Study Smart by Studying Less

Study Smart, help with the difference between recognition and recollection and how very different they really are.  Highlighting improves recognition; yes, you remember that you studied about that!  The real test is, can you answer the question correctly? 

How long do you think that the typical individual can study a textbook, lecture notes or watch an educational video and retain information effectively?  Some of you may be thinking 5 minutes, others 25 minutes and others still, as long as an hour or two.  Back in 2009 a study was conducted at the University of Michigan, sophomores and incoming freshmen were asked to record the time they started to study and mark down the point where they thought, I am not getting anything out of reading this.  The average response was between 25 and 30 minutes.

These results have been repeated in several more recent research studies published at  The same is true of live lectures, study groups, small group labs and activities performed at a learning center.   Therefore, the point to smart study is knowing how long to study in order to retain an enormous amount of detail about any topic?

The exciting thing about the brain is that it does not need a long rest or break in order to focus again for another 25 to 30 minutes.  The break  time is simply 5 minutes, 10 minutes is absolutely max, more than that and your on to all those things that you do to avoid studying.  Therefore, the key is to develop a 5 minute break habit, that does not lead you off in another direction.

Here are two more tips that can increase your speed of learning, while still maintaining effective retention.  You need to take notes,  flush out your notes right after class.  It should take you about 5 minutes, maybe a few more.  If you have forgotten the complete concept ask a fellow classmate while they are still hanging around.   Or if you are listening to an online lecture scroll back and listen again at the end of the lecture to the parts where you mind started to wander and take notes. Therefore, it is important to understand that writing key information down is a form of active learning.

Share your learning with others,  once you get home share your day with family and friends.  Repeating the information with others can reinforce the day's key concepts.  It has been shown that we spend that evenings sleep repeating the major activities of the day during our RM sleep.  As a result, the more we repeat, the key learning concepts of the day, the better imbedded in your long term memory they will become. 

Study Smart, Study Less

The following lecture video is from Professor Marty Lobdell recorded at Pierce College in 2011.  Yes, it is a brain numbing 59 minutes long, take a 5 minute break at 25 minutes in and finish watching.  You will not regret taking the time, to listen to Professor Lobdell's lecture on how to study smart.     

Professor Lobdell explains the difference between recognition and recollection and how to bridge the gap.  Understanding is essential to long term memory imbedding.  What is the difference between knowing the facts or rote memorization and understanding the concepts?  One will allow you to say yes, I have seen that before and the other will allow you to explain in your own terms its meaning.

Where you choose to do most of your learning outside of the classroom matters.  Professor Lobdell relates the key components for improving the quality of the time spent studying.  Environmental cues effect our brain's ability to focus.

Learning changes as we mature. Professor Lobdell explains how to understand where you are within your learning journey to get the most out of your efforts.  Facts or rote memorization vs Conceptual conditioning or understanding the details of a topic. 

In conclusion, active learning leads to 80% of retention and verbal exchange of concepts with others increases retention to 90%.  Active learning requires that the student take an engaged role in their learning process by, creating their own study aids using a combination of written, audio or video tools.  Become your own teacher and spread the joy of learning to others.     

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