Lesson 5 of 214
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Study techniques that will help you pass

Christophe November 22, 2021

Video coming soon

Like I mentioned in the prior video, if your idea of studying is simply to watch back-to-back videos or read a book from start to finish, then this is an important lesson for you.

That’s one of the least effective ways of studying so I’m going to share multiple different tactics and techniques you can try to use to increase the effectiveness of your studies.

I’m not going to deep dive into each of these topics, because there are many resources that cover them in much more detail than I could, so I’ll tell you about them and then I’ll show you resources and references so that you can further research them if you’re interested!

With that, let’s get started.

Pick your study time wisely

If you can, try to pick the time of day when you study to be the time of day when you will be taking the actual exam.

The reason you want to do that is because if you’re able to do it for at least a few days, or preferably a few weeks, it will “train” your brain to be in the zone. It can help facilitate memories related to the topic and will all around make the testing experience a little bit easier.

That’s not always possible, of course, but it can help if you can do it.

Spaced repetition

Spaced repetition – helps avoid cramming (which does not work)

A lot of people tell themselves they’ll start studying earlier than needed and “do it right this time!” But then time goes by, they get closer to the exam date, and they start cramming. The problem is that our brains don’t function like that. They’re not good at receiving massive amounts of information all at once and then remember it.

A much more effective method is to space out your study sessions, and a helpful way to do that is to follow the spaced repetition method.

Flashcards

For creating flashcards, I’ve heard Anki is a helpful tool.

Anki is built around the spaced repetition method, so it can be a helpful way of creating flashcards that have this method built-in.

Retrospective timetables

Retrospective Timetables – helps organize your studying

Planning out study sessions — especially since you will be using spaced repetition now, right? — can be a challenge.

This post on using retrospective revision timetables by Ali Abdaal (the popular YouTuber) offers a spin on standard prospective timetables. It’s definitely worth the quick read to get a general idea of the purpose and how it all works.

The Feynman technique

The Feynman technique – aka “the best way to learn anything”

If you’ve ever heard of ELI5 (”Explain it like I’m 5”), then you’ve heard of the Feynman technique. The entire point is to choose a topic you want to learn about, explain it to someone much younger — lets be realistic and say a 12 years old instead of 5 — and then let’s keep improving our explanation until it’s as simple as we can make it.

If that 12 year old still doesn’t understand what you’re trying to explain, then you don’t fully understand it yourself and need to continue refining your explanation.

This is brilliant because the more you have to work on explaining it, the more you will end up understanding the topic and the more you will remember it. It becomes deeper knowledge.

So I challenge you: as you go through my course, a good test of whether concepts are sticking or not is to try and explain them to someone else in simple terms. It could even be a family member or someone with little knowledge of IT. If you can’t explain it in simple terms, then you don’t yet understand it.

The SQ3R & PQ4R method

The SQ3R method & PQ4R method – especially helpful for books

Next, let’s talk about both the SQ3R and PQ4R methods.

SQ3R is a reading comprehension method that has 5 steps:

  1. Survey
  2. Question
  3. Read
  4. Recite
  5. Review

Before you even read a chapter, take a look at the title and read the introduction or summary. Use that information to start framing the subject you’re about to read and to focus on the most important points. Next, use headers, images, and other aids like italics or bold fonts to organize your mind as you prepare to read the chapter itself.

After that, turn the headings for each section into as many questions as you can think will be answered in that section. This forces your mind to actively look for answers which makes the reading far more engaging.

Then, read one section at a time with your questions in mind and look for answers.

After each section, stop and recall your questions and see if you can answer them from memory. If you can’t, then look back at the text again until you can.

Finally, once you’ve completed the chapter, go back over the questions you created for each header and see if you can still answer them. If you can’t, look back through the text to refresh your memory until you can.

The PQ4R method is very similar, although this breakdown is a bit different so it’s a helpful technique to compare with to see what works best for you.

Active recall

Active recall – helpful for both courses and books

Whether you are watching video lessons or reading chapters, once you’ve completed a section or lesson, close the book or change screens, then write down everything you remember about the topic.

After you’ve run out of things to write down, go back to the lesson window or re-open the book and compare.

Look for anything important you missed or that’s wrong, and try again at a later time.

Another approach is to test yourself by writing down questions about the topic and attempting to answer those questions from memory.

This is why I include quizzes after each section of the course so that you can get quizzed right away and not just at the very end of the course with large practice exams. However, don’t just stop there. Write your own questions as you go through the material, and make yourself answer those questions after going through the material until you get them right.

Mind mapping and Spider Diagrams

Mind mapping and Spider Diagrams – especially helpful for visual learners & organizing topics

You’ve probably seen or used mind maps before, but you essentially start by writing down a topic at the center of the page, and then you work outward in all directions to create a diagram of related keywords, phrases, concepts, facts, and figures.

A similar but slightly different approach is using spider diagrams. They look like mind maps, but they are logically organized and not as creative as mind maps.

This can be a helpful approach for note-taking and to help organize your brain or to combine with active recall.

Major Method System & Memory/Mind Palace

Major Method System & Memory/Mind Palace – helpful for memorizing facts and numbers (like port numbers)

The Major Method System converts numbers into consonant sounds and then into words by adding vowels. This system works on the principle that images can be remembered more easily than numbers. This can be a little bit weird at first, so I’ll let you research it further if you’re interested.

In combination, we can also use a Memory or Mind Palace approach. This approach uses the power of visualization to place facts you need to remember in this mental construct you create. Again, it can be a bit weird at first, so I’ll let you research it further if interested :).

Cornell Note Taking System

Cornell Note Taking System – helps take much more useful notes through its format and by having you ask questions instead of writing down what was said or read

We talked a little bit about this already, but this note-taking system takes it a bit further and really focuses on notes instead of active recall.

Let’s walk through some examples. Let’s say you’re going through domain 1.1 of the course which talks about various topics that are fairly similar, like phishing vs. vishing vs. whaling. For your notes, you could ask and answer:

  • The difference between phishing and vishing is ___?
  • The difference between phishing and whaling is ___?

It works for a bunch of topics, like:

  • The difference between bug bounties and pentests is ___?
  • What are the different types of malware?
  • What is the difference between ransomware and crypto malware?

Another challenge: as you go through my content and think of questions…write them down. If I don’t answer them in a way that satisfies your question, then further research the topic until you get your answer. The process of thinking about the answer and/or further searching for the answer will help a lot.

References & Conclusion

Finally, this is a really helpful video that ties in best practices for studying if you need more help in this area. One of the key points made in the video is to study with friends. To find others studying for the Security+ exam who can help hold you accountable, join our Discord!

Another helpful video is “How I take notes as an Engineering Student” so feel free to check that out if you need help in that area, or to share your questions and thoughts below in the comments.

That’s it for this lesson! Go ahead and complete it, and I’ll see you in the next.

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