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We often complain that a certain subject or a particular topic is too hard to understand. We end up cramming the topic for a test, obviously. When asked later, we don’t even remember the basic details about the topic. What else do you know about mitochondria except that it is the “powerhouse of the cell”?

Well, worry not. Somebody did offer a solution. Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist used 3 simple steps to master a new subject.


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We all have different methods of learning, some speak out loud until they remember, some write it down multiple times. Still, we are unable to recall them the moment we are handed over the question paper.

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The best way to understand, and subsequently remember a topic is to explain it to a person who doesn’t know anything about it. That person can be your own self!

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Pick up a piece of paper, write the concept as the heading. Start with the basic introduction and then proceed to explain it in detail. Increase the visibility using diagrams, flowcharts, or simple pointers. Imagine yourself to be teaching in a classroom. Do not copy!


Obviously, you won’t be able to write every little detail associated with the topic. You will pause at some words or refer to the book. These are the gaps in your understanding.

You need to note them down separately. These are your “work in progress” areas and can be dangerous later. Make sure to keep on revising them from time to time. These may be years, names of certain scientists, names of their books, etc.


The last step of the Feynman technique is to supplement your understanding. The best way to do it is to relate the topic to a number of things, however lame they may be. This will enhance your understanding.


The principle is too obvious: the Feynman technique forces you to understand. Until and unless you understand, you will never be able to explain it to anybody else. As Feynman himself puts forth, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”  

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Smriti Mishra
Struggling through her final year at Miranda House, Smriti has a keen interest in events happening around her. Unapologetically nerdy and emotionally reserved, you'd often find her sondering across streets of North Campus.

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