You won't remember the articles or books you read—unless you practice reviewing the information, Julie Beck writes for The Atlantic.
Unless you review material after you read it, you will likely forget much of what you've learned after the first 24 hours, and continue to forget in the days that follow, Beck writes.
Luckily, in the age of Google and Wi-Fi, the answers to most questions are just one click away. Now, there's less of a need to memorize anything, says Eric Mazur, a professor of physics at Harvard University.
Instead, most people rely on recognition memory, which means knowing where information is and how to access it, says Jared Horvath, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne. The rate that we forget material may also be exacerbated by the way we consume our information, he adds.
People who binge-watched TV shows, for example, forgot the material more quickly than those who watched one episode each week, according to a study by Horvath and his colleagues at Melbourne. Researchers quizzed each group on their content retention the day they finished the last episode and 140 days after they finished the show. The binge-watchers scored higher than weekly viewers on the first quiz, but scored lower after 140 days.
Similarly, if students pull an all-night study session to memorize a semester's worth of content, it's unlikely they'll retain the material. Memories grow stronger "the more you recall them," Horvath says. And material won't stick unless you "engage in certain strategies that will help you remember," he adds.
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For students, the best study strategy is to space out study sessions over a few days and include practice tests, according to a comprehensive review of study techniques published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest.
When learners revisit information over time, the information becomes easier to retain and recall, Claudia Wallis wrote for the Hechinger Report. And if students study the same material in different locations, the material becomes associated with a range of memories that boosts retention, she writes.
Studies also show that the act of recalling information from your memory is more effective than simply rereading notes, says Thomas Toppino, a cognitive psychologist at Villanova University.
A learner's best bet is to combine self-testing with distributed practice, Wallis argues. Highlighting information can be useful as well—as long as students do more with their notes than simply re-read them (Beck, The Atlantic, 2/5).
Keep reading: The two most effective study strategies—and why students probably don't know them
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