Cramming can actually leave learners feeling more satisfied. In fact, those who space out their learning often report feeling that their learning is inferior to cramming—even when they’re presented with their own objective gains in long-term retention.
One reason cramming feels good is that it requires very little planning. Most of the time, we’re faced with several different courses, all competing for our precious study time and with their own exam schedules. With the rapid march of each upcoming exam, it’s easier to just focus on what’s next. But you might have more time than you think.
Most “professional” students will at some point find themselves in situations where the amount of material they need to learn far exceeds the amount of time they need to prove mastery. In this mini series, we will explore a couple of the factors at play, and how to tip the scales in favor of durable knowledge and the most efficient (and fun!) ways to achieve it.
In researching evidence-based learning, we’ve encountered an avalanche of books, papers, blogs, and podcasts about learning how to learn effectively. It can seem overwhelming at times. A great place to begin is by picking a book and reading it cover to cover. Here are Alex’s favorites.
I wrote last week about the Pomodoro Technique and its potential for fostering productive work. In the eight years I’ve applied the method, its focus-break-focus-break-etc prescription has worked wonders. Despite my best efforts, however, at times I still catch my mind wandering. The question becomes: How can I get the most out of my pomos? I discuss several strategies I’ve incorporated which help me keep distractions to a minimum.
Retrieval practice, spacing, the memory palace, and other evidence-based learning strategies will help you achieve your learning goals. However, without a schedule for implementing them in a focused way, you may find your efforts futile. In our age of distractions and socially acceptable multitasking, cutting through the chatter to focus is paramount. Enter the Pomodoro Technique.
We’ve received a few messages recently from people who are starting a professional school this year. While we love the memory palace technique, there can be a significant barrier to use, especially if you're about to enter a high-stakes learning environment. Here's an easy one-month ramp up to mastering the palace technique before you start a new learning adventure.
Alex discusses a recent New York Times article highlighting research on drawing pictures as a memory aid. Recent studies have uncovered that the technique can be surprisingly powerful. But why does it work? And can drawing pictures be sustainably implemented to improve learning?
Ever wondered how best to apply memory techniques in the clinical setting? Should I use memory palaces for patient interviews? For presentations? How might practicing physicians make use of memory techniques? In the video below, we give an overview of how we think memory techniques are best applied in clinical practice.
By discouraging memorization and drilling, we’ve been implicitly taught that conceptual understanding of a topic is equivalent to learning. A student who memorizes is, therefore, a subpar learner. But without internalization of surface concepts—acquired through surface techniques such as memorization and drilling—deeper ones will continue to evade the learner.
Interleaved practice is great for keeping things interesting and making sure you can do a quick mental jump to the relevant locus. Research has shown that training this way can improve learners' problem solving abilities.
In the case of equations, true understanding should be achievable, so memory techniques should generally take a backseat. That said, I do use memory techniques for specific pieces of equations I find difficult to remember. Here's how.
Standalone mnemonics are also a relatively simpler yet still effective way for, say, an absolute beginner to pick up new foreign language vocab. When it comes to carefully learning structured material, however, I’ve found there to be three main arguments in favor of palaces.
If you're someone struggling to apply memory palaces, look no further. Here I discuss my top 3 realizations about memory techniques as they pertain to learning—the ones that took my approach from frustratingly ineffective to invaluable.