10 Ways to Learn Faster
If the goal is not just the understanding and use of the information, and you need to remember it and to be able to recall it after, there are some ways to improve the process of learning, which can help you spend the time more efficient.
Short basic info:
The brain creates connections between neurons, but they are short-term until person gets some sleep. After the sleep they become stable, and after some time after learning they start fading. They become easier to access every time person repeats this info, or tells about it, or even thinks about the information and manipulates it in mind. Emotions make the connections stronger as well. Brain uses up to 1/4 of glucose in a blood, that's why good nutrition is also important.
So, the main rules are:
1. Build a model of information.
You need it to keep the hierarchical relations clear, and for better understanding of causal connections. So, if you forget some specific fact, you are able to guess it and to recall it faster, having the analogies for similar phenomenon (keep in mind that the last method of analogies doesn't work in some areas of knowledge).
2. Emotions help to memorize.
Find some funny pictures on a topic you studying, have fun of some controversial facts, or history of investigation of the problem - it is usually full of jokes, stories about scientists and their relationships, etc. It is useful to eat some sweets while learning (have a lollipop, or a sugar candy, but not a fat dessert, which will take a lot of time for digestion; you need just a small amount of glucose, it will also help you keep concentration longer).
3. Have a good sleep.
Even if you are extremely short in time, it is better to have at least 2-4 hours of sleep, instead of using this time for additional repetition. This is, maybe, counter-intuitive, but proven by many experiments. The sleep makes your new skills and knowledges stable, sleep deprivation makes them fast-fading.
4. Repeat info.
Create the short one-phrase thesis after each paragraph you read. Try to retell yourself every chapter or paper after reading. It is also useful to discuss some basic ideas with classmates, but don't be engaged in this activity for too long: it may not be useful, if you are only listen to people, or if all of you have poor understanding of the topic under discussion. If someone makes a mistake, or having a problem with the whole model, discuss and clarify it immediately, check it in books, otherwise your mind will recall the most recent info on this question, and you will make the same mistake after.
5. If you need to learn a lot of info, make short notes.
Avoid making them with too many details - if you are trying to keep it short and clear, it gives you the chance to re-think the info, which is the best way to remember it, and also you will find things easier and faster. I recommend doing it with pen and paper, and use 3 different pen colors (gives you additional emotions, helps to keep structure and highlight important points). Some people have strong motor memory, and they may be able at first to remember the process of writing, and second - the information they wrote. Also it takes more time to write, than to type, so you have more time to think and formulate your thoughts clearly and precisely.
6. Do not starve, have a good nutrition.
You can eat up to 70% of carbohydrates while learning - it is an energy-consuming process. Avoid extreme low-carbo diets. Also B1, B6 and B12 may be useful, and you won't have risk of hypervitaminosis with these vitamins. When person is starving, the brain lacks of glucose more than any other part of the body, so hungry person puts much effort and gets lower results.
7. You can allow yourself aerobic training every day, even if you don't have much time - it will improve your health and vigilance. But if you are short in time, avoid hard anaerobic workouts, because after it you spend a lot of resources to recover, need more sleep, etc.
8. It was shown in a lot of experiments, that if person A wants to be ready for exam in a month, and person B in two weeks, a week after learning some info person A remembers it better than B. So, the motivation matters!
9. There is a habit of our brain to concentrate more on a beginning and ending of the paragraph, chapter, string, etc. If you start loosing focus and find yourself just mechanically reading the text in a middle of paragraph, change your activity for 5-10 minutes - have some physical activity, play with cat/dog, etc. 45/5 minutes, or 90/10 is OK for most people to spend on mental/physical activity.
10. The last, but not least: mechanical repetition of the text is useless. To renew the neural pathways keep trying to extract more info from the same source, than previously - point new details, find similarities and differences between parts of your model, classify them.