Audible Subscription Plans & Prices: Which One Is Right For You?

Audible Subscription Plans & Prices: Which One Is Right For You?

This article is a comprehensive review of all Audible subscription plans and their prices. Learn all the different membership levels and their cost comparison on a yearly, monthly, and price-per-audiobook-credit basis.

 

What you will learn in this article:

1. Benefits of an Audible Membership

2. How to Get 3 Free Audiobooks 

3. All Audible Membership Plans and Their Pricing

4. How to Switch Your Membership Plan

5. How to Determine Which Option is Right for You?

 

What you get from an Amazon Audible membership

 

When you get an Audible membership (Gold, Platinum, or Silver) you get the following benefits:

 

1. Audible credits

 

Audible credits can be used to purchase audiobooks, no matter how long or short, expensive or cheap the original prices are. One credit equals one audiobook. How often you get Audible credits depend on the membership plan that you subscribe to. More on this below.

 

You can also rollover the credits, i.e., you don’t have to use it right away. But there are limits to how many credits you can pile up in your account, and these also differ depending on your membership level.

 

2. Audiobook Discounts

 

As a member, if you purchase audiobooks by credit card, you will get discounts on all titles 30%.

 

3. Member-only Sales

 

Audible holds quite a number of sales that are accessible only to members. They send emails with daily deals, many for less than $5. They also do special events like get 2 books for 1 credit, 3 books for 2 credits, etc., which I’ve taken advantage of many times. It’s a great opportunity to stock up your library.

 

4. Whispersync for Voice

 

This is one of the neatest features of Audible, in my opinion. Many books offered by Amazon are Whispersync for Voice-ready enabled, meaning that when you have both the audiobook and Kindle ebook versions of the same title, they will be synced with each other, allowing you to pick up where you left off from the audio or ebook version.

 

Now, why would you want to buy both versions? When you buy either an audiobook or a Kindle ebook that is Whispersync for Voice-ready, Amazon will give you an offer to buy the other version at a heavily discounted price. Sometimes, the total price for this combination, by taking advantage of the special sales or daily deals, will be lower than the original price of either the audio or ebook version.

 

For more on this and tips on how to get audiobook discounts via Whispersync, check out this article:

 

How to Take Advantage of Whispersync and Get Audiobook Discounts

 

5. Easy Return or Exchange Audiobooks

 

If you don’t like any audiobook that you’ve purchased, you can simply return for credit and exchange the credit with another book, no questions asked. (If you bought it with a credit card, then they will refund you the money). You can do this up to 365 days after your purchase the audiobook. If your book says “Not eligible for return” even though you bought it less than 365 days ago, contact Customer Service. Some titles cannot be returned using the online tool.

 

6. Listen to Audible original series, interviews, news, comedy, etc. with Channels

 

Audible is becoming a media publishing entity with many original series, books, and performances. You can listen to a wide array of topics, produced by Audible, through the app, all for free.

 

How to Get 3 Free Audiobooks Right Off the Bat

 

Before we go into the details of every Audible membership option, I want to first and foremost remind you that no matter which membership level you want to subscribe to, do the 30-day Free Trial first! Use the link below to get 2 free audiobooks with your free trial, and keep them forever, even though you cancel the membership after the free trial period ends. Just keep the Audible app and you can listen to the audiobooks in your library forever. Note that some free trial links only offer 1 free audiobook, so make sure you check the details first.

Audible Free Trial

Try Audible for Free (30-days) and Get Two Free Audiobooks

 

Now that you’ve done the free trial and downloaded the app, how do you get this 3rd free audiobook? By getting someone else to gift one to you. The first audiobook that you receive as a gift is free. So if you like a book, get a friend who already has it to forward the link from the Audible app. (Yes, you need a friend for this). Or just ask them to send you something that they know you will enjoy.

 

Now, be nice and return the favor. Send somebody a link of an audiobook you like from your library. There’s no limit to how many you can send. If all of your friends have never used Audible before, then they all will receive a free audiobook from the goodness of your heart.

 

So, 2 audiobooks from the free trial + 1 audiobook gifted to you = 3 free audiobooks. Get long audiobooks to stretch these perks even more.

 

Now on to the various Audible membership levels and their prices.

 

All Audible Subscription Plans & Prices

 

The table below lists all of the membership options, as well as the comparison of their prices. The first 5, Gold (monthly and annual), Platinum (monthly and annual), and Silver (monthly) are full memberships, meaning that subscribing to these plans give you the full benefits of being an Audible customer (i.e., everything listed above). The last 2 options are “lightweight” memberships. They give you some, but not all of the benefits.

 

In the table, I’ve listed the price tags of each membership level and the 3 metrics–Cost per year, Cost per month, and Cost per credit–so you can compare them apples to apples.

 

Plan Level Membership Cost # of Credits Cost/year Cost/month Cost/credit
Gold Monthly $14.95/month 1 per month $179.40 $14.95 $14.95
Platinum Monthly $22.95/month 2 per month $275.40 $22.95 $11.48
Gold Annual $149.50/year 12 per year $149.50 $12.46 $12.46
Platinum Annual $229.50/year 24 per year $229.50 $19.13 $9.56
Silver Monthly $14.95/2 months 1 per 2 months $89.70 $7.48 $14.95
Listener Light Annual $9.95/year 0 $9.95 $0.83
Audible Channel Plan $4.95/month 0 $59.40 $4.95

 

The most common option is the Gold Monthly membership at $14.95 and 1 credit each month. Typically, your account will default to this option, which means that if you want to switch to another option, you’ll have to upgrade through your account setting or contact Customer Service.

 

For audiobook super-listeners, the Platinum level is the option at 2 audiobooks per month.

 

Silver Monthly really should be called Silver Bimonthly. This option is not advertised and will not appear when you try to switch membership levels through your account. You’ll have to contact Customer Service to switch to Silver. They are typically very accommodating (i.e., they won’t try to up-sell you) and the set up will only take a few minutes.

 

Silver is nice if you, like me, like to take your time listening to audiobooks. One audiobook every 2 months is a nice pace for me and all the benefits are still included (discounts, deals, free giveaways, etc.).

 

Monthly vs. Yearly Membership

 

Audiobooks are cheaper by the dozen. If you subscribe to a monthly plan, then you pay and get the audiobook credit(s) monthly (with the exception of Silver Monthly, which is bimonthly). If you subscribe to an annual plan, then you pay and get all of the credits at once–12 credits for Gold and 24 credits for Platinum.

 

As you can see from the table above, buying in bulk saves you money. The yearly plan is equivalent to getting 2 months free on the monthly plan. For Gold, $149.50 = 10 months x $14.95/month. Same thing for Platinum.

 

So, if you’re someone who can shell out the cash upfront, the Gold Annual or Platinum Annual are worth getting to save you some dollars.

 

Comparing the Prices

 

If you’re trying to just minimize your yearly or monthly costs while still enjoying the benefits of being an Audible member, the Silver membership is a great option. At $89.70 per year or $7.48 per month, it’s very affordable. But what if you want to get more credits without paying the price of the audiobooks? Not to worry. Even though your credit only comes once every 2 months, you still have the option to buy more credits at any given time.

 

At the top of my account, Audible always has this offer to Buy 3 Extra Credits at $35.88 ($11.96/credit). Yes, you have to buy 3 at a time, but the price per credit is actually comparable to the Platinum Monthly ($11.48/credit), which is a good deal. This option is available to all members, so if you’re feeling low on credits but don’t want to commit to an upgraded membership level, this is the way to go.

 

On a total cost basis, the Platinum Monthly, followed by Platinum Annual, are the most expensive membership levels. However, on a per credit basis, they are in fact the cheapest. Platinum Annual gives you $9.56/credit, which is equal to $9.56/audiobook, which is a steal. Platinum Monthly gives you $11.48/credit. The Silver Monthly and Gold Monthly are the most expensive at $14.95/credit, but this price is still a good deal for audiobooks, which are above $20 a lot of the times.

 

Rollover Credits

 

If you haven’t decided which audiobooks to get for your credits, Audible allows you to rollover the credit. For Gold Monthly, you’re allowed to rollover up to 5 credits per month; Gold Annual, 6 credits; Platinum Monthly, 10 credits; Platinum Annual, 12 credits.

 

This is something to watch out for. Don’t let your Audible credits pile up to avoid losing credits. For the monthly plans, the rollover limit applies each month. But Audible doesn’t specify how the limits work for the annual plans. I’m assuming that these limits apply until the next pay period, since I can’t imagine a Platinum Annual member having to spend 12 credits in the first month of membership. If you’re in this situation, please clarify with Customer Service.

 

Audible Listener Light and Channel Plan

 

These two memberships are “lightweight.” They don’t come with audiobook credits, so you have to buy audiobooks with cash, basically. You also don’t get the 30% discounts that members get. You do, however, get to listen in to the various podcast-type programs produced by Audible. Also, they still will send you emails with deals and sales that members receive.

 

I’d categorize this as “spectators” membership. They let you keep in touch with Audible, but not really consuming audiobooks. Why would you want these types of membership? These are great if for example you’d like to take a break from the full membership to catch up on your library. I’ve done the Listener Light Plan for a while when I took a break from consuming a lot of audiobooks.

 

The Listener Light is an annual plan at $9.95/year, whereas the Channel Plan is a monthly plan at $4.95/month.

 

How to Switch Your Membership Level

 

Go to Audible.com, sign in, and go to the top of your page. From the drop-down menu next to your name, click Account Details. It will display your current membership level and your benefits. Underneath, there’s a button that says “Switch Membership”. Click the button and Audible will display several options for you.

 

Here are the screenshots from my account. I have Silver Monthly and Audible provides the next 3 levels for my upgrade, Gold Monthly, Platinum Monthly, or Gold Annual. These may look different for you depending on your current membership level.

 

 

 

After clicking “Switch Membership”:

Switch membership - how to upgrade

 

 

Choose the one you want by clicking “Get this plan” in the appropriate box.

 

Remember that the Silver membership is not advertised, so I don’t think it will appear in the upgrade/downgrade options. Contact Customer Service if you want this plan.

 

How to Determine Which Membership Level is Right for You?

 

With all these options, how do you start choosing the right membership level? Here are the questions you should ask yourself.

 

1. What’s the average pace of your audiobook consumption?

If you’re going for 1/month, go with Gold; 2/month, Platinum; 1 every 2 months, Silver. You can always buy extra credits, 3 at a time.

 

2. How much money do you want to spend upfront?

If you can cover the costs upfront, consider getting the annual plans (Gold or Platinum) since they lower the cost per audiobook by a lot.

 

3. How much money do you want to spend in general?

If you’re going for the lowest total cost, go with Silver Monthly. Check out the Cost/year and Cost/month columns in the table for your budgeting purposes.

 

Don’t Forget the 30-day Free Trial

 

Again, as a reminder, use the 30-day free trial first, no matter which membership level you decide on. After the 30 days, it will likely default to Gold Monthly. If you want to change it to something else, go through the steps outlined in the How to Switch Your Membership section.

Try Audible for Free and Get Two Audiobooks

For tips on how to save once you’ve signed up for a membership, go to this article.

Try Audible Today!

Other tips on audiobooks and Audible:

How to Save Money on Audible Membership

How to Take Advantage of Whispersync and Get Audiobook Discounts

 

Product links on this post are affiliate links, which means I get a small compensation if you sign up through them. Would appreciate it if you do!

How to Get Audiobook Discounts Using Whispersync

How to Get Audiobook Discounts Using Whispersync

This article contains tips on how to take advantage of the Whispersync for Voice feature by Amazon and get audiobook discounts. I’ll also show you how to add Whispersync to your Kindle books. If you’re an Amazon consumer, particularly Kindle ebooks and audiobooks consumer (i.e., Audible members), you’re probably familiar with or at least have heard about Whispersync.

 

The Amazon audiobook service is called Audible, and to read more about Audible membership and how to save money during sign up or after you’ve subscribed to Audible, read this article: How to Save Money on Audible Membership. You can try the membership service for free for 30 days and get 2 free audiobooks (you can keep them no matter what).

 

Try Audible for 30 Days and Get Two Free Audiobooks

 

Whispersync is a neat feature that lets you synchronize the location of your latest read in the Kindle ebook and audiobook when you have both versions of the same title in your library. Many ebooks, though not all, offered by Amazon are Whispersync for Voice-ready enabled, allowing you to pick up where you left off from the audio or ebook version. It’s great because it combines the flexibility of the audiobook, like being able to multitask while listening to a book, and the handiness of highlights and writing notes on the Kindle ebooks.

 

Now, why would you want to buy both the ebook and audiobook versions of the same title? One reason is for the discounts!

 

When you buy either an audiobook or a Kindle ebook that is Whispersync for Voice-ready, Amazon will likely give you an offer to buy the other version at a heavily discounted price. Sometimes, the total price for this combination will be lower than the original price of either the audio or ebook version.

 

I usually prefer ebooks, since I like to go back to certain sections of the book, get quotes, etc., which would be difficult with the audio version. A few times, I’ve found out that buying the audiobook first, then taking advantage of the Whispersync offer, I get a lower total amount spent and I have both the ebook and audiobook versions in my library.

 

Here’s an example on how to do it, screenshots included.

 

How to Add Whispersync to Your Kindle Books and Get Audiobook Discounts

 

Example: I did this recently with Trevor Noah’s book, Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. With raving reviews, this book turns out to be a perfect example on why it’s great to have the ebook and audiobook versions. Trevor is both hilarious and insightful. He’s a comedian from South Africa and a brilliant storyteller. He’s currently heading the satirical news show The Daily Show, which he inherited from the legendary Jon Stewart.

 

Trevor was born during apartheid and grew up in the complex post-apartheid South Africa. His life stories are out of this world. Noah narrates the audiobook version, which is awesome, since he fully characterizes the people he mentions in the book. So, not only you get to listen to the words as he intended them to sound, you’ll also get the full affectation and the true pronunciations of the numerous languages that he masters. He even says “Volkswagen” the proper way.

 

This is the Amazon page for the Kindle book. It’s priced at $14.99.

Trevor Noah: Born A Crime

 

 

 

 

 

If you see on the right of the image, beneath the 1-Click purchase button, there is a box that you can check that says “Add Audible narration to your purchase.” In this case, the additional cost of the Audible narration is $4.99. To get both the ebook and audiobook, check this box.

Add Audible Narration

 

If you see the original price of the audiobook alone, it’s listed at $21.95. So if you actually go the ebook + audiobook route, your total is $14.99 + $4.99 = $19.98, which is less than the audiobook alone. Of course, there will be taxes applied to your purchase, but the taxes will exist in both cases. Note that if you have an Audible membership, you may get the 30% discount on any purchased audiobook, so this comparison wouldn’t apply. In any case, the additional cost of having both versions in your library is marginal.

Trevor Noah: Born A Crime Audiobook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional Notes

One thing that happened to me when I purchased this book was the notification that the credit card on record in my Amazon account and Audible account has to be the same. I think if they were the same, the purchase of both versions could be done simultaneously.

 

I actually had some Amazon credit that I could use to buy the Kindle ebook, so I went through the steps to purchase the ebook first, using my credit. Then I went to my Audible account, and it knew that I had purchased the ebook, so the audiobook was priced at $4.99. I then purchased the audiobook version using the credit card I had on the Audible account.

 

Kindle book purchase:

 

 

 

 

 

Audiobook purchase:

 

This means that if you have some Amazon credit (e.g., from gift cards, etc.), you cannot use this to purchase audiobooks, since the audiobooks are sold on the Audible website, with separate accounts. Just a heads up.

You can explore more titles and use this trick to see if you can get good deals on audiobooks. Many ebook titles, especially the classics, are free on Amazon. Once you’ve “bought” them and have the ebooks in your account, the audiobook offer becomes very cheap. To find Whispersync deals, or to scan through your ebook library to see the Whispersync discount offer, go to this page.

 

 

 

 

You can see the links there for deals or “Add Audible Narration to Books You Own”. The last link there will scan all of the ebooks you’ve owned and list the prices to add Audible narration.

 

Hope this is useful for you, and enjoy reading and listening!

 

Want ideas on which audiobooks to start listening to? Check out my favorite books from 2015, 2016, and 2017.

 

Other how-to articles on Audible Membership

How to Save Money on Audible Membership

 

Why Self-Learners Rule The 21st Century

Why Self-Learners Rule The 21st Century

This is the fifth post of a series on Individuality. Check out the firstsecondthird, and fourth article.

 

Self-learners rule the 21st century. Never before has it been so important and so easy to be an autodidact. Why? Because information is abundant and free.

 

If in times past self-learning was optional, today, not so much. Being able to educate ourselves is an essential skill to get ahead in this century.

 

It goes without saying that the Internet has completely transformed the way we learn and interact with information. Knowledge is no longer a privilege owned by a select few, locked up in institutions of higher learning or university libraries; it belongs to the mass. Anyone can access and generate new knowledge, repackage it and spread it back to the public. The cost of transmitting knowledge is close to zero.

 

Yet there is still a cost to be self-educated in the 21st century. It may not be money, but it still requires time and effort on our part. The good news is that it only depends on us. The bad news is that it only depends on us.

 

I’d say take it as good news, because if you embrace self-learning, opportunities await.

 

Because of information abundance, new phenomena emerge in society. New opportunities surface that previously were not prominent. What kinds of leadership are up for grabs in the Internet age? How do you distinguish yourself amidst the chatter, tweets, snaps, and selfies?

 

Here are 4 core ways you can create opportunities for yourself in the 21st century. Hint: all of them require self-learning.

 

Stories, Not Facts

 

With facts only a few keystrokes away, it is no longer crucial to be the person with an encyclopedic brain. Any ol’ John Doe can fact-check. Plus, no matter how much trivia a person knows, he can’t beat the collective knowledge of thousands of people. Wherein then lies the expertise?

 

The pivotal skill is in what one does with his knowledge. It’s not enough to know; you need to process that knowledge and produce something else. Memorization for the sake of memorization is becoming obsolete, unless your work needs to be done without the Internet.

 

Because information is ubiquitous, people naturally get overwhelmed. Out of this information-fatigue, a need emerges for leaders who can make some sense out of the facts. These are the people who can weave information together into stories, see nuances, assess and analyze. They are the ones who can synthesize across different subjects and disciplines, contextualize information, see connections and errors, and discern the signal from the noise.

 

There’s a new breed of leaders and influencers who curates and guides people to go where they need or want to go. Coaches, mentors, and thought leaders who can say, “Pay attention to this. Ignore that,” are born, because people don’t want to know everything; they just want to know the important things.

 

This guiding skill is a subjective one—no two people can do it exactly the same way. There’s no formula that you can plug in for every circumstance. The ones who can seize these leadership opportunities are the self-learners, those who can tap into their individualities to learn and create. They are the ones who can discover and tell their own stories.

 

Intrinsic Motivation, Not Carrots and Sticks

 

Udemy, Coursera, Khan Academy, MIT OpenCourseWare. The world of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) is here, and it’s here to stay. Traditional universities are adapting to this development. Courses and great teachers, previously enclosed within university walls, are now accessible to the world much at a low cost or for free. Does that mean, though, that everyone now is as educated as a top university graduate?

 

Not really, because most people don’t take advantage of them. So for them, it doesn’t make any difference whether there’s one free course or a 4-year’s worth of college degree out there.

 

Who benefits the most from these online courses? Who would sign-up and follow the curriculum? Who will actually stick to the program and finish the whole way through? Only a very small fraction of the population: the highly motivated self-learners.

 

Have you ever tried taking a free online course? It’s quite challenging, because self-education requires greater discipline than imposed learning. When other things compete for your time, especially when you pay nothing for the course, most people would choose to abandon it. Maybe “choose” is not the right word here; most people will let the course be abandoned.

 

There’s a good explanation for this. When it comes to learning, we are trained most of our lives to respond to carrots and sticks—rewards and punishments. When these things are taken away, the external incentives disappear. There’s no major incentive for the learning itself and no punishment when an assignment is skipped. What remains is the intrinsic motivation, which, if absent, then all the MOOC in the world would not make any difference.

 

To take advantage of the world of MOOC, we’d have to re-program ourselves to commit harder and persevere. We ought to cultivate the love of learning and know how to maintain our own curiosity. Further, we should also know what courses to take that will best serve our time. Is committing tens of hours for a course worthwhile to do in the context of our life goals?

 

Of course as humans we still respond to incentives and losses, but the difference now is that we have to know how to set these up ourselves, not relying on someone else’s watch. Know what motivates yourself and propels you to move. Put money into it if necessary; have some skin in the game.

 

The world of MOOC is not education by checklist: fulfilling requirements to get a degree. Rather, it’s a purpose-driven one. You’ve got to make the courses work for you, not you for them. They need to serve your purpose, your goals.

 

Ch-ch-ch-changes

 

With the democratization of information, the dynamic of knowledge also changes. Knowledge morphs in a much more rapid pace than ever before, so it’s easy to be overwhelmed, feeling like you’re always behind, and always playing catch-up. In many fields, it is no longer sufficient to rely on classroom instructions. That degree you aspire to for 2 or 4 years may be obsolete by the time you graduate. The textbooks you study are already outdated by the time they get printed, because much more new knowledge has been generated during the time the book gets edited, compiled, proofread, and printed.

 

It is no longer enough to know a set of knowledge. One has to also know how to manage the changing world; how to always learn and keep up with new developments; how to contextualize knowledge; how to understand the arc in the history of a field. Skills are needed to keep a pulse on new developments without becoming a wired-rat that chases every new and shiny thing. While keeping one eye on new developments, the other eye needs to discern timeless principles through reflection.

 

These skills, which are lifelong assets, are not normally taught in schools. So what you need to do is to complement school with your own learning, because these skills have become essential to succeed. There’s never a time when you can relinquish the responsibility of educating yourself completely to other people. You need to seek them out yourself, develop your own method, find others who have figured it out, and seek pointers.

 

Gone are the days when you can get degrees and sit comfortably on them for the rest of your life. The types of work that does the same thing every single day is fading fast from our society. Those industrial days are gone and they’re not coming back. Today, life is about re-investing in and re-inventing ourselves.

 

Actions, Not Theories

 

Because new knowledge is unpredictable, it’s futile to sit and wait until you know everything to start doing anything. Action is more important than theories. Move and discover, and the learning will happen along the way. Those lessons learned may change too, though, so don’t hold on to pet theories too tightly. Experiment and see what holds true.

 

Practitioners and empiricists are becoming leaders these days. I should mention that the experiments they do are not the ones outlined explicitly step-by-step with expected results, like in school. These are the experiments that true innovators do, discovery by trial and error. Based on the results, they tweak, iterate, and refine.

 

The skill to experiment, to ask questions and develop methods to answer them ourselves, to think, to do, and to evaluate, is much in need today. It requires initiatives and it engages a person’s mind, body, and soul. It’s not easy, but those that develop it are going to be the leaders in this century.

 

 

I hope I’ve convinced you that it is imperative for all of us to develop and refine our self-learning skill. There simply is too much to lose otherwise. The great news is that this skill is not a magical superpower. Rather, it is more like a muscle that exists in every single person. It can be developed. Its growth depends on its usage and continuous practice.

 

Everyone can be a self-learner. I believe everyone has the stuff needed to be a leader in the 21st century and make an impact in other people’s lives. Use them, start taking actions; don’t wait until someone else tells you to.

 

Want more? Check out the others posts in the Individuality series:

Individuality: What Makes You, You

Individuality and Creativity: A Christian Perspective

Hamilton: How Genius Work Happens

Curiosity: The Key to Maximal Learning

 

How To Be An Excellent Student

How To Be An Excellent Student

This article continues the series on how to be an excellent student and life learner. Read the previous article here: Before Learning: The Role of Awe in Life and Learning and After Learning: The Role of Reflection in Gaining Wisdom.

 

In After Learning, I shared what I wish I had done as a student to grasp the subject of my courses better. Here, I’m sharing tips specifically on how to be an excellent student who is not just smarter, but wiser, knowing how to contextualize and apply the knowledge to real life situations.

 

These are not meant to replace the usual taking notes, completing assignments, and regular studying that are given activities of a student’s life. They are, instead, ways to get the most out of those other activities, be it lectures, assignments, office hours, etc. The goal is primarily to increase and deepen understanding of the subject, which secondarily, I would think, would reflect in the grades. These are also written in the context of a high school, college, or graduate course, but the principles are applicable to other learning contexts.

 

Before the Course

 

Study the syllabus. Your instructor has put together a plan on how she would guide you through a particular subject for the whole semester. This is done with no small effort. The syllabus is the highest level of perspective on everything you will learn. It tells you a lot about how the instructor thinks and what she deems as important. I used to not pay attention to this, to my own detriment, like the table of contents of a book. But in fact, this is a roadmap that, if followed, will guide your way throughout the semester. Study it; pose questions on why it is arranged this way. You can even ask the instructor the why and how she arranges her course during office hours. Let me tell you a secret: most instructors would be thrilled to be asked these questions by a genuine and true inquirer.

 

Studying the syllabus also helps you to know, before coming to lectures, what will be covered on a given day. This way, you won’t be a passive recipient of information, but an engaged, active listener. And an active listener will always absorb and retain more information.

 

Skim the textbook/reading materials. Spend a few minutes to an hour to skim the textbook and reading materials. The purpose of this is to get an initial impression on what you will learn. Read the first and last few paragraphs of each chapter to get a sense of its key ideas, flow, and arrangement of thoughts. When the course eventually gets to each section, your brain will have some memory and familiarity to the subject, and will absorb information better. Psychologically, you’ll be more at ease in facing a more familiar topic than a completely foreign one. If you’re majoring in something that requires loads of reading, skimming will help you retain more insights on the reading materials.

 

During the Course

 

Reflect each day. Ask yourself, what did I learn today? What happened in class? Sometimes we get too busy taking notes, running from one class to another, that we don’t get to absorb what is being taught. Take a few minutes to review the day. Remember, repetition deepens impression.

 

Each week, ask yourself, how does this week’s lessons connect with last week’s? Where are we now in the roadmap? How does it differ or enhance the previous topics? Refer back to the syllabus to see where you are in the context of the whole semester.

 

Converse with classmates, teaching assistants, and instructors about the subject. Ask questions that come up during your personal reflection time, listen to what they think, and synthesize your own conclusions. I may not remember what a lecture covers, but I can usually remember good conversations.

 

Go to office hours. Most instructors and TAs are just waiting for you to come and talk to them. They usually don’t see many students until an assignment is due or before exams. The truth is, they would love to have conversations with students from the beginning of the class. These are people who dedicate their lives to academia. Nothing gives them more joy and fulfillment than seeing students who love to learn. So talk to them. They’re humans, trust me. Ask them about their career, why they chose to be in academia. You may be in for surprises.

 

If you want to take it to the next level, create your own thought process map or chart in organizing the course materials. If you were to teach the course, how would you do it?

 

After the Course

 

Once the semester ends and final exams are over, don’t just discard the materials you’ve learned and dump all memory to oblivion. Spend some time contextualizing the course in the bigger framework of your life education.

 

What are the key principles you learned from the course?

 

Connect the subject with other courses or fields of study. How do they relate to each other? How do they make you a better doctor/engineer/social worker or whatever career you are pursuing? This exercise helps you understand what relevance does this subject have in the world. Write down your thoughts to summarize the course and the whole semester.

 

 

These things don’t have to take a lot of your time; a few minutes here and there will do. And you don’t even have to do all of them. You can start implementing one thing into your daily habits, and add on later. In fact, I would argue any one item would naturally lead to the others, since this is about approaching school as a wisdom seeker. When this self-evaluation becomes a habit, it will change the way you live and learn hereafter.

 

Further reading: 

If you want to learn more on how to be an efficient learner, read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. It has a brilliant section on how to skim a book!

 

Photo credit: Freekpik

After Learning: The Role of Reflection in Gaining Wisdom

After Learning: The Role of Reflection in Gaining Wisdom

This essay continues the thoughts in a previous essay, Before Learning: The Role of Awe in Life and Learning.

 

If wonder is the beginning of wisdom, perhaps reflection is the other bookend, the process by which we form thoughts, shape opinions, and reach conclusions on the things we learn.

 

If I Could Do School Over

 

If I were to re-do my schooling—I wouldn’t—I would take more time to reflect. Here’s why. Throughout the years of formal education, I tended to do better in final exams than in midterms, because I learned the most when studying for finals. The distinct difference here was the scope of the materials. During finals, I studied the entire curriculum for a given subject, which gave me a narrative of the past semester.

 

Having this big-picture view, I finally understood the context of each individual lesson, why we went through certain subjects, and how they connected to other topics in the class. I knew this then and I know it now: I was always a big-picture learner. I could grasp knowledge better if I knew its context, as if fitting it to a larger puzzle in my mind.

 

In my field, most classes involved solving problems with a multitude of equations. During the semester, it was easy to get lost in what the lecture covered at a particular moment, since the equations looked similar from week to week. How did week 5’s problem differ from week 4? Since the lectures went over nuances of similar problems, it could be hard to discern the differences in real time.

 

It also didn’t help that during lectures, I was too busy copying notes from the board, limiting my attention to the essence of the lecture.

 

But all of these fragmented pieces would come together beautifully during finals (and often not before this). I now understood how to apply the equations in the appropriate time and situation. I could understand the problem formulation, the principles that applied to it, and the method to solve it. This integration, to me, was the pinnacle of learning. I finally grasped what I studied.

 

Yet, truthfully, I did not have to wait until finals for this knowledge-alignment to happen. It could have taken place throughout the semester; I just did not have the wisdom to try seeing the big picture. If I could do school over, I would reflect more to understand the context of what I learned each day.

 

The Growth of the Mind

 

In Before Learning, I mentioned Mortimer Adler’s—author of How to Read a Book—definition of learning as the process by which the gap or inequality between the mind of the teacher and the student is closed. Once this gap is closed, though, equality is reached, and a learner can then evaluate and judge the situation for herself. She may agree or disagree with the teacher, fully or partially. The bottom line is, this post-learning experience is a crucial part in independent thinking–to think for oneself and not be a mere reflector of other people’s thoughts.

 

In reflection, we organize knowledge into a mental framework or worldview. Perhaps before, we only knew one side of an argument, but after learning, we see another side and gain perspective on our original position. Perhaps we gain wider horizons on how the world works. A life of continual learning means a continual shifting of this mental structure, not always drastically, but a shift nonetheless. This is the growth of the mind.

 

The pace of schooling these days could well prevent a student from integrating all these bits of knowledge into a coherent set of insights, if she didn’t take time to reflect. Thus, I’m advocating a carving out of time to do this slow thinking in one’s life schedule.

 

Contextualization and Connection

 

Personally, reflection is about two things: contextualization and connection.

 

Contextualization is about understanding the bigger picture, the context in which a particular subject resides. It’s about answering these questions: Why is this subject important? What problem does it address? What problems does it not address? Are there limitations to its proposed solutions?

 

Usually, this bigger context is a real life issue. In scientific journal papers, the biggest context is usually the introductory paragraph, big statements like curing cancer, solving the energy problem, etc. The subject matter that we study, though, is usually a subset of a subset of the solutions, meaning that there is a cascade of contexts between the biggest picture and our subject matter. Developing this mental framework takes time, but will distinguish those who excel in understanding from regular learners.

 

Connection is about linking the subject matter to other adjacent topics within the same context. How does this material connect with what I already know? Does it complement, expand, or contradict my previous understanding? How about its relationship with other approaches or propositions? What other disciplines are relevant to this subject?

 

This approach applies some divergent thinking. It would also help prevent thinking about something in a single narrative.

 

Maybe there is one more dimension to reflection worth adding here. It’s personalization—how does this learning change me as a person? Am I different? What would I do differently given this new understanding?

 

Reflect to Gain Wisdom

 

There are ways to develop a habit of reflection in life. I’d like to suggest here a few tips on how to do this practically.

 

For students, reflect often on what you learned in class that day. Do it often, daily or weekly (monthly or quarterly is too long, in my opinion). Pushing it further, write down your thoughts—a line or two—each time. This will help you retain information.

 

When the quarter or semester is over, ask yourself, what new understanding did you gain compared to the previous semester? How did the class connect to other subjects? Concurrently, this reflection would also help you find interests and explore a potential career in the future.

 

For the general population, take time to ask yourself, have I learned anything recently? Am I growing? Are my skills developing? Without the structure of formal education, we can get lost in just doing the same things week by week, month by month, and year by year. It’s important to take stock on our growth process in all aspects of life and work.

 

For readers, after reading a book, ask the following questions:

– What did the author propose?

– What problem did he address? What didn’t he address?

– What truths are proposed in the book?

– Do I agree, fully or partially? When does that truth apply, and when does it not apply?

– How am I changed as a result of reading this book?

 

Taking the time to do this instead of rushing to another book will help you remember the content of the book longer. Adler’s books, for example, influenced me in formalizing a structure of post-learning reflection to enhance wisdom. It taught me that there’s work to be done before and after reading a book, and that I am obligated to form an opinion/position.

 

 

Reflection is key in the art of self-learning, serving as guideposts to keep us both motivated and self-aware. If I could share one tenet to live by as a learner, it would be this: Study to be smarter, Reflect to be wiser.

 

Photo credit: FreeImages.com

 

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