How to spend less time yet be more effective studying?

clipboard with calendar placed on desk amidst stationery

Is your child spending hours studying but not achieving the results that they deserve? 

Perhaps it isn’t about the amount of time spent revising work but whether information is retained when one is studying. By spacing out study periods and having intervals between, studies have shown that learners can retain more information.

Introducing….. Spaced Repetition – an effective technique that enhances the brain’s capacity to remember by solidifying neural connections over time which is why learning needs to be spaced out for this to take place.

To take this one step further, allow me to use an analogy. Let’s consider our brain as a computer. Not only is it important to store information (memory space), information must also be easily accessible (RAM). The problem that many of us face is that the information is stored somewhere in our memory and it can’t be retrieved easily. 

When we revise, we allow our minds to practice information retrieval but by spacing out the revision, it increases the retrieval strength through mentally taxing recall exercises. 

Put simply, the harder you work your brain, the more likely the information is stored. This also means that you should consider testing yourself instead of merely re-reading information which is too passive. 

Neural pathways

There have been multiple studies in search of the optimal interval but this really depends on how much information you want to retain, when the information is needed (i.e. test) and when you are starting your revision. 

A simple way to begin is to space your repetition by a day, three days and then a week or you can consider the order in which you do your recall.

For example, you study Life Cycle of some Animals , Life Cycle of Plants, Matter and Plants and their Parts. 

After studying the topic on life cycle of some animals, move on to life cycle of plants. Before you study matter, you can recall what you have learnt in life cycle of some animals . Then, study matter. You can then recall life cycle of plants before you begin plants and their parts and repeat this cycle. 

So when we are working out a study schedule with our kids, we might want to encourage them to take this approach and be intentional about when and what to revise. The good news is that they may end up having to spend fewer hours actually studying instead of having a fully packed schedule!

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Bibliography

Ausubel, D. P., & Youssef, M. (1965). The effect of spaced repetition on meaningful retention. The Journal of General Psychology, 73(1), 147-150.

Carey, B. (2015). How we learn: The surprising truth about when, where, and why it happens. Random House Trade Paperbacks.

Kang, S. H. (2016). Spaced repetition promotes efficient and effective learning: Policy implications for instruction. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3(1), 12-19.

Murdock, B. B. (1985). The contributions of Hermann Ebbinghaus. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 11(3), 469.


Shakow, D. (1930). Hermann Ebbinghaus. The American Journal of Psychology, 42(4), 505-518.

Related Websites

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jan/23/spaced-repetition-a-hack-to-make-your-brain-store-information

https://collegeinfogeek.com/spaced-repetition-memory-technique/

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