashcards—question in front, bulleted answers in the back // name of equation, actual equation + description of variables // key term, definition // etc. (and then quiz yourself by going through the cards and separating them into piles of “i’m comfortable with this” and “i’m not quite comfortable with this yet”)
- feynman’s technique—first reading your school notes is a good start. then put all of your books away, all of your books, and pull out a blank sheet of paper and a pen. now write down everything you remember from your school notes without looking at them, explaining each part as if you were teaching it to a 5 year old child. you should be using the most succinct, basic terms. once you’ve written down everything you remember, go back and reread your school notes again to fill in any gaps of knowledge. repeat.
- summarizing—simply reading over your notes/homework/assessments and summarizing them is helpful not only for learning, but using as a study aid when exams come around. the important part of this is to limit the length of your summary—for example to half a page, so that you aren’t just rewriting everything and are actively consolidating/condensing all the information.
- teach it out loud—basically feynman’s technique but in real life. go over your notes, and then teach the topic at hand out loud as if someone were sitting across from you (you can do this with a buddy if you’d like, i usually just talk to myself in my room). for subjects like math or science, it’s helpful to have a whiteboard/chalkboard/paper out to write out the process of solving a problem as you explain it aloud.
passive methods include writing or rewriting notes, reading the textbook, highlighting, etc. i think students (including myself) tend to gravitate towards passivity because it’s a) easier, and b) gives us the illusion that we’re being productive without using too much brain power, but who’s losing in the end? us. we’re losing valuable time that could be spent learning other things, or reading that really good book you’ve been meaning to read for the last 3 weeks, or watching netflix, or spending time with friends. so by studying more efficiently, you’re giving yourself an edge in your life. hope that was helpful! good luck!
more tips on active studying from UCSD’s med school page: x