Scott H Young

Learn Faster with the Feynman Technique


Once or twice a year, I open my most popular program, Learning on Steroids. It’s an interactive course that teaches how to learn faster and get more done.

I’m going to be reopening the program again on September 7th. Instead of pitching you on why you should join, I thought it would be more fun to give away free content.

Free One-Week Bootcamp

Starting today, I’m running a 7-day free bootcamp, through my email newsletter. If you’re subscribed, you’ll get an email each day which gives solutions for some of the most difficult and common problems students and learners face. Things like how to stay focused, better memory, reading faster and with higher retention and really understanding hard ideas.

The first video, The Feynman Technique, went up on the bootcamp website today. You can check it out here, or watch below:

If you’re interested in finding out more about Learning on Steroids, or just want to catch the bootcamp (which won’t be posted here, you’ll have to subscribe to get the full package) then you can sign up for it here for free.

Learning on Steroids will be open here, on September 7th at 10am PST. But, as always, it’s only open for 72 hours. We have a max capacity of 500 seats and have sold out in the past. If you want to know what it’s all about, I’ll be explaining everything before the 7th on the newsletter.


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43 Responses to “Learn Faster with the Feynman Technique”

  1. Stanley Lee says:

    Have you bumped into cases where you were caught by surprise regarding the questions you’re being asked, despite learning the material once using this technique? I suppose the results depend on the level of depth you go into learning the material.

  2. Nick says:

    The video production is nice- simple headings and slow, steady pans of the sheets.
    I signed up for LMSL last year and I thought the vids were a little too amatuer-ish. These look much nicer.
    Also, nice job explaining the idea. I think having this free one week intro to the course will definitely boost your enrollment rate.

  3. Scott Young says:

    Nick,

    Thanks–I’ve gotten a lot better at video editing (and investing in a better camera). The new LoS has dozens more videos like this.

    Stanley,

    Well there’s always the potential for surprise if you approach the topic incorrectly. The advantage of this technique is that it tends to be extremely thorough. If you walk through a concept with this approach, you will usually have it mastered to 95-100%.

    I wouldn’t use this technique for every idea or concept I need to learn, but it was invaluable for the tough ones that weren’t quite sticking, or the ones that caused common problems for me in practice questions.

  4. Annika says:

    Wow, I just realised that this is the technique I’ve always used to explain something to myself and to remember it! It just seemed obvious that the way to explain something to yourself is to write it down in the most simple terms possible. I used a technique ‘invented’ by a genius without even realising. Awesome!! :)

  5. gabriel says:

    it’s sad in my school where deeply understanding of the subject is ignored for having a like-but-not-same trashy easy “real life” example. can’t wait to study engineering next year and get real fun :D

    scott, great video… i guess i’ve used this method inconsciently some times when “what we think should happen is not what the numbers show” :B

    gabriel, 16, brazil

  6. John says:

    Amazing post, Scott H young!

    I get clearly the concept through the video. I think you should make frequently video tutorial :)

  7. Stanley Lee says:

    Scott,

    I’d imagine if this technique is applied properly, any potential gaps would be caught by follow-up questions during the process. There are definitely more room for missing details as the material advances further in depth.

    Stanley

  8. [...] Feynman Technique by Scott Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed Gulf Oil Dispersants Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Comments (1) [...]

  9. N.N. says:

    This seems like a very promising way to go if you are studying something that you need to understand. (Maths, physics, philosophy etc.) My problem, however, is that I can not see how I can apply the above technique (and certain other techniques described on this website) to what I am studying at the moment; Japanese.

    Where I am at with my Japanese studying (intermediate level) I do not find any concepts of the Japanese I am currently studying particularly hard (to understand), Japanese is a logical language, very structured and straight forward to learn. My problem is merely the sheer volume of things I have to learn in limited time. When we go through about 100 kanji i combination (that is about 200 different characters I need to recognize, read and write from memory), about 20 grammar points and about 100 words in a week, I am struggling with simply implementing it all in my head, and remembering it. Obviously you can use mnemonic hints to remember how to read and write kanji, and of course using the grammar points wherever applicable will make them easier to remember, so that takes the edge of things a little bit. I generally get great grades, but in my entire life I have never felt that I have had to put so much effort into something, compared to what I get back.

    So, I am wondering – are there any other tips and tricks you (or anyone reading this blog) can offer? I noticed that you mentioned in your article that there will be information about how to improve memory, but I am wondering if that is more related to understanding ideas and internalizing them, and not plain input-output, which is what I need help with improving.

    I would love to hear people’s thoughts about this.

  10. Scott Young says:

    N.N.,

    I split all knowledge into three categories for learning: facts, concepts and skills. There is overlap, but the techniques used for each differ dramatically.

    This is a conceptual technique. It makes no sense to use this when you need to remember vocabulary (facts) or play the piano (skills). Most techniques fit into such a category of only being useful to really one category of knowledge.

    There are *plenty* of tactics for remembering facts and improving memory. Mnemonics is an ancient discipline, so there are incredibly sophisticated methods for improving memory of vocabulary, dates, facts and other pieces of knowledge. I cover the best ones in my Learning on Steroids program, but I tend to talk about them less in the promotion, since they are tactics you could have read about elsewhere.

    I’ll touch on what I can in the bootcamp for memory techniques, but given our 7-day limit, some of it will have to wait for the full course, unfortunately.

  11. gaggar says:

    Hi Scott

    Can we use feynman technique to learn something new. Or more aptly put, at what stage of learning would you recommend to apply this technique.

    Best

    Himanshu

  12. gaggar says:

    Actually, would like to put it this way that, at which step among the five steps of holistic learning would you recommend to apply this technique while learning something new.

  13. Matt says:

    Hey Scott!

    I had never heard of Feynman. Sounds like an effective technique! I’ll keep that in mind for the next time I want to understand a complex subject.

  14. Keri says:

    Interesting. I do something similar when I’m writing my books. If I ever get writer’s block (or even when I don’t have it), I imagine someone interviewing me about my book, plot or characters. Just thinking about explaining everything to someone who knows nothing about it allows me to get new ideas and it helps me create greater depth and background to my characters.

    I spent a lot of time researching query letters, but still couldn’t make mine work. So I spent some time helping other people with their query letters online and boom, I was able to make my query letter awesome. Sometimes answering other people’s questions is the best way to get your own answered.

  15. [...] “synthesizing” information, and I find it extremely helpful. It’s akin to the Feynman Technique that he’s written about, except that instead of teaching just one idea by writing it down, [...]

  16. [...] Feynman, for example, used to brag about his ability to learn any topic in a short amount of time, a skill that led to one of modern science’s most breathtakingly diverse and important bodies [...]

  17. [...] Feynman, for example, used to brag about his ability to learn any topic in a short amount of time, a skill that led to one of modern science’s most breathtakingly diverse and important bodies of [...]

  18. ??? says:

    How can you be sure that you are actually gaining a deep understanding of the material with this technique, or any technique for that matter, as opposed to an artificial one?

  19. Scott Young says:

    ???,

    Ideally this technique should be paired with some sort of feedback system (say practice questions if the subject is mathematical). However, the power of the technique is it exposes you to gaps in your knowledge, which is valuable.

    -Scott

  20. Erik Lee says:

    Great video. I wanted to pass on something I got from one of my professors back in my grad school days that I thought was brilliant and might be a worthy addition to this technique. He called it Define/Defend/Attack. The idea was that you would first define the concept (basically what you’ve described here). You would then go on to “defend” it, which could mean different things for different concepts. You might defend torque by describing circumstances where it’s a useful concept and how it simplifies thinking about forces and rotations. Finally, you “attack” it, which means you put down limitations or common failures of the concept. For torque, you might say that it’s easy to get the direction wrong if you don’t remember the right hand rule, or something like that.

    I don’t know if you have that technique covered elsewhere, but I thought it was a great way to build understanding and strengthen some of the mental relationships between concepts.

  21. Shen says:

    I want to say it was a great challenge to overcome, however after looking through what you posted, i realised MIT does not provide solutions for tutorial problems.

    May I know how you assess whether you got the right answers ?

    Did you get the solutions from the textbook

  22. Scott Young says:

    Shen,

    It depends on the course. A lot of their material has solutions. The ones that don’t, Google stellar + course number and look for classes which are listed as “Public”

  23. [...] But sometimes, you tend to understand something more slowly or more over-time… That’s when the distinction between understanding and non-understanding is a little bit unclear. One way to test your understanding is if you can explain it to a friend. When you can explain something to someone else, it shows that you understand the material. Also, when you explain it to someone else, you tend to retain that information in your head longer. A win-win! But let’s say you don’t have a friend to explain your material to, or you’re at the library and you don’t want to talk aloud…another way to test your understanding is if you can write it down. This includes writing the definition of the concept, drawing a picture, describing the paragraph as if you were explaining it to someone, and other things associated with that concept. This is known as the “Feynman Technique.” Scott H. Young explains it more in-depth on his blog, scotthyoung.com. [...]

  24. [...] But sometimes, you tend to understand something more slowly or more over-time… That’s when the distinction between understanding and non-understanding is a little bit unclear. One way to test your understanding is if you can explain it to a friend. When you can explain something to someone else, it shows that you understand the material. Also, when you explain it to someone else, you tend to retain that information in your head longer. A win-win! But let’s say you don’t have a friend to explain your material to, or you’re at the library and you don’t want to talk aloud…another way to test your understanding is if you can write it down. This includes writing the definition of the concept, drawing a picture, describing the paragraph as if you were explaining it to someone, and other things associated with that concept. This is known as the “Feynman Technique.” Scott H. Young explains it more in-depth on his blog, scotthyoung.com. [...]

  25. [...] memorization, focusing on the bigger picture(s) rather than just the details, mind mapping, the Feynman technique, and using visualizations / images to help create memorable metaphors and analogies. In high [...]

  26. Victor says:

    Hey scott. This is a great technique. A little modification I have is that I don’t like writing so I have a pocket sized recorder. As I go through a book I explain what I learn to myself in simple terms, make connections and move on. At the end of a chapter and the next day I listen to these little “lessons”.

  27. […] smart friend of mine made me aware of the Feynman technique along with the study done by Scott Young, or as I like to call him: “The MIT Computer Science Guy.” Young did […]

  28. […] author answered your questions. Create an internal dialogue between you and the author. Give the “Feynman Technique” a […]

  29. I simply noticed this is actually the method I have used clarify some thing to myself and to remember this! It merely requires appeared apparent that this solution to clarify some thing to oneself is always to record it within the easiest conditions feasible. We utilized one way developed with a guru actually understanding.

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  31. […] is an active task. Re-reading notes is a passive one. The Feynman Technique is an active task. Skimming is a passive one. A good rule of thumb is that if there’s no […]

  32. Gary Ward says:

    This technique is used pedagogically throughout Waldorf schools around the world when children make their main lesson books for each subject.

  33. Jacqui says:

    I didn’t know this had a name, but I’ve been doing it for years! Oddly, the thing that really helped me master this skill was having children. Like all kids, around preschool years they started asking questions about everything. Instead of doing the typical “because” thing, I would explain it to them. On the really big stuff (like, why is the grass green?) I’d have to explain a few steps (what’s chlorophyll, for example) but once we got to the end, they understood it. If you even want to truly know if you understand something, explain it like you’re talking to a 6 year-old

  34. […] is an active task. Re-reading notes is a passive one. The Feynman Technique is an active task. Skimming is a passive one. A good rule of thumb is that if there’s no […]

  35. Michael B says:

    My only contention with this is that it’s not really the way Feynman worked, as far as I know of him. And I think Feynman himself would have rejected the idea that he had any one method for learning. In his letter on selecting math books, he states, “What is the best method to obtain the solution to a problem? The answer is, any way that works.” Elsewhere (“Surely, You’re Joking Mr. Feynman”) he states that he thinks everyone learns and understands things differently. And I think it’s there that he says that everyone starts off with some model in their head of how a thing works, and as they go on learning they continue to build upon that model like a scaffold, so that at eventually everyone has a different overall picture in their head from the guy sitting next to them. (This may have been stated in his lectures, I can’t remember.) The point is, Feynman was sort of a collector of methods, wasn’t he? I mean, if he had one real technique, it was to have not just one technique but to have lots of techniques. So I would say that’s really the Feynman technique. But going back to the way he joked around with mathematicians in his time at Princeton, he stated that his roommate (who was one of those mathematicians) would try to explain things to him and they eventually just got beyond his ability to understand them very well. (Though I sort of think they were just so abstract that he lost interest.) But the point of the story of his encounter with those mathematicians—his point—was that he was just messing with them, pretending to know something when he didn’t really know something. It was just an exercise in intellect for him, because he said about half of the time he could arrive to the correct answer, and the other half of the time he would just claim that they didn’t give him good enough definitions for the problem at hand (which he conceded was a cop-out). I mean, that’s really what he was getting at; a funny story about how he was able to pull one over on these guys. (Just like the story of the safe cracking he did at Los Alamos.) Was Feynman brilliant? Obviously! But in his memoirs and discussions, he went out of his way to show how he thought just about anyone could do what he did if they tried hard enough. Also useful/important as a “Feynman technique” is what he said about that challenge he often had with mathematicians: he said he would always try to construct a model in his head for whatever was being explained, some picture even if it was abstract—they could be explaining a theorem and in his mind would be a picture of a fuzzy orange ball. But he said he used that method for almost anything that people tried to explain to him, to come up with some image or model in his head that would put words into visuals. Feynman was an incredibly visual thinker—it’s palpable when you listen to his lectures and talks. He also had another technique for reading a book which he taught to his younger sister when she was studying astronomy, where you read through a section of a book the whole way through without stopping. Then, if you didn’t understand everything, you’ve already read it so you know what the important parts are for when you go back to re-read it. The second, third, etc. times you go back through the section are where you start to solidify the parts you had to skim over on the first reading. But you also skip parts that aren’t useful in understanding the whole thing (which is why you read the whole way through the first time, so you know which parts to skip). Anyway, maybe this will help someone who’s curious about Feynman and how he approached learning and thinking.

  36. Scott Young says:

    Michael,

    My biggest regret was the way I introduced the story. The Feynman technique is inspired by an account of how he broke down a particular problems in one instance in his autobiography. The implementation I discuss isn’t the exact one he specified (although I believe they have similar rationales) and there’s no indication it was his sole or defining method for most problems. I simply thought the story would be a good introduction to a method and to pay homage to the man who inspired it.

    -Scott

  37. […] Clinical exams, it will also help you to engage in a very useful learning activity known as the Feynman Technique. See the video below for a full […]

  38. […] It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (Amazon)How To Solve It (summary)How to Solve It (Wikipedia)Learn Faster with the Feynman Technique (Scott Young. His page is start to get spammy.)Study Hacks " About (Cal Newport)Anki – […]

  39. […] trovato questo metodo sul sito di Scott. H. Young e l’ho trovato subito molto […]

  40. […] A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (Amazon) How To Solve It (summary) How to Solve It (Wikipedia) Learn Faster with the Feynman Technique (Scott Young. His page is start to get spammy.) Study Hacks ” About (Cal Newport) Anki […]

  41. […] alone wont get you there. You also need to be able to improve and that is where the Feynman strategy is really good to […]

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