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This blog is the third in a three-part series of proven study tips based on science.

by Kristen DiCerbo, Khan Academy chief learning officer

What do you have to do on a test? You have to effectively search your memory for information and pull it out. There are lots of study strategies (see my first and second blog posts in this series) that focus on getting information into your memory. But we also need to save some study time to practice pulling information out of our memory. 

Research in this area falls into two categories: retrieval practice and the testing effect. You know how some teachers give regular quizzes on your reading? The research shows that these quizzes help you learn, not just because it makes you study more, but because it lets you practice pulling information from your memory. But, you don’t need a teacher quizzing you to get the benefits of retrieval practice and the testing effect. You can do it on your own:

  1. Review: After a review session, close your book, stop the video you’re watching, and put away your other materials. 
  2. Test: Write, speak and record, or draw everything you know about the topic. 
  3. Check: Check back with your learning materials, and see what you got right and what you didn’t. 
  4. Keep doing these cycles of review, test, and check!

You can also practice retrieving information from your memory by making flashcards. Remember, don’t just make flashcards of facts but also of ideas and connections. For example, for a lesson on biology, don’t just make cards for the definitions of mitosis and meiosis. Also, make one that asks, “How are mitosis and meiosis the same and how are they different?”

The idea here is to do things that force yourself to practice remembering. Doing this strengthens the connections between concepts in your brain and makes them easier to recall next time!

Previous posts in this series:

Study tip #1:  Relate what you’re learning to what you already know.

Study tip #2: Use your own words and pictures to reinforce what you’re learning. 

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