Learning techniques: Diagrams

With a diagram, we summarize information. With it, we try to organize, classify and put the different ideas in the text in order.


What advantages come from applying this technique?

  • Helps active studying
  • Favors attention
  • Facilitates an easy overview of the hierarchy of ideas
  • It forces precision, briefness and clarity of ideas and contents
  • Improves content memorization and the expression of it, because it offers a logical sequence
  • It forces mental structuring of content
  • It helps in reviews, saving time and effort



To correctly apply this technique, you have to use the previous outlining as the base. It will give you the main ideas in the text.


Besides, it’s really important that, before making the diagram, you choose the type or model that better adjusts to the content of the text.

Don’t forget the following practical ideas:

  • It’s really important that the material you use can be filed, this way it will help you get better organized.


  • Remember that this is about expressing the main ideas, so you need to write using the fewest number of words. This way, when you are using the diagram to study, you won’t get overwhelmed with all the words, giving the impression that the entire piece of paper is full of text. It’s better if you can see lots of blank spaces with no writing. There should be more blank space than text.


  • It’s really useful to use your notes for help.


  • Lastly, check to see your diagram does have the main ideas, and that they are well-organized by their order of importance and/or relationship.

Advantages after doing an outline

  • Saves time when reviewing
  • Facilitates better reviewing
  • Facilitates writing graphs and summaries

Rules of the outline:

– Never outline during the first reading.

– Don’t outline anything you don’t understand. Use the dictionary.

– Don’t outline too much, only the key words.

– What you outlined must have an individual sense, even if it’s not grammatically correct.

– Find the main and secondary ideas. Highlight them with a different code.

– It’s important that the outlined part doesn’t interfere with reading. A rule can be helpful, use meaningful colors


The most important thing about the outlining technique is that it helps us highlight the most important ideas, and there are several different procedures to do it.

You might think that outlining slows down your reading, and logically, it’s true, but it also helps you get a better comprehension, and it keeps you active during your reading.


Lastly, outlining is personal: you outline according to what you know and what you want. Two classmates can outline different things in the same subject, because, for example, one of them might know a lot about a subject, and so she outlines fewer words. than the one who doesn’t know about it.

Because of this, you shouldn’t study from texts that have been outlined by other people, and you shouldn’t outline texts that other people will use.


Outlining is about highlighting; highlight the points, ideas, details and important notes in the text, using a personal code (lines, highlights, signs, etc.).


Widen your vocabulary

– Read a lot: reading a lot helps you widen your vocabulary, and when you do that, it improves your reading, both in speed and in comprehension. This premise is essential.

– Consult dictionaries: It’s not about stopping your reading every time you find an unknown word or something whose meaning you don’t know, because this would make your reading slow and tedious. You must mark the word and continue reading, because most of the times, you’ll find the meaning in the context, without the need to use a dictionary. Nevertheless, once you’ve finished reading the paragraph or the text, you should use a dictionary to look up the words you found. Lastly, read the text again, and this time it won’t be difficult.

– Use the new words you learned: It’s important to get a full and real understanding of a word, using it in different contexts.

– Handle your synonyms and antonyms: you can use synonym and antonym dictionaries to widen your vocabulary.

– Solve crosswords, Swedish-style crosswords, etc.: With them, apart from being entertained, you’ll widen your vocabulary.

– Know the most common acronyms: This way, you won’t stop during your reading every time you find one. There are more every day: UN, NATO, NAFTA…

Mistakes to correct while reading

You must try to correct these mistakes:


  1. Body movement: Some readers use a finger or a pencil to signal their reading. This is an unnecessary mechanical movement that slows down their reading. This is easy to correct: hold the book with both hands while you read.


  1. Regressions and setbacks: You might make stops while reading, and you might go back and reread what you already read, whether it is to make sure what you read is right or because you didn’t understand something. These things hurt your reading speed, and even your comprehension. You shouldn’t do it unless it’s absolutely necessary.

How to correct it? By covering the text, as you read, with a card or a piece of paper.


  1. Reading aloud: It’s a waste of time to move your lips or tongue, because you read with your eyes.

How can you know if you’re making these mistakes? Put a pencil between your lips, and if it moves as you read, then you’re making that mistake. Put your tongue on the ceiling of your mouth when you read, or eat something while you read.


  1. Mental repetition: It consists of mentally pronouncing the words when reading. It’s as if we were reading the text to ourselves.

To see if you’re doing it, put a finger softly on your throat, and then you can see if it’s moving or not.

The best way to correct this effect is by reading so quickly that you can’t do mental repetition.




Reading is really important when studying. Think, for example, about how many hours you spend in front of a book.

You should think about reading not only as a basic study tool, but also as a source of fun and entertainment, something that can help you have a good time.

For example, reading lets you: choose and select from among many subjects like adventure, mystery, crime, etc. It can help you imagine and create many situations described in books, even making you a character in the story.


► Reading constraints.


– Vision: you need to first ask yourself if you need glasses, and if you wear them, you need to determine if you’re using the right graduation.

Specialists recommend having a yearly checkup, but there are also other signs that make sight problems obvious. For example, check to see if you see blurry letters, if you blink too much, if your eyelids get swollen, if you get frequent headaches or if you have trouble concentrating.


– Eye fatigue: it happens when you’ve been reading for too long, and so your performance obviously worsens. To fight it, you can do one of these things:

– Look through a window and into the distance.

– Blink frequently for a while.

– Wet your eyes with fresh water or a chamomile infusion.


– Lighting:

– Have enough intensity

– Natural light is better

– If it’s artificial, it has to be indirect and blue

– It should come from the opposite side of the hand you use to write

– Avoid reflections

– Avoid shadows


– Text position: The book must be inclined and not laid flat on a desk. Use a lectern for this. Keep in mind that the text shouldn’t move, so you shouldn’t be reading in a car, on a bus or a train, etc.


– Distance of the text: It shouldn’t be too far away or too close. It should be between 25 and 35 cm. It has to be at just the right distance for you to feel comfortable reading.


– Body position: It’s important for concentration and to avoid fatigue, without forgetting the problems that can be caused to the spine. It should be a comfortable position, but not so comfortable that makes you sleepy. The spine should be straight and so too should the head.


– Type of letters and paper: The most appropriate letter size is medium. The type should be clear. The paper shouldn’t be shiny. Black type on white paper is the one that best catches the eye.

What part of the day is the most appropriate to study

The afternoon or the night?

This is a personal decision, but in any case, you can:

  • Choose hours that aren’t close to meals. You could end up giving up in the middle of the digestive process.
  • Try to study at the same time every day. This creates a permanent work habit that lets you better organize your leisure time and your breaks.
  • Study during the times you feel you are more efficient.


► Lastly, consider:

  • “What’s studied during the final hours of the afternoon and night is learned slower, but is remembered better”. In contrast, what’s studied in the morning is learned faster but forgotten easier.
  • We also need to alternate study breaks, and it’s better to always study at the same times of day and to have breaks at the same times as well. This creates a habit.
  • You shouldn’t study immediately after class, doing sports, etc.
  • You shouldn’t start with the most difficult subjects, but rather with those of medium or low difficulty (try to avoid the lack of motivation when studying the hardest subjects, or the lower concentration at the beginning). Then, go to the more difficult subjects, and finish with one that you like better.

Study breaks

Breaks: some students prefer not to take breaks, because then they lose all concentration and need lots of time to go back to studying. In contrast, breaks are really useful for other students, because this lets them renew their strength and continue working. For some, changing activities is enough of a rest.

What’s the case with you?

If you prefer to take breaks, remember the following:

-Don’t do it when you’re in the maximum performance phase, because this is the best time to study.

– If you only take one break, take it when you notice your performance and concentration start to decay.

– Don’t use your break for activities that make you lose concentration, such as watching TV, listening to the radio or starting long conversations, because then it will be difficult to concentrate again.

– It’s advisable to do some relaxation and concentration exercises. You’ll rest and you’ll be in good physical and mental shape to continue with the rest of the work.

– In all cases, breaks should be short during study times.

Performance curve while studying

– There’s an initial phase we can call “warming up”. Going back to the example of the athlete, you know that you always need to do some warming up before any sort of physical exercise. In a student’s case, you have to do mental exercises, and your mind needs time to prepare. This is the right time to do all of the tasks with medium difficulty.


– Then, there’s the maximum performance phase. The mind is ready, and we haven’t worked enough to be tired. This is the best time to get at those more difficult and/or less attractive tasks.


– In the final phase, both work rhythm and concentration decrease. We start to feel tired, and so it’s time to do the easiest tasks that require less effort and concentration.