Active recall is the process of recalling facts from memory. A single test after reading some text produces better learning than re-reading the text or reviewing any notes. It turns out that re-reading text over and over again is in fact a very poor and ineffective way to study.
So how do you use active recall? Before opening any books or materials, start your study session by recalling everything you know about the topic, then check whether you were correct. Next, spend time studying the material. At the end of the study session test yourself. Finally, leave a gap before re-testing yourself again. The gap needs to be long enough (maybe several days), so that you actually forget information that didn’t make it into long term memory.
To be most effective repeat the active recall again and again in spaced out sessions. Not only is it an essential way to build strong long term memories but it also highlights exactly what you don’t know so you can focus on those areas of weakness.
Active recall is hard and feels less productive than re-reading, but the effort produces longer lasting learning and stronger long term memories.
Synapses are the connections between the neurons in your brain. Chemical and electrical signals pass across the synapses from cell to cell and the stronger the messages between your neurons, the stronger and more permanent your memories will be. Whilst repeating an action tends to make the signal between the cells stronger, stress can weaken your brains ability to retain information.
It turns out that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Exercising can mean that you retain information even under stressful conditions. As little as a 10-minute walk may be enough to increase the way your brain communicates between its regions and to enhance your ability to learn and remember. Exercise can also stimulate the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells and the growth of new blood vessels in the brain.
So when you are studying or preparing for an exam, make sure you plan regular exercise into your schedule.
Most people read about 250 words per minute. But a few simple techniques can quickly double that speed for you. When we read we are slowed down for several reasons. First, your eyes do not move continuously along a line of text, instead, they make short, rapid movements with short stops. During these movements your vision is suppressed, and you are effectively “blind”. To reduce this, use your finger, a pen or a bookmark to follow along the line as your read. This alone will increase your reading speed.
Secondly, don’t go all the way to the margins. Start several words in, and finish several words before the end. You can increase this distance over time with practice. Try using a “Shultz table (there’s link in the notes below) to improve.
Finally, if you hear the words in your head as your read, you are limited to 400 words a minute. Reducing your “ internal voice” will make a noticeable improvement.
But be warned, faster reading doesn’t necessarily mean deep understanding, but it can certainly help you cover more ground to find the important details in a textbook.