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Lesson 1: The Number-One Study Technique for Mastering New Material and Reviewing Old Material

Gary North, Ph.D.
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Back in the mid-1980's, I co-authored a book with a scientist. He did the research. I did the writing. By then, I had known him for a decade. He is a graduate of CalTech.

A few years ago, he told me about an amazing little book he had read. It was written by a university professor. The professor had been a mediocre student in high school. He had gotten into college, but he flunked out. He asked to get back in. He was told that he would have to take correspondence courses first. He did. This took him two years.

He was re-admitted. But he was working three part-time jobs to pay for school. He worked very hard. He just barely got by academically. Then he made a discovery. He began using a simple technique for improving his comprehension. He describes it in Chapter 7 of his little book. He never got anything lower than an A from that point on.

My friend told me that his son had also adopted this technique. His story is also amazing.


My friend taught his children at home. They are very smart children. Their parents are genius-level. By age 16, his second son had finished calculus.

That year, his father assigned him a college-level physics textbook that was so advanced that it was too difficult for most freshman students, even in the best universities. It was written by a professor at CalTech, one of the three or four most difficult science colleges to get into.

His father had told him he was on his own. He had to learn the material without outside help. It was taking him 5 to 7 hours a day, and he was missing 30% of the problems. He had hit the proverbial brick wall.

His father knew about Professor X's technique. He also knew that most students, no matter how desperate, will not use it, even though it's incredibly easy. Maybe they think it's beneath them. I don't know. Neither does he.

This young man was highly motivated. He was ready to learn the system. Within days, he had cut his study time in half, and he missed no more problems.

Then he took the SAT exam. He scored 1480. This was high, but not genius-level. Then he passed enough AP exams to skip his first two years of college. He enrolled in college as a junior and received straight A's as a chemistry major.

He kept using Professor X's technique whenever he hit a brick wall, just as he had with physics. That was the key. It got easier to use -- and it wasn't difficult in the first place.

He took the Graduate Records Exam (GRE) in chemistry. There were three parts: two quantitative and one verbal. Maximum score: 800 per section. He used Professor X's technique to review. His scores: 800, 800, and 770. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology told him that he was the highest-scoring applicant that year.

He received full scholarship offers at CalTech and MIT. He went to CalTech. He has now received his Ph.D.

Think what this means. He had received a high SAT score, but with the GRE, he blew off the charts. Nobody else was close in the entire United States.

Professor X's technique works.

In my course, I'll tell you Professor X's name and the name of the chemistry student who adopted his technique. As humorist Dave Barry says, I am not making this up.

Here's what I learned from all this. It's not enough to be smart. It's not enough to put in 7 hours a day on just one textbook. You have to have an edge. Professor X's technique will give you this edge.

Straight-A students should use this technique. They are smart. They work hard. But they don't have the edge. They can get this edge, but they won't. Count on it. They won't.


I have told you about Professor X's study technique. It is not that complicated. In theory, it's easy. In practice, it's not. You have to be highly motivated to adopt it. I mean HIGHLY motivated!

But you want to know who he is. You may also want to know who the student is who scored so high on the Graduate Records Exam in chemistry after adopting this study technique.

As far as I know, there is only one reference to Professor X on the Web. There are many Web pages where the former student, now a Ph.D., is listed. The student's name is Noah Robinson. His father is Arthur Robinson. I co- authored a book with his father in 1987, a book on civil defense. The story of what Noah Robinson did to break through academically at age 16 is found in an old issue of his father's newsletter, Access to Energy


Here is his father's description of the problems that Noah was facing.

I noticed that Noah was experiencing a difficulty identical to my own experience when I was his age. One reads the book but doesn't really absorb it. Problem solving becomes an exercise in scrambling back through the text looking for formulas and combining these with computing tricks such as dimensional analysis. As the physics advanced, his error rate grew as high as 30%.

Then we read The Overnight Student by M. L. Jones, available from Louis Publishing, 1105 Inverness Lane, Bellingham, WA 98226. This book advocates that the student become an oral teacher of an imaginary class.

Noah tried this. Now, for about an hour each day, he closets himself in the press room where we have installed the equipment used to print and mail Access to Energy. There, he teaches the physics orally in small segments to an imaginary audience as he reads through the book. Students are naturally shy. None of us has heard him do this.

The result -- his study time is reduced; he understands the material better; and his problem solving error rate has fallen essentially to 0%.

I guarantee you, you would never have found out about this technique or Dr. Jones' book if you had not subscribed to my study course. His book went out of print for years. It's on line today here. Read it.

I call his technique "lecture to the wall." If ever a study technique is off the wall, it's this one.

Read a passage in a book -- maybe only a page. Then close it. Lecture to the wall. You summarize in your own words what you have just read. If you can't remember what you've just read, re-read the passage. Then try again.

If you are unwilling to do this -- one page in one book -- then you will not maximize the benefits of this free course. My other techniques will help you. But you will be missing out on the number-one technique in this course. The mental discipline of summarizing and explaining what you have read will drill the information into your memory. Somehow, the technique of verbally summarizing what you have just read with your eyes makes it easier for you to recall the information.

You will eventually discover sections of some textbook that baffle you. This is what you need to focus on -- not the things you already understand.

Lecturing to the wall will throw light on what you don't know and what you do know. This is exactly what you need to know before you take an exam.

Most students can't psychologically face the reality of their own ignorance until they are forced to: during an exam. This is the wrong time to discover that you don't know the material.

Here are the problems you must solve in order to adopt this study technique:

Find a room where you can study alone.
Do something that initially seems silly.
Summarize and explain what you've read.
Face the fact that in some areas, you're weak.
Be willing to re-read and then lecture again.
Practice until the technique becomes easier.

This is the single most important technique of rapid academic success. This is a technique that your fellow students do not know about. Most of them would not adopt it if they did know about it. It's an easy technique to describe, but it's very difficult to implement because it seems so silly. I am begging you to lecture to the wall for one page of one book each day. It's not hard. It's merely different. But if you want to get back on track academically, you must do things differently -- differently from the way you have been doing them, and much, much differently from the way most students -- even excellent students -- do things.

You must find a competitive edge in your college courses -- something that will enable your performance to stand out as exceptional. I am telling you that lecturing to the wall in your own words is going to give you a tremendous competitive edge.

I know this is difficult to believe. I am asking you to test me for the next month. See if I'm telling the truth. See if things get easier for you to remember. See if your comprehension is better after you have lectured to the wall.

Technically, what I'm telling you to do is easy. Psychologically, it is a barrier that you will find very difficult to overcome. But find a way. This is the key to my program.

Why does this technique work? Because of this inescapable fact:

If you can't put something in your own words, then you don't really understand it.

Simple, isn't it? I think most people don't want to face the fact that they don't understand things. They don't want to be reminded.

Students would rather walk into an exam cold than face the fact before the exam that they just don't understand the material. The want to put off the day of judgment. They think -- or want to think -- that something will turn up, somehow, that will enable them to take that exam and do well.

Isn't it wise to take the exam early, in front of a wall? The wall can't flunk you. The wall can't laugh at you. The wall can't talk behind your back about how stupid you are.

Why does this technique work? Because by reinforcing what you have just read by verbally expressing it, you drive the information deep into your mind. Your mind filters it, grabs hold of it, reworks it in a way that is consistent with you. After all, it's your mind!

The new information is transformed by verbalizing it. Without talking to the wall, the facts in your mind are like a jumbled mess. The theory and the facts just don't seem to fit. But by processing this information through speaking -- mentally putting things together so that you can verbalize them -- you convert chaos into order.

Why would you walk away from a learning technique so powerful that it transformed a mediocre student -- Dr. Jones -- into a straight-A student who later became a university professor? Why would you pass on a technique that will give you a tremendous competitive advantage, not just in school, but in whatever line of work you choose after graduation?

Will you at least try? Will you test my proposition, namely, that this technique will give you a significant competitive edge?

It boils down to this. Professor Jones' technique is so crucial to my recommended strategy. Follow the rest of my program, and you will do better in college. You will gain skills that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

A variant of this technique is referred to as SQR3. For a paper on this technique, click here


Time-management is basic to success.

You must learn how to cut corners.

My course is not like any how-to-study courses out there. It's a real-world course.

You don't have to beat the straight-A students. You will be successful when you beat the "don't care" students.

Adopt "lecture to the wall" as a way to spot your weaknesses.


Find a room where you can be alone. Get a book in history or English or social studies. Read one page fast. Skim it. Don't read to memorize it. After you have done this, re-read the page, section by section, more slowly than before, but speedily. Close the book, and lecture to the wall on what it means. Explain it. If you can't recall what you have just read, re-read it. Lecture again. I'm trying to get you started.

For tips on how to make more money, keep what you make, and improve your lifestyle, cheap, subscribe to my free Tip of the Week. The subscription box is here: www.garynorth.com.
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