All nighters, iced caramel macchiatos from the coffee house and page after page of notes; we have all been there, cramming every line from the textbook into our brains and hoping all the information remains long enough to pass the exam. “Don’t wait until the last minute!” has been drilled into our minds since high school. We spend hour after hour going through our class notes and reading through the chapters. What hasn’t been drilled into us is that although reading information over and over again is a good start, it is not necessarily the best way to study, even when starting weeks before the test.
So, what is the best way to study?
Testing. Those who frequently try to recall what they learn, or quiz themselves, were found to perform the best, according to Dr. Christine Harrington in her article for UWire, “All Study Strategies Are Not Equal: Save time by studying smarter“, on Wednesday, Sept. 2.
She mentions a 2005 study by Henry L. Roediger and Jeffrey D. Karpicke, Test-Enhanced Learning, in which the men asked 120 undergraduate students at Washington University to study after splitting them into three groups. The first group was only asked to look over the material (SSSS), the second group was asked to look over the material and then test themselves once (SSST), and the final group was asked to study the material once and then repeatedly test themselves (STTT). Initially, the SSSS group retained more information, but, as time passed the STTT group performed better, as seen below:
We live in a day and age where there is an App for everything, including ones to help us test ourselves. ExamTime allows users to construct everything they need to quiz themselves, from mind maps – diagrams that help to visually organize material – to flashcards and quizzes. Another program is MindTap, which has flashcards and quizzes readily available for students to use. Before flashcards and testing themselves, students should still look over notes and read through books carefully.
“I encourage students to complete readings before they are scheduled to be discussed in class,” said Dr. Everly, “and to review lecture notes regularly throughout the week. That way, during the lectures, students can integrate the professor’s instruction with what they’ve already read and ask questions about unclear topics right away.”
This way, students familiarize themselves with the material and are able to apply it not only when the test comes around but also in everyday situations. It also makes for more interesting class discussions. Students test themselves without realizing it: they’re asking questions and learning the right answers.
“We need to think differently about tests,” said Dr. Harrington in her article. “We used to think about tests as a way to show that we have learned, but this research shows us that testing is also a way to learn!”