The Feynman Technique is a method of learning that helps you learn new concepts quickly by explaining them in a simple language. It was named after the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman aka “the great explainer”. He is often described as a pure genius, one of his greatest characteristics was his ability to transmit knowledge and his ability to explain complex ideas to others in simple and intuitive ways.
You can use that technique to learn any new concept, whether you’re in high school, college, in the professional world, or during your everyday life. Rather than memorizing material, it’s better to use analogies and simple language to fully understand a subject.
These are the basic steps to using Feynman Technique to learn anything:
1. Choose the subject you want to learn about
You can use pretty much think of any subject or idea, even though the technique is named after Feynman, it’s not limited solely to math and science. Once you find a subject that interests you, make a simple list of all the things you want to know about the subject. You do not have to elaborate too much. Just simple bullet points on the subject will do the job. Each time you run into new sources of information, add them to the list. Write out everything you know about the subject you want to understand but try writing it plainly and simply. As you learn more about the subject, add the new information to the list. Once you think you understand the subject, move on to step 2.
2. Teach it to a 12-year-old
If you can teach a concept to a 12-year-old, you probably got a deep understanding of the subject. Use your list from step 1 as a reference and try to remove any complex words you find with simple words that a child would understand. The complex language hides our lack of understanding. When forced to write out an idea in a simple language, you discover where you don’t understand as well as you thought. When finding the little gaps in your knowledge, you can start acquiring those missing pieces.
3. Refine and simplify
Review your list to make sure you identify any used jargon or anything complex that a child might not understand. Read it out loud and If the explanation isn’t simple enough or sounds confusing, that’s a good indication that you need to reflect and refine it. Identify the gaps in your knowledge and refine your explanation until you feel satisfied with the explanation.
If you feel like missing some knowledge go back to the source material, and review the parts you don’t quite understand yet. Go over step 3 until you have something simple enough.
4. Tell a story
Feynman believed that telling a story can noticeably enhance our understanding and can be used as another method for learning. Chunk together your list and make a single explanation for all that you know. Practice reading your story out loud. When you’re satisfied with your story, Start to tell your story in the real world. The best way to test your knowledge is to teach someone else about a topic he didn’t know and help them understand its basics simply.
Bonus tip: Understanding this technique can help you spot people who don’t know the subject in depth. The next time you’re listening to someone explain something using jargon or complicated words, ask them to explain it in simple terms. If they can’t, it might be a sign they don’t fully understand the subject.