This is the second post in a series looking at the most effective ways to revise, based on the work of The Learning Scientists. The Learning Scientists are cognitive psychologists who want to make scientific research on learning more accessible to students and teachers. Their aim is to motivate students to study and increase the use of effective study and teaching strategies that are backed by research. I’ve met Yana Weinstein PhD at an education conference in Southampton – she’s the real deal!
Spaced Practice: what is it?
Spaced practice, sometimes called distributed practice, means that you revise little and often rather than all at once.
Spaced Practice: why?
Spacing out your revision so that you revisit your material again and again over time with breaks in between is far more effective than cramming all at once. Studies have shown that revisiting material helps secure the connections in your brain.
Spaced Practice: how do I do it?
Spaced practice needs planning – but it can start straight away. In any year, you can start spaced practice immediately to help secure your learning for the future. At the weekend, give yourself time to go over what you’ve learned in the previous week. It doesn’t need to be long – just a few minutes to make sure you’ve remembered what you’ve studied during the week.
Spaced Practice: next steps
After a few weeks, go back over the stuff from a month ago to make sure it’s still there. If you have to remind yourself of things that you’ve forgotten – don’t worry! Re-learning and reminding yourself of things you’ve forgotten actually makes the retention rate better.
In the run-up to exams, make sure you revise your material a little and often, leaving spaces of a few days between sessions on the same subject.
When you are revising, use the retrieval practice method, elaboration (see post #3!) and self-testing. Don’t just read over your notes – make your brain work hard with the material so you remember it better.
Finally, don’t leave all your revision to the night before – you won’t remember it! You’re actually far better off getting a good night’s sleep than pulling an all-nighter. Your brain will be sharper and more effective for the exam if you’re well rested.