Maximizing Your Learning Potential: 3 Strategies for Complex Subjects

Whether you’re in high school or college, trying to hit those straight A’s can be hard. With the number of distractions that exist in our world, it’s a wonder that people even make it out of the education system. 

Some students face an overwhelming amount of pressure to do well and succeed in school and college. The focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) means that studying and understanding many concepts can be challenging.

According to, 45% of American college students claimed that the stress they experienced was above average. To address that, there exist several strategies that students can take advantage of. 

Step 1: Learn the Crucial Skill of Compartmentalizing

If someone asked you to drink a five-gallon jug of water, would you be able to do it? Nope. No matter how much willpower you have, there is a physical limitation in your body that limits how much you can drink. 

However, what if someone asked you to drink five gallons of water over the course of a week? That suddenly seems a whole lot more possible. Each glass of water you drink represents one small step toward your five-gallon goal. 

The same principle applies to studying. Your brain also has a limit in terms of the amount of effective studying you can do in a day. 

Compartmentalizing the way you approach learning is one of the best ways you can deal with large and complex subjects. But how do you do that? 

Well, here is a sequence that you might find helpful:

  1. Divide the subject into smaller, more manageable topics or subtopics.
  2. Prioritize and sequence your selected topics. (It’s best to start with foundational concepts before moving to more advanced ones.)
  3. Have precise goals about what you want to achieve with each study session.
  4. Recap and review every alternate day.
  5. Track your progress and use it to motivate yourself.

There are also various techniques that can help you along the way, such as mind mapping, time-based studying via the Pomodoro method, and more. You can find a ton of resources online on subreddits, such as r/studying or r/getstudying on Reddit. 

Step 2: Take Advantage of Online Resources

Do you know what the greatest privilege is in our timeline? It is the fact that in your pocket, you have access to the collective knowledge of humanity. Just five decades ago, people wouldn’t have been able to imagine such a thing was possible. Yet, we would rather spam our same three friends with endless TikTok clips

There are so many valuable resources out there. You just need to know where to look. In that same vein, let’s not forget the revolution that is also occurring in front of us in the form of public access to AI chat systems. 

According to, ChatGPT can be a great resource to aid your studying. It comes particularly in handy when you have a large body of complex text. You can ask ChatGPT to summarize the content and explain the main points expressed. 

Similarly, Proprep also points out that you can use ChatGPT to create flashcards and key points to review. You can also have it organize and make sense of your lecture notes. ChatGPT is also great when you let it brainstorm ideas and ways to tackle a challenging area. 

Step 3: Try Different Study Habits and Mnemonic Methods

When you are dealing with complex subjects, you can’t approach them the same way you did in middle school. With complex subjects, cramming takes a backseat, and actually understanding what you are learning becomes more important. 

This change in your study approach will likely require some study habit modifications as well. For instance, try to find or create instances where you can apply what you are trying to learn. 

When your brain can detect a real-world application from what you are studying, the concepts stick stronger than super-glue. 

Thankfully, in the STEM fields, you can find several projects to try this. If you are learning programming, making simple apps and scripts can be both fun and enjoyable. Similarly, engineering students can try making simple projects and prototypes based on what they are learning. 


It’s easy to forget that learning is a privilege that not everyone has access to. Yes, studying can be a chore sometimes, and when you are dealing with tough concepts, it does make you want to pull your hair out. 

Don’t approach learning with the aim of shoving formulas and concepts into your brain and sealing them inside. 

Instead, try to approach each subject as if it were a dance. No one does the fancy jumps, twirls, and catches right away. 

You start with the footwork and slowly build skills every day. You may not always have the liberty of time, but when you know how to approach learning with the right mindset, it becomes surprisingly more efficient and enjoyable.