When we’re studying, it can be easy to think that we know something, especially if we think we’ve memorized our notes and can answer questions nicely. When was the last time you explained a concept to someone instead of just assuming that you understood it and moving on?
Knowing something’s name isn’t the same as understanding it – a key difference we ignore in our studies. All of us have fallen into that trap at some point. This is where the Feynman Technique comes in.
A great way to improve your understanding of a topic is to imagine you’re teaching it to someone who doesn’t know anything about the topic you just learned, like a kid.
Feynman’s method was named after him since he was known for simplifying complex scientific concepts into terms people could understand, earning him the nickname ‘The Great Explainer’.
So how do you use it? There are four steps to follow:
- Identify a topic you’ve recently studied and/or one you’d like to test your understanding and knowledge of.
- Use simple language to explain the concept. Imagine you are teaching and explaining it to a young child who has never encountered the topic before. Explain the concept in simple terms. In the case of a mathematical concept, for example, work through examples to illustrate how it works.
- Identify the areas that were difficult and/or the gaps in your explanation and go back to your notes, lectures, and textbook until you understand them. Find the parts where you used technical terms and challenge yourself to simplify them. Consider if a small child could understand what you were explaining, or if they wanted to know ‘why does that work’, ‘why is that the case’, or ‘what does that mean’. Not only do you need to identify complex parts of your explanations, but you also need to identify where you’ve made assumptions based on what you already know intuitively.
- Simplify it even more; could you explain it to a five-year-old? Go back and repeat the process and your understanding if the answer is no.
This technique lets you quickly overview a concept, spot weak spots and, critically, requires active learning – you’re forced to think about how you’d explain a concept in simple terms, rather than passively rereading or highlighting. This is a good practice to have when studying for the BOC exam.
It’s a simple technique, but it works. When you explain concepts in this way, you can reconstruct the core ideas and topics in your own words, which helps reinforce understanding.
Use Feynman’s explanation technique to enhance understanding, increase productivity, and improve performance with your arsenal of BOC exam study tools.