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Retrieval Practice

Q.1: "Trying to remember new material is hard and takes time. Shouldn't I reread my notes or text first or wait for my instructor to review?"

Q.2: "Isn't "retrieval practice" and "self-testing" just fancy ways to describe memorizing facts? What about critical thinking?"

(*See answers below.)

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The benefits of Retrieval Practice.


Source: The Learning Scientists

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

* Answers

1. Reading, listening to lectures, reading notes, etc. are ways to put information into your brain. but it is only by practicing "taking it out" that you form a durable memory of it. Without long-term retention, have you really learned? Challenging and effortful retrieval practice works like exercise to strengthen the memory of the facts, concepts and examples you study.

2. To think critically -- evaluate, compare, assess, apply -- you have to have command of the subject you are thinking about. The more readily you can recall the relevant knowledge, the better you can think about it. Research shows that retrieval practice helps: expose gaps in your knowledge, better organize the knowledge by category or concept and improve transfer of knowledge to new contexts.

Credits and Resources

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

Further Reading About Retrieval Practice
Retrieval Practice.org
How to design flash cards
How to study a textbook

Lecture note-taking strategies:
Active Note-taking strategies
Turning notes into self-quizzes

Study Smart, The American Psychological Association
"What Works and What Doesn't," Scientific American

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