Anyone who wants to succeed in school or work will need to have some rock-solid study strategies in place for learning the material. Although most people think of a formal school classroom when the subject of study strategies comes up, these skills can serve you well in a variety of situations where you want to learn something and be able to remember it later. As you explore your options for learning, you will probably find some strategies that work better for your own unique learning style.
Spaced practice is not for the procrastinator who tends to cram for tests at the last minute. Spaced practice involves early planning and spending a short amount of time every day studying material. The basis for this strategy is spreading out the amount of time you spend studying because this forces your brain to retrieve the information repeatedly from your memory. The more times you retrieve it, the more likely you are to remember it in the long term.
With retrieval practice, you flex your brain to see how much you remember. Taking practice tests is an excellent example of retrieval practice. You could also try rewriting your class notes from memory to see how much you remember. If you drill with flashcards, you can practice explaining concepts and defining key words until you have a firm grasp of the information.
Elaboration involves questioning and expanding on ideas so you can dive deeper into the hows and whys of concepts. Go ahead and question how things work together, and then learn the answers. Practice explaining ideas in your own mind. You could also work in small groups with others to explain ideas. You might be surprised how much you can learn and remember by talking things out.
Switching up your study time can be an effective way to get big results. Known as interleaving, this strategy simply involves switching between studying different subjects or ideas without spending too much time on one. Moving between topics can strengthen your understanding because you force your brain to refocus every time you go back to a topic. You might even discover connections between topics, which can help to deepen your understanding.
Sometimes ideas feel a little fuzzy or abstract, making it hard to feel confident about your understanding. Finding examples of these concepts can bring the ideas into sharper focus. When you can personalize a concept with something you have experienced, you make it more relevant and memorable.
Visualizing information is an effective way for many people to learn. If you have notes or text to study and you want to make it easier to understand or remember, try expressing it in a different way. Take a page of history notes and break it down into a detailed timeline, or learn a list of terms by making a diagram that shows the definition of each word. Even the process of representing the information in a different way can be an effective study method.