Rating the Best Ways to Study
- Some study methods work in many different situations and across topics, boosting test performance and long-term retention. Learning how to learn can have lifelong benefits.
- Self-testing and spreading out study sessions—so-called distributed practice—are excellent ways to improve learning. They are efficient, easy to use and effective.
- Underlining and rereading, two methods that many students use, are ineffective and can be time-consuming.
- Other learning techniques need further testing and evaluation. In the meantime, students and teachers can put proved study methods to use in classrooms and at home.
Education generally focuses on what you study, such as algebra, the elements of the periodic table or how to conjugate verbs. But learning how to study can be just as important, with lifelong benefits. It can teach you to pick up knowledge faster and more efficiently and allow you to retain information for years rather than days.
Cognitive and educational psychologists have developed and evaluated numerous techniques, ranging from rereading to summarizing to self-testing, for more than 100 years. Some common strategies markedly improve student achievement, whereas others are time-consuming and ineffective. Yet this information is not making its way into the classroom. Teachers today are not being told which learning techniques are supported by experimental evidence, and students are not being taught how to use the ones that work well. In fact, the two study aids that students rely on the most are not effective. One of them may even undermine success.
This article was originally published with the title What Works, What Doesn't.