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Thursday, September 1, 2011

BJ's '15-Minute Learning Rule'

In the last few days, I have been asked about my 15-minute learning rule. Before I share this simple but highly effective self-devised learning tool, let me share, with you, my experiences within the classroom and without.

I am a teacher, as most readers of this blog already know. I work for a leading entrance exam training company; I teach for the CAT and other MBA entrance tests. In the past, I have taught for the GRE too. As such, this story will focus on my limited experiences with students, training for these tests. 

In the classroom, I meet a diversity of students: ambitious, eager-to-learn, hardworking-but-lost-because-of-lack-of-direction, and a few who are either arrogant or indifferent or both. 

In over-a-decade long stint, I have, unfortunately, come across more students of one particular type: those who are ambitious but do not want to work hard. It is not that these students lack the capacity to work hard; it is just that they do not want to. 

I have often discussed this issue with some of my brilliant colleagues and have found, to my dismay, that their classroom experiences have not been any different from mine. It is disheartening for a teacher to see a student with latent talent to waste it away. 

Now you may ask me, 'Isn't it the teacher's job to guide a student?'. I can hardly disagree with that. Yes, we try hard: we talk about the benefits of reading (newspapers, magazines), constant practice (problem-solving exercises), mock test-testing (online sectional tests and mock tests), building effective communicative ability (vocabulary, conversational language ability), and above all, learning from failure. 

Now we all know how many students would be willing to do all this and more, is perhaps a moot question. As a teacher I can only show the path; walking the path or not is a consequence of the personal choice made by the student. In other words, you can take a horse to the pond but you can not make it drink.

Or put it in a more cinematic way, there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path, as Morpheus says in The Matrix.

I would like to believe that most students are eager to learn but do not know where to start. For them, I can only say: start anywhere, with anything. Learn about anything. You own / see a world-class brand (like Nike) but do not much know about it? Then spend 15 minutes on learning about it. Here is how you can do it.

The 15-Minute Learning Rule
At the outset, let me tell you that the 15-Minute Learning Tool is a self-devised one. It is a simple yet highly effective way of spending time to learn. I have often shared this with my audiences in classrooms, GDPI workshops, GK and economics seminars, and quizzes across cities. 

Here is the step-by-step approach to the 15-Minute Learning Tool.

(a) Pick an idea: it could be anything - a brand (like adidas), technology (like 3G), country    (like Nigeria), or if you like, a celebrity (like Kate Perry).

(b) If you wish to learn about it on the Internet, then google the word or go to the Web site which you know would provide you with such information.

(c) Once ready with the Web page on 'what-you-want-to-learn-about', tell yourself that you will spend 15 minutes in learning about it.

(d) However, before you start the 15-minute learning stint, also tell yourself that in those 15-minutes two things may happen:
(1) that I may not understand everything that I read, and
(2) that I may not remember everything that I read.
(e) Start the 15-minute learning module!

(f) If you read a sentence you do not understand then move to the next one; if you do not understand the next one too, then go to the third one! Do not be discouraged by what you  do not understand; it is alright not to understand everything you read, after all you are not an expert but just a lay reader trying to get a hang of an idea.

(g) At the end of the 15-minutes, you would know that 

  • you might not have understood everything;
  • you might not be able to recall everything, but
  • you still would have got some basic idea of the issue.
If you do not have access to the Web, you can employ this learning tool with a book - any reference book, like Manorama year book or some kind of encyclopedia or even an academic textbook.

This, friends, is my 15-minute learning tool. I strongly believe in its efficacy; I believe 15 minutes is short enough to help most people retain concentration; yet it can also help you learn in a most basic way.

However, let me warn you that learning is not about passing an exam or getting a job; rather it should be 
a constant process. I strongly believe that learning is a life skill. This is my fundamental approach to learning and I hope it becomes yours too. 


Madhulika said...

Thanks a ton for the golden rule!! Initially I couldn't consistently follow it. But, when I got basic idea about some of my many when-how-why questions which were long time pending,I'm enjoying learning. It is more of a habit now.
Curiosity is the key!

Sricharan Myadam said...

I spent 15min in reading this, finally understood. Thank u sir for the tool.

Dileep said...

Well written, Bharat!! Could I also ask you to suggest different websites, which will give good amount of information in different fields? Since you are doing a amount of websearch, it will be helpful to all. Thanks for article.

Anonymous said...

I surely do follow this rule sir...

Dheep Joy said...

Dear Bharat Sir,

Thank you very much for this wise advice.

Touching, Moving, Simple, Powerful and a call to action.

Best Regards,

Deepali said...

AWESOME!! Simple yet Profound..:))

Anonymous said...

very gud sir,.,.,.,thnq..,

Kamalakar Reddy said...

So simple... still effective and productive....

Anonymous said...

What to say?
The Best like every time , thank u BJ. . .

anu said...

Really a good post. And yup, very very very very USEFUL... Since I belong to the category of 'hardworking-but-lost-because-of-lack-of-direction', I found it useful and thank you soo much Sir...

Anonymous said...

Hi BJ,

The post is simple yet very crucial for the ones who really like to learn. I really appreciate your initiative of sharing your knowledge which is of great help to many.
Keep up the good work, keep walking...

Anonymous said...

Sirji, it is advisable to start searching about your favorite hero, as India is a land of cult worship.

Unknown said...

Hi Bharat,

Accha hai! The initial concerns u raised were really good. You think on these lines as a trainer is also commendable. The technique makes learning so simple..(atleast thats what I feel primaface!) A basic question.. will it help in learning Quants, Logic etc..

keep up the good work,

Gulshan Chhabra

Ajay said...

Hi bharat,
A very relevant post. A suggestion would be to also share the links of a few websites in your later posts.
thank you

Chaithanya said...


Yamini Kancharana said...

thank you sir :)

KSK said...

that was brilliant sirjee... :)

Vikas said...

I had been looking for this post of yours and incidentaly looked into it's certainly blessing showered on me on this teachers day..thanks a lot bro..for being my teacher of life :-)

jigar said...

thank you for such an informative post, sir.

"as morpheus says in The Matrix says." either of the 'says' has to be deleted.

and sir, in "the 15 minute learning tool is a self-devised learning too." is that supposed to be 'tool' ?
if not, then it should be "the 15 min learning tool is self-devised learning too."

sharath chowdary said...

thnk u sir..........dis one gud.....15minutes can change our life

srinivas said...


naveen.p said...

i feel its really helpful to all....thnk u...sir.....let me try to make this as my habit......

Anonymous said...

I will start doing it from today and re-post my experiences here in a week :)