• Posted in February 2009
  • Article written by Michael Carroll


How to do four months of study in one afternoon

Many years ago I had an important exam to pass. Back then I used to own a Financial Services company. The government rightly decided that the whole financial services sector needed more regulation, and part of that regulation was a series of professional exams.  I had passed the first set easily. The next exam was on Management and formed part of the Advanced Financial Planning Certificate, which was on par with the style of exam you would take as part of a degree.  The syllabus the exam was based on was very wide, including topics like health and safety, employment law, training and competency and management theory.

My motivation was short term. I had no long term vision for staying in the financial sector. I was already building a new business I had entered – NLP and personal development. In fact I was looking for a buyer for my financial services business. The exams were a real inconvenience to me and just necessary to keep my licence until a buyer was found. To cut a long story short, 4 months before the exam I made a revision plan and didn’t stick it. Two months later, I revised the plan because I had done nothing and I didn’t stick to the new plan either. The day before the exam, I thought ‘I need a miracle to pass this exam’.

I sat in my study at home, my inner voice at it’s most critical, wondering could I cram four months of study into one day and pull off that miracle. Out of the corner of my eye, on the book shelf, I saw the PhotoReading home study set by Paul Scheele. I had bought this study set several years before and had some good results. It was a skill I had just stopped using for a while, and now it was time to start again. I decided PhotoReading would help me pass this exam and got ready and cleared my desk ready for my revision.

Step one: Prepare
Preparation is vital for any task and that includes reading. For PhotoReading the preparation is a short but very important element. Preparation consists of two parts :–
• Identifying your purpose: My purpose for PhotoReading was to pass the exam. My purpose with a book would be precisely what I wanted from the book.
• Enter Ideal State of Mind: The ideal state for reading is a state where the mind quietens, tension is released from the body and attention focussed on the material to create absorption. This special technique enables people to double their normal speed of reading. Using this step, I eliminated my critical inner voice and any doubts I had about the exam and was ready.

Step two: Preview
Preview is where you scan the material and establish how it will help you achieve your purpose. You also get a sense of the structure of the material. In the case of my study material in the huge binders, some of the material was relevant, some partially relevant and some of it would not feature in the exam. I was aware of chapters, sections and their designs. I had a mental structure.

Step three: PhotoRead
This is the step that a lot of people get excited about, the mental download into your unconscious of vast amounts of written material. We use a slightly different state for PhotoReading, known as the ‘resource state’. In my study I sat at my desk closed my eyes and guided myself into this state. I firstly totally relaxed my body, then I relaxed my mind, I was physically and mentally relaxed as I entered the ‘resource state’. I opened my eyes, and entered what we call PhotoFocus.  This is a soft type of vision so when you look at the text, it is blurred. I was looking at what seemed like an image, but not seeing words. I turned the pages at a page a second. If I lost rhythm or heard my inner voice, I took a few seconds to
re-centre myself. It took me just ten minutes to PhotoRead both manuals. I had taken all that material into my unconscious mind, and it was there under the surface waiting to be activated.  I congratulated my unconscious for doing such a good job and giving the suggestion that what I had just PhotoRead would be available to me when I needed it for the exam. 

Step four: Postview
Immediately after the PhotoReading stage I postviewed the material. This is similar to the preview when I was looking once again at structure and discovering where the most relevant information to me was in the text. The difference with postview is you have innate knowledge from the PhotoRead as to where to look. I didn’t’ think about what I was doing, I just let my unconscious guide me through the material, highlighting key materials and organising, setting priorities and questions in my mind for the next stage. Within about fifteen minutes I had postviewed both books, I was feeling good and ready for the next stage of the process.

Step five: Activate
I had lunch just to let the vast amount of material incubate in my mind. You could say, I was digesting in more ways than one. Activation is the next stage of PhotoReading where you seek to actively understand what you have PhotoRead.
I went back into my study where I now had flip chart sized paper and lots of coloured pens. I used special activation strategies to whizz through the material. I was feeling a real familiarity with what I was reading.  My preview and postview had given my conscious mind the structure and my PhotoRead had given my unconscious mind the content. With activation I was bringing these processes together. I used the colours and flipcharts to create vivid mind maps with lots of visual prompts to help me remember. I then stuck my mind maps on the wall, they were covering my whole study. This process took about two hours, I looked around my study at my work, at the visual representations of those two huge binders. I felt good, I felt that I really knew this material. My confidence about this exam had increased significantly.

Beyond PhotoReading
So far I had spent three hours on revising material I had originally planned to study over four months. I was confident, but I wanted to do some more study and experiment with something new. I had been studying hypnosis, and in hypnosis there is phenomenon called hypermnesia which is heightened sensory awareness of memory. I thought I would explore this. I sat in the middle of my study and put myself in an alerted state, opened my eyes and looked at the first flip chart on the wall. In this state I could make the chart appear much larger than it really was, and I studied all the visual material on the chart. I closed my eyes to see if I could visually represent the material on the chart in my mind, I could.  I did the same with the next chart and the next and so on. I continued this process until I could recreate all the charts in my mind. This process took me maybe 2 – 3 hours with some breaks. By dinner time, I was very confident about the exam. I had a good nights rest and woke up the next day ready.

The exam
At the exam I put myself in the altered state. I needed to be able to access my mental flip charts and write.  That day I wrote for three hours answering complex case studies. Afterwards I knew I had done well. Six weeks later, I got my results, and yes, I passed. I made an enquiry as to the number of passes. Eighty people sat the exam from the network I was connected with, four passed. One had done just an afternoon of study. I write this not to impress you, but to impress on you that life can be easier when you learn how your mind works best. I thought I needed a miracle to pass the exam, all I really needed was a strategy that was fast and effective.

About The Author

Michael Carroll is the founder and course director of the NLP Academy and co-founder with John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair of the International Trainers Academy of NLP.

He is the only NLP Master Trainer in the world certified by John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair and he works closely with them in developing and delivering high quality NLP training.



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