All of us have experienced the ‘mugging’ phenomenon when it came to multiplication tables. We religiously rattled off the tables until they could be easily mumbled off even in deep sleep. So what exactly did we do and why?

In-famously called as Rote learning (or ‘cramming’ or ‘learning by-heart’) is a method of learning that involves memorizing a fact by repetitive reading until it is completely memorized. This technique does not involve a full understanding of the facts and often ends up getting stored in your memory sans an association i.e. the new facts are not related to the existing stored knowledge.

Seems a criminal waste of knowledge, isn’t it? Well, this was (as largely is) the method of learning foundational topics like formulae’s in science, periodic tables in Chemistry, anatomy in medicine, cases in Law to name a few besides multiplication tables and theorems in Math’s and Geometry.

On the brighter side, studying using ‘meaningful learning’ techniques allow a fact to be completely understood by the individual and more critically, helps the student relate the new learned fact with the existing knowledge. This is proven to be an efficient learning technique as in real life, such facts are inter-related to each other and recalling any fact out of the ‘related-group’ can be achieved on a ‘long-term’ basis.

We list out a few pitfalls which should be avoided by a learner of any age group to gain a long-term understanding of subjects:

Deep dive, headlong

To ‘memorize’ any subject in the least amount of time the most common approach to any subject is to start mugging from line one. This further encourages the mugging methodology leaving no room for constructive learning. A vicious circle that starts and never ends. It’s always better instead to comprehend the matter first.
Before you attempt to deep dive into the intricacies, read the topic completely like a story book. Try to comprehend it as you progress from your first read. This exercise will help you set the right tone by clearing out the significance and scope of the subject involved.

Cramming ‘uncleared’ matter

Often in our learning cycle, we come across various terms / explanations which end-up take the largest portion of our time if we adopt rote learning. A healthier alternative would be to ask / clear doubts with a subject matter expert / instructors.

This is a must while studying complex topics or assignments. Have topics marked with appropriate questions labeled against them before seeking help from your designated senior. This helps validating your approach and deepens your understanding on the subject, besides it helps to avoid nurture the wrong comprehension of the subject. If there’s a doubt, we suggest you to just go for it.

Participate in academic discussions (whether formal or informal) frequently with your peers. During such academic arguments, both parties stand the benefit of gaining a deeper understanding of the subject.

Using words straight out of the text book

This approach would help clear your examination if you are lucky to have a question which exactly matches the content you have crammed. Competitive examinations, however, demand a thorough understanding of the subject, hence often have questions which test a person’s overall knowledge of the subject.

A practical and an analytical approach to learning and understanding the subject will differentiate a rote learner from a meaningful one. Any sort of deviance in the question asked on that subject poses no problem for the meaningful learner.

Non-committal learning

Rote learners end up skipping this useful ‘finishing’ technique. The best way to commit any matter to a long term memory is to recall it after having studied it. Have a study partner ask you questions to test your understanding on the subject. The more you are able to recall, the more you have understood it. If you are unable to recall, revise the topic again.

(Dis)Honesty is the worst policy!

Do not proceed ahead to the next or advanced course of content if you didn’t learn the previous one the right way. Encouraging this ‘short-cut’ method equates to building a home on a weak foundation – you would end up having repairs which would cost you much more! Apply a thorough and a consistent methodology as you move along to ensure you avoid dead-ends in your learning and your professional life thereafter.

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