Make it Stick Part (2/2)

  • Vary your learning by deliberately increasing the difficulty or remixing the pattern of how you are tested. This allows for much stronger learning
  • Knowledge is more durable if you have thoroughly understood it, has emotional weight, and is connected with other knowledge that you hold in memory.
  • Avoid pretending you know the answer.

Simple English:

Introducing artificial difficulty, or breaking up a pattern is an effective method to keep yourself challenged.

If what you are studying feels effortless, make a firm attempt to increase the difficulty. Effortless feels good, but minimal learning takes place.

Avoid focusing an entire day on a single subject or chapter. Don’t complete your revision by going chapter by chapter.

Mix it up. How would it look like? You would do topic 20, 10, 3, 18 and then 7, in any order you prefer. Because you are forced to refocus and draw on a different set of information as you jump around, it’s more effortful.

Exams do not go in order. In order for learning to be applicable for exams or a practical, you need to simulate the same situation or condition. This means reading a Math textbook is completely useless since you actually have to SOLVE the problems in random topical order in the exams.

If you really want to keep your long term learning as efficient as possible, consider something along the lines of: “Finish Science Chapter 15 -> do an English informal letter -> learn new English Vocabulary -> Flashcard Category 3 Revision for History -> Practice Math Chapter 3 -> etc

Each attempt can take roughly 30 – 45 minutes. The key here is to vary your learning and keep yourself on your toes. Be sure to take a short break after every hour. It helps you forget a little and refreshes the mind. Both are essential for learning.

Now here are the most powerful retrievals you can muster:

Rewrite what you understand in your own words. (ensure key words or concepts are not lost) Simply put, summarise what you learnt. This is immensely effortful and draws on the full strength of your learning.

Teach what you know. It’s challenging but you will immediately notice what concepts you are unclear about. As Einstein said: “If you can’t explain it to a 6 year old, you don’t understand it.”

The more you can connect what you have learnt to what you know, the more durable the knowledge.

Rather than memorise, ask yourself how this information is useful to you right now. Do you agree with that point of view? The more links established, the more powerful the learning.

And the last point: We have all made the mistake of sweeping through questions and just thinking that we know the answer. Don’t do that. You will find that when you attempt to answer the question, it’s actually harder than you imagined. Treat a practice test like an actual test.