Sunday, January 30, 2011

Learn fast.  I need to know this stuff.  Should I test myself or just cram. Well, new research seems to indicate that students who take an exam rather than cram are found to retain more.  Taking tests actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other study techniques.  Recently published in the journal Science, they found that if you read a passage, then answered a few questions about that passage recalling what you read about, retained about 50% of that information a week later than not using a test method to recall information.  Does this have anything to do with each individuals capacity for memorization?

Repeatedly studying the material doesn’t work as well because you can eventually become just spending the time to look over the words as a habit but not really listening or retaining the information.  Eventually, your eyes are just skimming over letters.  Drawing diagrams is another way to remember things, but it is time consuming and can be confusing if you need to have many drawings.  Most people hate taking tests but the results are always better after a test.  Even if you score poorly on a test, it can be used as a learning material.  It can help you focus on the problem questions that you got wrong on a test.  You can narrow your study efforts to re-studying the questions you got wrong, re-test only the incorrect questions and eventually know all the answers. 

Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University, said, “I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge.  I think we are tapping into something fundamental about how the mind works when we talk about retrieval.”  Why retrieval testing helps is still unknown.  Perhaps it is because by remembering information we are organizing it and creating cues and connections that our brains later recognize. The problem with re-reading texts and possibly even drawing diagrams you say ‘Oh, this is easier, I read this already’. 

Ok! I got it. Testing is better but there is so much anxiety involved with testing.  As growing up we always took tests and were constantly worried about cheating or someone taking our answers.  We had to place large dividers between us, we had to worry about getting a zero if we got caught.  I’ll take tests but let me take it alone without fear of anyone including the principals office or a call to my parents.  Yes, I’m 53 years old and I’m still worried.  Get me a beer and a good looking shrink.

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