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As a student (or someone interested in lifelong learning), there are many things competing for your attention. These can become major distractions whenever you need to concentrate.

Fortunately, there are numerous learning tools that are proven to be effective in boosting your ability to fully comprehend your lessons.

One such strategy that helps students understand lessons without having to slave over highly technical material is the Feynman Technique.

The process takes 15 minutes to master and can help you absorb and comprehend complex study materials better than poring over textbooks for hours on end. All you need is a blank notebook and a pen or pencil.

What Is the Feynman Technique?

Have you ever had a teacher or coworker who spoke in only technical terms, or would explain things with language that was really challenging to understand? You probably weren’t able to learn much from that person because you could hardly follow what they were saying.

When people talk about the Feynman Technique of problem solving, they often quote Albert Einstein’s famous words:

 “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” 

This means that if you are able to explain a complex concept in simple terms, you have a good understanding of the concept at hand. Doing this will also help you recognise your problem areas or areas of confusion, because this will be where you either get stuck when explaining the concept or where you have to resort to using complex terminology. 

The Feynman Technique is the perfect strategy for learning something new, deepening your understanding of a concept, enhancing your recall of certain ideas, or reviewing for tests.

While studying at Princeton, Feynman began recording and connecting the information he knew with the things that he either didn’t know or didn’t understand. In the end, he had a complete notebook of topics and subjects that he had disassembled, translated, reassembled, and written down in simple terms.

Although the technique was used by a physicist, that doesn’t mean that it is impossible for others to utilize the Feynman Technique as an effective tool for learning faster. Anyone can use this technique to:

  • Understand ideas that you can’t grasp.
  • Remember concepts that you understand but tend to forget.
  • Study efficiently for exams.

This learning strategy is effective for quickly learning both technical and non-technical concepts, and is summarised in four succinct steps.

The 4 Steps of the Feynman Technique

Here are the four core steps used in the Feynman Technique to accomplish your learning goals.

1. Choose the idea or concept that you want to learn about, understand deeper, or quickly recall during examinations.

Write the concept as a heading on a blank piece of paper or notebook page.

After choosing the concept, write down everything that you already know about the subject on your paper. Think of every small piece of information that you can recall about the subject or have learned in the past. Keep this sheet handy to continue to write down what you learn.

2. Imagine that you are tasked with teaching the concept to a new student.

Explain the concept using your own words, pretending that you are teaching it to someone else. Make sure that you use plain, simple language, without limiting your teaching to simply stating a definition. Put yourself up to the challenge of explaining an example or two of the subject to make sure that you can apply the concept to real life.

3. Don’t worry if you get stuck when practicing step #2. You are just starting to learn, so it won’t all come to you immediately.

Review the explanation that you came up with, and pinpoint the areas where you were not clear or you felt your explanation was shaky. Then, return to your source material and notes to better your understanding. Practice step #2 again with your new, revised notes.

4. Make sure that you are able to explain this to someone who knows nothing about the subject.

To do this, you will want to use simple terms when you write the ideas or concepts in your own words. While complex, subject-specific jargon sounds cool, it confuses people and urges them to stop paying attention. Replace technical terms with simpler words, and think of how you could explain your lesson to a child.

Children are not able to understand jargon or dense vocabulary. Because science is filled with complex terms, Feynman’s diagrams became valuable to people who were struggling to teach and to people who were struggling to understand. His charts were able to simply explain things that other scientists took hours to lecture students on in an attempt to teach them.

If a concept is highly technical or complicated, analogies are also a good way to simplify them. Analogies are the foundation of learning from experience, and they work because they make use of your brain’s natural inclination to match patterns.Analogies influence what you perceive and remember, and help you process information more easily because you associate it with things you already know. These mental shortcuts are useful methods of processing new and unfamiliar information, and help people understand, organise, and comprehend incoming information.


Originally published at  – Published on March 02, 2019