LEARNING HACK #16: Don’t cheat yourself

This post is part of a series challenging our assumptions about learning techniques. We’re asking you True or False questions to see what you do and don’t know about how to learn effectively, as well as giving you up to date information from current research into learning. This is the final post in the series, so make sure to check out the previous 15 learning hacks too.

It is better to look at the correct answer straight after answering a question, rather than after completing the entire paper.

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It is better to look at the correct answer straight after answering a question, rather than after completing the entire paper.

THIS IS FALSE.

We all feel the pull to the biscuit tin as it approaches tea-time, just as we all have an itch to check the mark scheme immediately after answering a question.There is no point being tested if the correct answers are never provided, but it is even more effective to provide these answers slightly delayed as opposed to right away.

By preventing ourselves from looking at the answers until the end of the paper we not only simulate a more realistic exam environment, we also force ourselves to answer questions independently without the need for reinforcement from correct answers.

Want to read more on this topic? Check out these links:

  1. Test format and corrective feedback modify the effect of testing on long-term retention
  2. Feedback enhances the positive effects and reduces the negative effects of multiple-choice testing

What is Up Learn? Up Learn uses artificial intelligence and research from cognitive science to help students achieve A* results. Find out more.

We’re releasing a new learning hack every 2 days. Like our Facebook page to be notified!

LEARNING HACK #11: Self-evaluation is key to success

This post is part of a series challenging our assumptions about learning techniques. We’re asking you True or False questions to see what you do and don’t know about how to learn effectively, as well as giving you up to date information from current research into learning. Check out the previous post in this series and read the most recent one below.

We should stop and think about our learning and consider what could be done better. Taking the time to review our learning strategies ensures that we are on the right track.

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We should stop and think about our learning and consider what could be done better. Taking the time to review our learning strategies ensures that we are on the right track.

THIS IS TRUE.

It’s 11am and you’ve gone for a run in your local park. You are meeting your friend at 11.30am, at the café on the other side of the park. There’s a route that takes exactly half an hour and would lead you directly to the café.

Not stopping to reflect on your learning and the direction it is taking would be like running for 30 minutes without checking that you are on the path that will lead you to the café. If you aren’t going to get to your end destination when you need to, your effort will be wasted.

If we take the time to reflect on our learning we can check that we are on the right track and find room for improvement. Research has proven that we often overestimate our own competence, so to reflect honestly is a key component of efficient learning and will save massive amounts of time in the long run.

Want to read more on this topic? Check out these links:

  1. Self-Regulated Learning: Beliefs, Techniques, and Illusions
  2. Why we overestimate our competence

What is Up Learn? Up Learn uses artificial intelligence and research from cognitive science to help students achieve A* results. Find out more.

We’re releasing a new learning hack every 2 days. Like our Facebook page to be notified!

LEARNING HACK #8: How to never forget

This post is part of a series challenging our assumptions about learning techniques. We’re asking you True or False questions to see what you do and don’t know about how to learn effectively, as well as giving you up to date information from current research into learning. Check out the previous post in this series and read the most recent one below.

To retain information well it’s better to learn a topic consistently and then leave it, than it is to learn a topic and come back to it once you have started to forget it a bit.

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To retain information well it’s better to learn a topic consistently and then leave it, than it is to learn a topic and come back to it once you have started to forget it a bit. 

THIS IS FALSE.

Exams are just a few months away (sorry, but it’s true). If you feel like you’re behind all hope is not lost. This learning hack is for those of you who feel like you want to pick up your game but are worried that you’re starting too late. As an added bonus, it will also help you remember information beyond your exam.

While going over a topic again and again in a concentrated period of time might allow us to reproduce material, it does not embed it effectively into our long-term memory. The best way to really let that information sink in and take hold is by being tested on it at increasingly longer intervals. We call this spaced repetition. Spaced repetition means that just as you are starting to forget a topic you will be tested on it, forcing the brain to search for the answer. The effort exerted cements the knowledge in the brain, letting students retain information instead of it slipping away after the exam has been taken.

Think of it like this: holding knowledge in your brain is like carrying a bucket of water. Imagine you and your friend are carrying buckets of water. You’re carrying the buckets to a nearby village, but both buckets have a small hole. You notice that water is starting to seep out of your bucket, but, luckily, not enough is seeping out to stop you from reaching the village with enough water. Your friend has the same problem, but as the water starts to seep out, they decide to patch up the hole. Next time the water starts to seep out of the hole it does so more slowly. So your friend patches it up further.

The next day you go back to the well to get some more water. The hole in your bucket is worse for wear and the water gushes out. Your friend, however, is well on their way to the next village, laughing into the sunset.

In this analogy, what you are doing is like rote learning, while what your friend is doing is like spaced repetition. At the end of the day, it’s your friend who has the last laugh because their continuous efforts to test themselves on a topic (patch up the bucket) mean that the knowledge (water) can be enjoyed well beyond the exam.

Want to read more on this topic? Check out these links:

  1. The Most Powerful Way to Remember What You Study (Video)
  2. Learning by Spaced Repetition

What is Up Learn? Up Learn uses artificial intelligence and research from cognitive science to help students achieve A* results. Find out more.

We’re releasing a new learning hack every 2 days. Like our Facebook page to be notified!

LEARNING HACK #7: The big picture is as important as the details

This post is part of a series challenging our assumptions about learning techniques. We’re asking you True or False questions to see what you do and don’t know about how to learn effectively, as well as giving you up to date information from current research into learning. Check out the previous post in this series and read the most recent one below.

You should always understand the context of why you’re learning something and how it fits into everything else before diving into the details.

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You should always understand the context of why you’re learning something and how it fits into everything else before diving into the details.

THIS IS TRUE.

It’s like when you’re little and your Mum or Dad tries to make you wear your coat outside even though you really don’t want to. You question them on this and all they reply is ‘because I said so’. Explaining that you need to wear your coat because it’s cold outside and your coat will help keep you warm gives the situation a context, making the instruction easier to understand.

Just as wearing a coat requires an explanation, so to do the topics you are learning. Jumping to the content before understanding why that content is important and how it connects to the world around it is a mistake. It has also been proven that people learn better when they understand why first. When you know ‘why’ you naturally prime your brain to receive the ‘how’ and the ‘what’.

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Want to read more on this topic? Check out these links:

  1. Start with Why – Simon Sinek (TED)
  2. Inverting the Curriculum: Ariel Diaz

What is Up Learn? Up Learn uses artificial intelligence and research from cognitive science to help students achieve A* results. Find out more.

We’re releasing a new learning hack every 2 days. Like our Facebook page to be notified!

LEARNING HACK #5: Throw out your highlighters

This post is part of a series challenging our assumptions about learning techniques. We’re asking you True or False questions to see what you do and don’t know about how to learn effectively, as well as giving you up to date information from current research into learning. Check out the previous post in this series and read the most recent one below.

It is important to make notes, highlight them and re-read them before attempting practice questions or quizzing yourself on a topic.

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It is important to make notes, highlight them and re-read them before attempting practice questions or quizzing yourself on a topic.

THIS IS FALSE.

Actually, re-reading and highlighting information may make us feel super confident, but all we really achieve is that we add information to our short-term memories. If we were tested in a few days time, we wouldn’t remember most of it. We become familiar with the material while we are re-reading, which means that we think we know it, but in fact we have not mastered the subject at all.

This is called illusions of knowing. An example would be that you have read ten pages of a book, but when you are tested on it you cannot recall what you’ve just read. If you were to re-read those ten pages you may recognise the content because it is familiar, letting yourself believe that you know it when in reality you don’t.

How, then, do we master a subject? By Retrieval Practice: testing ourselves on information that we are learning.

Although it may seem stupid to test ourselves on topics that we don’t yet feel 100% comfortable with, the effort exerted by the brain while we search for an answer is what embeds the material into our long-term memory. Even if we get the answer wrong, we are more likely to remember it correctly the next time.

Constant testing also means that we can’t lie to ourselves. We’ve all been there – we presume we know a subject well because we’ve highlighted a passage and written notes on it, so we move onto the next topic. If we stopped and tested ourselves we would be more likely to find gaps in our knowledge that we would have to confront, not ignore.

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Want to read more on this topic? Check out these links:

  1. Active recall
  2. How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less
  3. An introduction to Retrieval Practice by the Learning Scientists
  4. Studying through Active Recall (Video)

What is Up Learn? Up Learn uses artificial intelligence and research from cognitive science to help students achieve A* results. Find out more.

We’re releasing a new learning hack every 2 days. Like our Facebook page to be notified!