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Interleaved Practice

Q.1: "Won’t mixing up my study subjects just cause confusion?"

Q.2: "How do I know when to mix up study subjects?"

(*See answers below.)

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The benefits of Interleaved Practice.


Source: The Learning Scientists

To remind you how to space your study, download:
Interleaved Practice Poster        Interleaved Practice Bookmarks
    Spaced Practice Poster                  Spaced Practice Bookmarks
Source: The Learning Scientists

* Answers

1. The short term answer is “maybe yes,” but stick with it. Mixing up study subjects is a form of “desirable difficulty,” learning behaviors that feel hard but produce superior long-term results. Studying concepts or problems in “blocks” (one type at a time) produces a sense of familiarity with a topic and short term recall. But to remember for the long haul, and to be able to identify real world situations where concepts or problems apply, interleaved study is the better choice.

2. There are no hard and fast rules but research indicates you should keep the following in mind: 1) Don’t interleave a new subject right away. You should have some basic understanding of the concepts you are studying before interleaving them. 2) Interleave similar concepts. Interleaving increases the connections between ideas and the ability to choose and apply appropriate concepts or problem types. Therefore, interleaving topics within a class or subject is beneficial. If you can make connections between subjects (seeing links between your sociology and psych classes?) then interleaving can help. 3) Learning physical skills? Mixing up skill practice works much better than repetitive practice of the same thing.

Credits and Resources

Many of the resources in this section were created by The Learning Scientists, cognitive scientists who are helping students and teachers apply scientifically sound learning strategies. Check out their blog for regular user-friendly advice.

Further Reading About Interleaved Practice
"The Interleaving Effect: Mixing It Up Boosts Learning," Scientific American
Learn To Study Using…Interleaving

"What Works and What Doesn't," Scientific American

College Resources and Workshops
Advising Department's "Student Success Series" Workshops
Tutoring