The Best Ways To Learn

A new report studied them. Annie Murphy Paul summarizes the findings:

In contrast to familiar practices like highlighting and rereading, the learning strategies with the most evidence behind them aren’t well known outside the psych lab. Take "distributed practice," for example. This tactic involves spreading out your study sessions, rather than engaging in one marathon. "Cramming" information at the last minute may allow you to get through that test or meeting, but the material will quickly disappear from memory. It’s much more effective to dip into the material at intervals over time. And the longer you want to remember the information—whether it’s two weeks or two years—the longer the intervals should be.

The second learning strategy that comes highly recommended by the report’s authors is practice testing. Yes, more tests—but these are not for a grade. Research shows that merely the act of calling information to mind strengthens that memory and aids in future retrieval.