Written by Stacie Taylor-Cima, originally published on Medium.com

I’m  a coding newbie with a packed schedule: I’m a full-time employee at a  startup, a mother, and a full stack web development student. With a busy life, finding an effective way to study was crucial to my  success as a beginner coder. Below are a few tips and tricks I’ve  learned along the way that I hope help others learning to code!

Learning  anything new can seem a bit overwhelming — especially when your subject  is as vast, ever-changing, and dynamic as the great world of software  development. Remember when you were in elementary school and could study for a spelling test by just making flashcards and repeating them a  hundred times? Well, things aren’t so simple with coding.

Learning  to code takes a great deal of focus, patience, and dedication. It’s  easy to just go through the motions of writing code without truly  understanding the concepts — but this is absolutely detrimental to your  goal of becoming a super-star software developer. If this is happening  to you, turn around right now and go back to where you stopped  understanding.

Throughout  my experience with learning to code, I’ve been able to pinpoint a few  study techniques from which I benefited and was able to gain a deeper  (and lasting) understanding of what I learned.


Write it out:

Hand-writing  notes (and code) may seem like a waste of time and a bit  counter-intuitive for students learning how to code, BUT a handful of  extremely credible studies have been published that conclude “students who write out their notes by hand actually learn more than those to type their notes on laptops.” (Allison Eck, NOVA | https://goo.gl/52w6NR)

I  imagine most of you already know this to be true of your own learning  habits. But even for me — a serious note-lover — it can be challenging  to actually get out a pen and paper and take notes. Having a digital  version offers far more potential for building on your ideas,  rearranging them, sharing them, etc.

So,  if time allows, I highly recommend first taking notes by hand, then  transcribing them. This can be time consuming, but going over the  material multiple times and engaging with it both physically and  digitally can offer you a much deeper understanding.

The Process:

Pro Tip: Now that you’ve gotten some excellent documentation written about coding,  turn them into a blog! They say they best way to learn is to teach and  blogging is an excellent way to practice putting your knowledge into a  format that other can learn from and be inspired by.

Type it out:

Don’t  fall victim to copy/paste. Typing code instead of copy-pasting it  provides a better learning ROI because we’re practicing instead of just  reading. — Fagner Brack

By  typing it out yourself, you’re familiarizing yourself with the code on a  whole new level. Things you thought you knew when you talked through  the code might become less clear when you’re actually adding it to your  own script. This practice is sure to lead to excellent questions that  will help you develop a deeper understanding of the code.

Keep in mind: when you’re in a technical interview, you can’t copy/paste, so you need  to know how to do it with your own fingers (…and brain).

The Process:

Map it out:

When working with robust coding languages, tracking down and understanding  where all of the pieces go can get a bit overwhelming. In the same sense  that you’ll learn more by taking handwritten notes, I truly believe  that you can learn a great deal by pulling your code out into the world  and organizing it with your hands! I had an incredibly talented mentor (Carrie Coxwell,  @carriecoxwell) suggest that I put the code on note cards and organize  it on a wall. I was intimidated by the time this task would take, but it  proved to be one of the single best lessons I’ve experienced so far in  my coding journey.

The Process:

This  process will lead to many aha-moments! Writing the code out by hand on  the note cards offers a lot of insight that you might have missed when  typing it into your text editor and will lead to some great questions  that will help you focus your studies. Then being able to step back and  see how everything is tied together gives you a much clearer picture of  how exactly your project is structured. Do it! I promise you’ll learn  from it.


I  hope you find these study tips helpful and inspiring. If you have  awesome study hacks that have been invaluable to you, please share them  with the rest of us so we can learn together!

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