The ability to learn and retain information is a skill that can be developed with practice. You may not believe you have the capacity, but it’s possible with the right study techniques.
Implementing the right study techniques can significantly improve your intelligence and learning abilities
In fact, study techniques can make a huge difference when it comes to studying effectively and improving your grades. Fortunately, there are numerous tried-and-true methods used by students around the world to achieve academic success.
This article will look at key learning techniques and discuss their pros & cons and give ideas for practical implementation in your life.
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Key study techniques to increase your learning ability
Study techniques exist that will help you develop your memory and learning skills despite the kind of material or subject you need to know. In fact, whether it’s for school or work, there are ways to improve your retention.
It’s important to know that you shouldn’t limit yourself to one study technique. In fact, using different study techniques at the same time will likely be more beneficial.
Here are some of the best study techniques to increase your learning ability:
- Spacing of study
- Practice testing
- Study Groups
Check out this informative guide that teaches you how to work smarter, not harder. You’ll learn unconventional strategies to improve your grade while spending less time studying.
Read also: 19 Easy ways to increase your brain power.
"Change your thoughts and you will change your world." - Norman Vincent Peale
Study technique: Spacing of Study
How spacing of study increases your learning ability
Your learning ability can be improved by studying in chunks over a longer period of time rather than everything at once.
In fact, spacing of study has been shown to be successful in various studies where participants were given different times to study a list of words.
The group who studied the words over a longer period of time, generally recalled more than those who studied all the words in one go.
I’m sure you’re wondering why this study techniques is so beneficial.
The answer is for two reasons. Firstly, the first time around you study for longer (time = effort). Secondly, learning is improved by creating associations between different bits of information.
Essentially, by studying for one hour straight you are more likely to be focusing on one specific point of information than if you split that hour into 10 chunks of 10 minutes.
However, with this study technique you’ll be creating 10 different associations rather than one.
As such, try to follow a spiral pattern where concepts are reviewed and built upon with each new topic introduced. This method has been shown to be superior in terms of retention and recall.
Pros of spacing of study to improve learning
The obvious benefit is longer term memory, which can be reinforced with intermittent tests. Spacing also limits the damage done by forgetting.
Cons of spacing of study to improve learning
Some students report that it’s hard to keep track of all the different study timelines. It takes discipline and they’re often tempted to read ahead. If we use the previous example. you may not have time for 10 separate chunks of 10 minutes.
"Books are dangerous. The best ones should be labeled with 'This could change your life.'” - Helen Exley
Study technique: Interleaving
How interleaving works to increase your learning ability
When studying a concept or skill, switch between different examples and problem types during your study sessions to improve your learning ability.
So, if you were learning about decimals, you might switch between the topic, teaching yourself how to calculate fractions, conversions to percentages or perhaps how to solve word problems.
Studies have shown that students who interleave topics remember more than those who study one concept at a time.
Interleaving can be used with all study techniques including highlighting and spaced learning. But, it’s best used in conjunction with active recall.
Pros of interleaving to improve learning
Interleaving can act as another form of retrieval practice (where you try to recall the answer without looking).
It’s often difficult to know how much study is enough. As such, interleaving can give you an idea if your recall is getting worse or better with each example solving exercise.
Cons of interleaving to improve learning
Possibly the biggest con is that interleaving can be more mentally demanding. For example, I could detail how to solve an equation for a specific type of quadratic equation in one go.
If I then switch to solving another type of quadratic, I’ll have to recall what was done before or re-read it.
However, this isn’t so much a con, as a warning to practice interleaving with smaller concepts before moving onto larger ones.
"The champions keep playing until they do well." - Billie Jean King
Study technique: Practice testing
How practice testing works to increase your learning ability
Every time you answer a question or solve a problem correctly is an opportunity for retrieval practice and improving your memory of that specific fact/skill/concept.
In fact, the more frequently you test yourself, the better your memory will be. However, there is a limit to how frequently recall can occur before it becomes counterproductive.
Pros of practice testing to improve learning
Practice testing allows you to monitor your own understanding of a concept and ask for help when needed. It’s an effective way to self-assess without having to rely on others (e.g. a teacher).
Cons of practice testing to improve learning
"Set tough goals and do not stop until you get there."- Bo Jackson
Study technique: Study Groups
How study groups work to increase your learning ability
Study groups have been shown to be one of the most effective ways to study. As such, consider creating a group with your friends where you agree to help each other with facts, concepts and skills that need improving.
In fact, study groups will provide clarity and help with information retention.
If studying together in-person isn’t an option, then online tools like Google Docs allow students to set up shared folders for their study group.
Pros of study groups to improve learning
Study groups can provide support if you are struggling in a particular area. The incidental practice that occurs by simply having to articulate your thoughts makes retrieval practice easier that when you study alone.
Cons of study groups to improve learning
Some persons may struggle to stay motivated in a group. In fact, if you don’t have the same work ethic as your peers, a study group may be even more challenging.
"Quality is not an act, but a habit."- Aristotle
Study Techniques: Flashcards
How flashcards work to increase your learning ability
To increase your learning ability, create flashcards out of the facts, concepts and skills that you’re struggling with. Plus, draw diagrams to help you visualize how they work or create questions that give you an indication of understanding.
Actually, there are free websites that allow you to make flashcards that are automatically saved in your account. As such, you can use this approach with your study group (e.g. each person takes turns creating flashcards for the others in the group) or when studying alone.
Personally, I’ve always preferred the paper flashcards. These are the ones that I use because the quality is exceptional and the colors are bright and appealing.
Pros of flashcards to improve learning
Flashcards allow you to quiz yourself in an active form of retrieval practice that doesn’t require much mental effort beyond turning over the card. It’s a simple method that can be implemented relatively easily.
Cons of flashcards to improve learning
Depending on the technology used, it may be difficult to keep track of which cards need more attention or have the most important facts. Flashcards may also be time consuming to create.
"The capacity to learn is a gift, The ability to learn is a skill, The willingness to learn is a choice." - Brian Herbert
Study technique: Tutoring
How tutoring works to increase your learning ability
Tutoring can be done in-person or online. It’s a time-tested method of learning and is often the most effective for students who struggle with motivation.
Tutors know how to inspire you, help you stay focused and push you when you’re struggling.
Pros of tutoring to improve learning
A tutor provides valuable feedback on study tips and what topics needs more revision based on their interactions with you.
You will also be able to gain valuable perspective by seeing the techniques others use to better understanding the material.
Cons of tutoring to improve learning
The costs involved for tutors can be prohibitive for some persons and it may be difficult to find the right match.
Study technique: SQ3R technique
How SQ3R works to increase your learning ability
SQ3R (survey, question, read, recite, and review) is a reading strategy that can be used to summarize and study information and improve your learning ability.
This technique involves making a quick note of the key points of a paragraph before proceeding, giving more detailed attention to important paragraphs, and then reviewing what you have learned prior to the next reading session.
Pros of SQ3R to improve learning
The SQ3R technique helps you to take control of your studying by making study time more efficient.
It gives you a framework that allows you to choose what information is most important when reading and prioritizing facts that are necessary for memorization.
Cons of SQ3R to improve learning
Some persons have difficulty using this technique because they are unable to summarize material without sacrificing accuracy.
Additionally, this technique can also take longer than other strategies if you need to find certain paragraphs or you are not confident on what key points to focus on.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” ― Dr. Seuss
Final words on study techniques to improve your learning ability
You’ve just discovered some of the most efficient learning techniques to improve your learning ability. The best part is that anyone can use these study techniques – no matter what age or level of education.
Whether you need help with schoolwork or just want to be able to recall information quickly when giving presentations, these study techniques will make the process a whole lot easier.
Which of the study techniques mentioned above do you find most useful? If you’d like to add another strategy, feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!
How to stay motivated to studying?
I’ll admit, studying is challenging. And, it can be very tough to stay motivated to studying.
That’s why I’ve created this guide with all the best tips and advise to keep you motivated and prevent you from struggling through another study session. Read more
How to build a mindset for high achievement?
It’s not enough to desire success, you need the mindset for it! The good news is that you don’t need to be born with the ‘high achiever’ mindset. You can develop it.
In fact, it starts with understanding that there are no limits – only plateaus.
Your past does not define your future and it is always possible to accomplish more than what you think is possible for yourself.
Building a mindset for high achievement is about changing your approach and adopting new habits so that success becomes more natural and automatic for you. Read more on the personality traits to become successful people.
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Carvalho, P.F., Goldstone, R.L. The benefits of interleaved and blocked study: Different tasks benefit from different schedules of study. Psychon Bull Rev 22, 281–288 (2015).
Karpicke, J. D., & Blunt, J. R. (2011). Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative