Just how do you commit something from short- to long-term memory? It’s a fascinating answer, and one that can provide students with a significant edge when it comes to test prep.
First the bad news: Cramming the night before just won’t work. This is a scientifically backed fact and one illustrated by the Forgetting Curve. What’s that? It’s a theory that posits that we forget most of what we learn within three days. So how can you avoid that?
With something that’s called spaced repetition, or spaced learning. Simply put, by revisiting information consistently and gradually over an extended period of time, we commit it to long-term memory. So instead of pulling an all-nighter 24 hours before a test, you’re better off starting early and consistently revisiting the information. Key to the learning concept is to gradually increase intervals of time between reviewing materials.
Here’s the key concept: Research has shown that repeating something 20 times over the course of one day is less effective than repeating something 10 times over the course of a week.
Want to really ace that chemistry test? Do this:
- Consume new information and then within 20-24 hours, review notes you took on it.
- One day after that, try to recall the information, this time without looking at the notes.
- Then for the next week, try to quickly recall the information a few times without reviewing notes, increasing the duration of time between sessions.
- Bonus hack: Ditch the computer and hand-write concepts the first time you’re learning them. It will help commit the ideas to long-term memory.
For more information about spaced repetition, read this article.