So what are the best learning techniques?

We’ve looked at (some of) the evidence for different learning techniques, but which ones are the most effective? The clear winners are active retrieval and distributed practice (click on each technique for the evidence and a more in-depth analysis), so definitely try and make them a part of your learning/revision schedule. After that, it seems that summarisation has limited utility if you know how to do it properly (if you don’t it appears to be a bit of a waste of time). Self explanation may be useful, but there’s not really enough evidence to conclusively say that either way. Rereading and highlighting are very ineffective ways of learning so I would encourage you not to use them, especially if it stops you from using far more effective techniques. They may also install a false sense of understanding because you are more familiar with them, rather than actually understanding the material.

So if you want to be as effective as possible with your learning and give yourself the best chance of doing well, do these things: test yourself on the material; spread out your revision sessions and don’t just highlight or reread your notes!

PsychologyBrief. (2014). Active Retrieval. Available: Last accessed 19/02/2015.
PsychologyBrief. (2014). Highlighting. Available: Last accessed 19/02/2015.
PsychologyBrief. (2014). Rereading. Available: Last accessed 19/02/2015.
PsychologyBrief. (2014). Self-explanation. Available: Last accessed 19/02/2015.
PsychologyBrief. (2014). Summarising. Available: Last accessed 19/02/2015.
PsychologyBrief. (2015). Distributed Practice. Available: Last accessed 19/02/2015. (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-63654510-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

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