Learning music theory can feel like one arbitrary lesson after another. Of course, you don’t need music theory if all you want to do is pick up a guitar and watch a video on how to play the handful of chords needed to blast out a recognisable version of Wonderwall. But if you want to stand up and be counted, you need help. Studying is a slog. We all know this. But just like music theory begins to make sense as all of the arbitrary lessons start to lean into one another to create a blurry general overall picture, studying whichever topic you are attempting to conquer will almost definitely feel similarly nonsensical for a while. While the best advice is to stick with it and keep turning over stones, there are ways to study smarter.
Mix up your methods (and make notes)
There’s more than one source. Whatever the topic you’re studying, there will be textbooks, online videos, informative blogs, your class notes, podcasts, PDFs, and maybe even an app or two. Pepper your brain with a variety of complementary sources and your memory banks will start to look more like a forest of thoughts rather than a single thin sapling of knowledge. Solidify this knowledge by making notes. If you can’t write it down, you haven’t internalised it. What’s more is that your notes become your exam answers (as best you can remember them on the day). Just make sure that you type up your notes and run everything through a plagiarism tool – see this website – to iron out any instances of having remembered someone else’s work verbatim (with the obvious exclusion of quotes).
Say what you mean, mean what you say
This tip isn’t so doable if you’re a painfully shy character and you dislike the sound of your own voice – but it really helps. If you wish to truly cement something in your mind, you have to be able to take quite complex or intricately woven facts and explain the key concepts to somebody who has no prior training or expertise in the area. This proves to the examiner that you have understood the teaching materials to a demonstrably in-depth level. Try putting your notes to one side and speaking to yourself quietly in your room, going through practice questions and muttering the sentences that would be your written answers in the exam (perhaps use a voice recording app to add some pressure that’ll stop you cutting corners). Then, if you’re up to the challenge, find someone willing and tell them what you know.