Neo Matrix Study Skills

How to maximize your study time & get Matrix-style results.

It’s the night before a final exam.

I’m poring over the class study guide and wishing I had the ability to download all of the course material into my brain, Matrix-style.

In the film, the main character Neo is hooked up to a giant computer. Download the kung fu computer program and zap. He’s now a martial artist.

You’re probably thinking, “Only in the movies.”

But what if I told you there is a surprisingly easy method to study quickly and effectively and get Matrix-style results? What if I told you that anyone can use this method to raise his or her grades by at least half a point in one semester?

And, even better, after graduation this skill will be a life-long asset, helping you in any career you decide to pursue.

The #1 Way To Maximize Your Study Time

Insert big disclaimer here: It’s not like you can snap your fingers and instantaneously have a photographic memory. You will have to set aside time to actually study, preferably not the night before the exam.

But by using this easy method your study time will become more effective and efficient, and you’ll probably end up cutting that study time in half.

The key is in this old Chinese proverb: “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.”

You can't learn to swim until you jump in the water.

You can’t learn to swim until you jump in the water.

When I was about eight years old, I took a swim class and learned several different swimming strokes. The teacher would begin by telling the class how the stroke worked and demonstrating it in the water for us. At first, I was usually slightly confused and unsure of what I was supposed to do. I wasn’t able to fully understand and learn the stroke until I was in the water too, and she was showing me how to move my arms.

Ultimately, if you want to learn anything, you have to figuratively jump in the water and start swimming. You have to involve yourself in the material.

How do you do that with a textbook?

The trick is called lecturing to the wall.


“While we teach, we learn.”
Wise words from Seneca.

After you read one page in your textbook, close the book and summarize in your own words what you’ve just read. You must do this out-loud.

When you verbalize what you’ve just read, you reinforce and organize the facts in your mind and transfer them to your long-term memory. You will be able to identify what you don’t know and spend time reviewing the facts that you need to learn.

This technique is incredibly simple. You only need three things to make it work: time, a quiet room, and determination.

Once I was struggling in a class and did miserably on the midterm exam. I remembered the lecturing to the wall technique and decided to put it into action. I ended up scoring a 99.5 on the final exam.

Since then, I’ve used this method when reviewing lecture notes and even when learning math equations.

Pretend you’re teaching someone how to do the problem. Work it through step by step out-loud.

You can even take the lecturing to the wall technique to the next level by accompanying your “lecture” with simple drawings on a piece of paper. This will help your brain further organize all of the facts you need to remember.

Why does this technique work? Because if you can’t retell something in your own words, you really don’t understand it. This technique forces your brain to wrestle with the facts and identify the areas you are weakest in. Have your teacher explain those areas to you, and then try again to put them in your own words.

Want to get the most out of the ‘lecturing to the wall’ technique?

Put it into practice with the PQRST 5-step method.

1. Preview

Briefly skim your textbook, syllabus, assigned readings, or lecture notes. Identify the major topics.

2. Question

Formulate a number of questions that you think you should be able to answer after mastering the material. Sometimes this step is done for you; textbooks often list study questions after each chapter or teachers will assign study questions.

3. Read

Read the material you need to learn, take brief notes, and keep in mind the questions that you need to answer.

4. Summarize

Close the book and lecture to the wall. Pretend you are teaching someone else what you have just learned.

5. Test

Answer the questions you have drafted, either verbally or in print (or both).

That’s it. If you are willing to devote the time to this technique, you can improve your grades and maximize your study time.

Action Steps:

This action step will convince you that the lecturing to the wall technique works. Find a quiet room where you can study alone. Quickly skim through the assigned reading for one of your classes. Then go back and read it through at your natural reading pace. Next, pick one page, re-read it carefully, and take notes. Close the book. Explain in your own words what you’ve just read. You can reference your notes if you need to. If you find the material difficult to explain, re-read it again. Then lecture. I guarantee you that several hours later you’ll remember the page you use when lecturing to the wall better than any of the other pages in the book.

What will this technique help you master today?