What is the most effective way to learn physics material without the aid of a formal course? Trying to (only) read material really thoroughly and take notes takes a huge amount of concentration, and doesn't seem to have been very effective for me. I think it would be amazing to meet someone with the talent/ability to just absorb complete understanding from just reading a book. Can some of you guys do this? My latest idea is to just read the chapter, spend time thinking about subtleties when they seem critical, and then do all the difficult problems of the end chapter (although not all books have problems at the end heh). Also, when I eventually/hopefully get to graduate school, should I plan on doing these sort of "extraneous" studies or am I going to need to just focus all my efforts on marking off the check boxes and goals that are laid out for me? Doing a TA-ship and 9-12 hours (which is apparently the norm?) maybe won't leave time for anything at all, or maybe not.