Modules? Modular Systems? . . . . .what?

If something can be broken down into smaller parts or units that can be self-contained and effective, we call it modular. Let's take your house, for example. It is made of bricks, wood, etc. You can use the bricks to make side walls, or you can use them to make your little panic room. You can use a brick from your wall to lay a foundation for a tower named after you. At the end of the day, it’s the same brick.

Now, what about a modular system? It is basically the idea of dividing a system into self-contained units or modules. Each module can function independently but can also be combined/interchanged with other modules to create a more complex system and get things done.

Yeah, okay, I get it. But what's a Mental Model?

Before diving deeper, let's talk a bit about mental models. I am sure you have heard this jargon-ish word 10,000 times by now, but let's reiterate it for the sake of reiterating it. "Mental model" is a technical-sounding way of explaining how someone understands something. Let's say you and your friend want to visit a cafe. You may propose going there by walking through X neighborhood, then crossing Y bridge, etc. This is YOUR mental model of how you wanna go there, while your friend may think of going there via a bicycle or bus.

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Alright, I understand that. How do I use these “Modular Systems” to ace in school?

Let’s apply modular principles in learning. There are various cornerstones. First, you need to review a particular subject's curriculum and identify the key aspects and outcomes of learning. I will give you a cheat, which will work like magic if other variables align perfectly. Here's the cheat: check the questions from the previous few years. It will help you understand the questions expected in exams and the topics important to the teacher. Teachers put different emphases on some topics they teach, so identifying these is critical.

Now let’s talk about some of the variables, the first of which is to ensure that the course teacher of this particular subject is the same as the previous year. Otherwise, their interests won't match, and solving questions from the previous year won't be very effective. Another variable is the chance factor of a particular topic appearing in an exam. Some topics are more important than others, and you know what to do, right?

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Now that it's out of the way, the second step is to START. But, first thing first. Often, the biggest mistake that students fall victim to is that they think they need to remember/go through a particular chapter or a large chunk of information in one go. This approach is sometimes successful but often fails to help students achieve their goals. This is especially true if the student only studies when an exam is knocking on the door (don't ask how I know). Hence, we must resort to a somewhat different approach to increase retention and improve the ability to assimilate knowledge from those mighty black inks on paper. And that can be the modular systems.

Let's give a practical example to help you understand the starting and continuing process. Let's say your entire curriculum for subject X is covered in 10 pages in your textbook. First, isolate those 10 pages. Then, break those 10 pages into critical and somewhat important parts. You can discard the rest. If you know what you are doing, you can easily discard 15-30% of the total curriculum, as teachers barely make questions from those parts. Once you have done that, break those important/semi-important parts into smaller chunks. These small chunks are the modules with which we will be working.

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Okay, now we have our personalized modules, and it is time to determine a suitable time to study. I prefer early mornings because that's when your brain is fresh (unless you were doing chores overnight), the neighborhood is calm, and the weather is otherworldy, meaning your focus will be 100/10. Keep yourself distraction-free when studying, put the phone aside, and do not touch it. If your study requires a PC, just use the necessary apps and close the rest. Stay away from social media. Once you dive in, there's no way out. Lol, trust me, I am speaking from experience. Also, you will notice that after some time, be it 1-2 hours, you cannot focus as much as before; it is normal. We only have limited focus. So get up, take a 5-7 min. Break, then focus again. After 3-4 hours, you will notice that it is no longer possible to focus again. You will have completed 1-2 of your selected modules by then. Congratulations. Properly understanding and remembering information is equally important; hence, we will have to sit on the chair again (ah shit, not again, I don't like studying). After your first learning session in the morning, revise those modules again in the afternoon. Wait to get up until you complete those modules, regardless of your focus level. It should not take as long as before; rather, it should take 20-30% less time than the first time. Then, revise only the key points again at night. If you choose to, you can revise the entire module, too; it is your choice.

You just revised a part of your curriculum thrice in one day. Do the same for the rest of the curriculum. Once you have done that, try to solve those questions you have checked before. Voila, those questions should feel like butter. Do the same for other subjects as well. During exams, just follow this same principle again and make sure you revise all the topics before the exam.

Also, you won't have to worry if your teacher asks a creative question in the exam. You won't have to break your head trying to remember entire pages, as your thinking is now modular. You can now easily connect different dots from different pieces of information and draw conclusions.

Okay, so much for mental models to ace exams. But does it work?

Of course, it does. You are free to use the mental model presented above in one of your subjects and see if it is effective for you, then decide. There's a reason online EdTech platforms are designing modular courses. It helps in information retention and makes understanding complex topics easier.

This is it for today. If you find this article helpful, feel free to like, comment, share with your peers and let them know. Also, follow us for more interesting content in the future.

 Click this Link to read about the modularity of the human mind.

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