Study Strategies

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Course Notes Study Strategies

On this page, you’ll read about some additional concepts that you should note to succeed in this course.

4 Memory / Page 4.15 Course Notes: Study Strategies On this page: 1 of 1 attempted (100%) | 1 of 1 correct (100%)

Now that you’ve gotten an overview of how memory works, this Course Notes page will provide a closer look at what these concepts suggest about the best ways to study to improve long-term retention. The study skills on this page will help you study and remember the key concepts from this course. They will also be important for the investigation in Chapter 6 as well as Case Study #3, which is due in Week 9.

Active Study Strategies

It’s important to read any given material and listen to lectures or discussions, but these actions are not study strategies. When you read or listen, your sensory memory is taking in the information. But to study the information, learn it, and encode it in your long- term memory, you must actively process it in your working memory. Research shows that rereading text without thinking about it or doing something with it creates a false sense of familiarity (Roediger & McDermott, 1995). To truly learn something and commit it to long-term memory, use the following active study strategies—and be sure to study often and over time.

Rehearse and Retrieve

Rehearsal, or retrieval practice, involves more active processing than simply rereading. If you hear a new song on the radio, you probably can’t sing all the words after listening to it only once. After hearing it several times, however, you may know the lyrics and the melody. Retrieval practice is similar to listening to a song over and over. When you rehearse information, quizzing yourself to test your recall, you strengthen the memories and make it more likely that you will retrieve the information quickly. This is due in part to the testing effect. The more you test yourself on the information you’re likely to be asked about, the more likely you’ll remember it when you need it.

Use Mnemonics



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When you need to memorize lists of items or steps in a procedure, use or develop mnemonics. Since working memory is limited to between five and seven bits of information at a time, chunking and mnemonics allow you to consolidate a list or steps into a more manageable unit to remember. For example, you can use the acronym CANOE to remember the Big Five personality traits from Chapter 3: conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extraversion.

Make It Meaningful

As you study material and engage in retrieval practice, be sure to think about how the concepts relate to what you already know, do, or have experienced. Making the material meaningful taps into a deeper level of processing than simply memorizing material does. This strategy is especially important as we get older and the encoding of new information slows down (Bashore et al., 1997). The effort involved in connecting and contrasting new information with our prior knowledge or experience results in deeper processing and greater retention of information in long-term memory.

Explain What You Are Learning to Someone Else

Being able to explain an idea to someone else requires a great deal of elaborative thinking, which increases retention (Lachner et al., 2019). Preparing your explanation helps you organize the information and check your understanding, both of which will improve the accuracy of your recall. Even practicing an explanation for an imaginary person will help you identify your own misconceptions or gaps in knowledge so that you can go back and review what you were missing.

Important Considerations

The active study strategies above will help you remember the content you are studying. You can also do the following to optimize your study sessions.

Space out your study sessions. Retrieval practice should begin well before you need to recall the information. Waiting until the last minute to study increases the likelihood of experiencing stress and the recency effect. Start studying as soon as you know that an assessment is coming. Also, take full advantage of the spacing effect and spread out your study sessions so that there is increased time between your sessions. For example, you can start by researching or quizzing yourself on material for one chapter or topic every day for a week. Then, wait a couple of days and study it again. Next, wait a few more days and review the material again. This technique, called distributed practice, helps to consolidate and strengthen the memories in long-term memory.



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Keep the study sessions brief. Another benefit of distributed practice is that if you start early, you can keep your study sessions brief. This means that your attention is less likely to drift and you’re more likely to keep up the habit. How long you need to study will depend on many factors, such as the amount and type of material to learn, as well as your mood or level of motivation (Nonis & Hudson, 2006). Nevertheless, studying for 30 minutes each day is far more effective than studying for 3.5 hours on 1 day (Baddeley & Longman, 1978). Minimize distractions. To reduce encoding interference, minimize distractions when you study. Find a quiet spot, turn off your social media notifications, and focus. It can be difficult to unplug from distractions, but it is easier to do if you follow the advice above about keeping each study session brief.

Multiple-Choice Question

Which of the following would be the BEST way to master material for a given test?

quickly reread the text frequently test yourself in the weeks before the test read the material only on the night before the test listen to the audiobook

Correct. The best way to truly remember material is to study and actively rehearse it in multiple short study sessions that are spaced out, rather than cramming all your studying into one marathon session. The latter approach may seem more productive and effective, but it isn’t.

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