Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Back to Basics: How do you study?

I have just read a really interesting paper in Science1 , which has a very good write-up in the New York Times (New York Times: "To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test" - link) on how to study.

I am not going to discuss the findings of the paper here, but instead I will just mention the major findings of the work.

Basically Karpicke and Janell1 looked at how students learn. They have used a scientific approach to look at this with some carefully designed experiments. The authors looked at:

  1. Just reading
  2. Repeat reading
  3. Reading and drawing a concept map whilst consulting the text
  4. Reading and then drawing a concept map from memory (no consulting the text)
  5. Reading and then writing what you have read (without consulting the original text)

The findings, put in simple terms (as judged by testing the students a week after carrying out the original exercise), was that method 4 and 5 produced the best results. That is, read the text, and then test yourself.

I strongly recommend reading the write-up in the New York Times (link) and then tackling the original paper at Science.


  1. Jeffrey D. Karpicke and Janell R. Blunt "Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping" Science 1199327Published online 20 January 2011 [DOI:10.1126/science.1199327] link