3 Top Tips to improve studying and memory from NY Times article "Smarter Living"
“Ditch the bad study habits you learned in school, and start with these three steps.
First: Say goodbye to the all-nighters of cramming. In a series of experiments, students listened to stories and then took a test of how much information they remembered an hour later. Their recall spiked by 10 to 30 percent if they had been randomly assigned to sit and do nothing in a dark, quiet room for a few minutes right after hearing the story. Your mind needs rest and space to consolidate and store information. That’s especially true for people who have memory difficulties: When the same experiment was done with patients who had suffered strokes and other neurological injuries, resting improved their recall to 79 percent from 7 percent.
Second: Don’t bother with rereading or highlighting. Research reveals that they don’t help much; they’re too passive. Instead, try something active: quiz yourself (Quizlet.com is great!). Comprehensive evidence shows that taking practice tests leads to better retention than any other technique. When you retrieve knowledge from your mind over and over again, you know where to find it the next time, and you quickly discover where the gaps in your memory are.
Third: Tell someone. In a recent experiment, people learned about sound waves and the Doppler effect. (You know, the phenomenon that causes the siren on a police car to be high-pitched as it approaches you and drop as it passes you). At the end of studying, the participants were randomly assigned to deliver a lesson on the material with or without notes. A week later, they came back and had to take a surprise test on their recall. The ones who had taught the lesson without notes did better.
…The best way to learn something truly is to teach it — not just because explaining it helps you understand it, but also because retrieving it helps you remember it.”