Five Study Tips from Leading Brain Scientists

Dec 11, 2015, 12:32 ET from Knowledge Factor

BOULDER, Colo., Dec. 11, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The holiday season is in full swing, but for millions of U.S. college and high school students, there is a significant hurdle to clear before the celebration begins – final exams.

To help students prepare for their exams more effectively, amplifire– the learning software that's proven to deliver improved user performances across the education, test prep, healthcare, IT and corporate markets – gathered the top five study tips from the world's leading scientists studying learning and memory.

This fall, some of the most prominent cognitive psychologists and pedagogical scientists convened in Boulder, Colo., as part of an ongoing effort to apply their research and findings into technology for the educational and learning markets. At this 2-day summit, participants expressed frustration that despite scientific advancements in understanding how the brain learns, students still rely on study techniques that are ineffective and outdated.

In fact, modern scientific study has proven that many traditional study techniques are inadequate for effective retention of new information. Consider that one week after a lecture is delivered in the classic stand-up format, students remember as little as ten to twenty percent of the information.  Additionally, while 80 percent of college students believe that re-reading a chapter in a textbook will help them remember the material, research by Henry Roediger and others at Washington University has shown that after one week they will only retain 39 percent of the re-reading.

Over the last 20 years, research in the field of cognitive psychology has identified specific techniques that help students efficiently encode and store new information, and retrieve it from memory.  Here are five tips that students can apply to their study today to dramatically affect their exam performance:

1.  Is this a test?

Retrieval practice1, sometimes called "self testing," strengthens the "retrieval pathway" to the information. Retrieved memories are remembered with greater strength than items that go un-retrieved. Two easy ways that students can leverage this insight are by taking quizzes throughout their study process, self-testing via flashcards or finding a study partner and take turns testing one another.

2.    Take your Time

Spacing2 study sessions over days or weeks improves long-term retention. Reviewing information repeatedly (e.g., re-reading) in a condensed period of time (e.g., cramming for a test) results in poor retention rates.  But seeing something again after the passage of time tells the brain, "this information must be important... remember it!" The research also reveals that the optimal study interval to test interval breaks down in the following practical manner:

a.  For 7 days to the test, restudy after 2 days
b.  For 35 days, restudy after 7 days
c.  For 70 days, restudy after 10 days

Spacing researchers have demonstrated a 110% gain in recall that can be achieved in some cases when the proper intervals are followed.

3.    Are you Sure?

Uncertainty3 in the accuracy of one's information causes levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine to rise, thereby motivating the brain to seek the correct answer. To cause uncertainty, a student cannot sit passively in a lecture or merely read the material. They must actively engage with the information to find and fix the gaps in their knowledge. Asking themselves how sure they are about each concept before they review correct answers and randomizing the order of study materials are just two ways students can leverage the power of uncertainty in their study sessions.

4.    Location, Location, Location

The context4, or environment in which a student studies, has a dramatic effect on memory.  The mind subconsciously associates cues from the environment with the learning content, and uses these cues as a crutch to remember the information. If the testing environment is different from the study environment, students will have more difficulty remembering what they studied. Context changes  – studying in 5 to 6 different locations, for example – have been shown to help avoid this problem, so students should mix it up when it comes to study location.

5.    Prime5 your mind

Answering a series of questions about the learning content prior to the study session focuses the brain and creates a mental framework that will help the mind more easily learn the information to be studied. Students should take some time to conduct this pre-study prep before they dig into their full study review.

The tips above represent five of the 21 total techniques built into the amplifire learning software. As a result of its scientific foundations, amplifire is able to deliver dramatic learning results like 47 percent increase in pass rates, 30 percent increase in grades, and 50 percent reduction in study times. The software is currently embedded in the digital offerings of the some of the nation's leading education providers, including the world's largest textbook publisher, America's leading Bar Exam test prep company and in one of the leading SAT and ACT test prep companies.

About amplifire

amplifire is the proven learning software that delivers measurable results and improved performances across the education, test prep, healthcare and corporate markets. Built by the world's leading pedagogical and neurobiological experts, amplifire leverages its patented methodology, robust analytics and deep business insights to help client organizations save millions of dollars and transform their businesses – reducing training times, eliminating risk and error, improving user knowledge levels, and identifying and pursuing new go-to-market strategies. Since 2001, amplifire has helped enhance the offerings, products and outcomes of education industry leaders like Barbri, The Princeton Review, Pearson Higher Education and CompTIA, and of corporate leaders like GE, Oceaneering and the world's largest consulting firm. For more information about amplifire, visit:



SOURCE Knowledge Factor