How to remember everything you learn


So what are the so called ‘best methods to studying and remembering stuff?’ In this, we are going to explore what spaced repetition and retrieval practice are and why tests are actually good for you. In addition, I am going to highlight why “rereading information” doesn’t do you any good. This one is going to be a short one since most of the science has been explained in the last article. If you haven’t read it, you can you can here.

Retrieval practice

Retrieval practice is learning to access information that you have read and placed in your brain somewhere. As I outlined in the last article, you brain deletes per se, the things that you haven’t accessed in a long time. Hence retrieval practice is not only a way of telling your brain not to remove that information because you will need it, but it’s making that information easily accessible.

Retrieval practice is also called “active recall”. This is a great phrase because it implies the need to be awake and concentrating while studying. And to recall something, you need to be asked about it (or you need to see someone wearing the top your ex used to wear. That’s a great way to recall stuff). Questions, questions, questions then are the name of the game. Have you wondered why there are questions at the end of textbook chapters? That’s because education authors understand that actively trying to recall what you just read is the best way to study and remember.

And if you are a student in the health sciences department, this website is just for you as it has questions on all topics in Physiology and Anatomy.

Why tests are actually good for you

Tests are a great attempt at forcing students to actively recall. I can surely relate to this. There is a question that in an exam, I felt like I should remember the answer to, but my brain then goes on flight mode. The moment I go out of the exam room and look up the answer to that question, I never forget it thereafter. And that’s ultimately the point of tests in university. When you get into a field, you no longer make mistakes out of incompetency because they, hopefully, have been ironed out.

Spaced repetition

Half-life. Good when we ingest radioactive barium for x-ray scans. Bad for end of semester tests. Spaced repetition is when we review information we study after certain intervals. This has two main advantages. The first is, we get to update the information in our heads and see if it is still accurate. But more importantly, if you look at the picture below, spaced repetition flattens out the forgetting curve. This means if you were supposed to forget something in 2 days, after a few times of spaced repetition (and retrieval practice😉), it will take you maybe 4 days to forget it.

And the results are exponential. The more you do it, the longer you will be able to remember bits of information. No wonder you can’t forget that adding 1 to 1 is 2. Probably the half of that to you now is 300 years, and even if you lived that long, it would only increase since you always recall that 1+1 = 2.

Don’t unnecessarily repeat reading books

I get the pressure and I understand it. Still heavily working upon it but there is always the temptation to tell yourself “I will reread the topic again.” The disadvantages of this are huge. Usually when exam time comes around, you don’t have enough time to read meticulously all the topics you need to know. That only adds to the pressure you feel and you end up feeling flustered.
Instead, incorporating spaced repetition and active recall into our daily routines, means that when exam times comes, the information you need is already there. Moreover, you have saved yourself gazillions of time that you could have wasted rereading books.

Conclusion

One way or the other, we have to find ways to include these things into our studying regimes as they are scientifically proven to be the most effective ways of learning. But it is also concerning how we have never learnt how to study. We all just stumbled our way through life making up different study methods and watching YouTube videos.
So in the articles to come, we will be going over how to study and all the jazz that surrounds getting more out of your study time. In other words, we want to discover how to be more efficient and productive and if that interests you, catch you here next Monday at 6pm.

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