To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test

UST finals begin tomorrow. How do you study and how successful are you at taking tests?

New York Times article reviewed a report that compared students’ study methods.  Students who read the material and then took a test scored better when compared to two familiar study methods: “mind-mapping” and “cramming”.   The summary statement suggests that angst results in a positive outcome, as “It may also be that the struggle involved in recalling something helps reinforce it in our brains.”

In the experiments, the students were asked to predict how much they would remember a week after using one of the methods to learn the material. Those who took the test after reading the passage predicted they would remember less than the other students predicted — but the results were just the opposite.“I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge,” said the lead author, Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University. “I think that we’re tapping into something fundamental about how the mind works when we talk about retrieval.”

Several cognitive scientists and education experts said the results were striking. … But “when we use our memories by retrieving things, we change our access” to that information, Dr. Bjork said. “What we recall becomes more recallable in the future. In a sense you are practicing what you are going to need to do later.”

So give up on the map drawing and coffee-induce cramming sessions.  Just read the material!  And good luck on your exams.