The life of college students never seems to get any less stressful. From the early classes, to the midnight cram sessions, and the gargantuan group projects– college seems to keep everyone busy. Cognitive Psychologists work on research every day to find out how memory and attention works. When asked about their favorite study habits that work best for them, students come up with mixed answers. Some say concept mapping helps them, some just simply read the text book, and others prefer to test themselves. Some students test themselves using flash cards, and others test themselves by making up mock tests on the subject to test their memory.
In a study done in 2011, Cognitive Psychologists devised research to find out what the most effective studying strategy was for students. Early on, they asked them what they thought the answer would be. The majority of students stated that they thought it would be concept mapping, but the results were surprising for the students! The results concluded that students did significantly better on tests and had better retention if they enacted a strategy called “memory retrieval” versus other strategies like concept mapping.
Memory retrieval is a process of studying in which the student tests their memory as they read and does smaller increments rather than cramming. Memory retrieval showed significantly better test scores in the research cited below.
Here is how you can practice memory retrieval and see how it works for you!
First, distribute your study time. Practice the concepts as you go in smaller increments. This will ensure that you understand the concepts at hand before you go on to the next topic.
Second, test yourself after reading each topic. This will aid you in awareness of your understanding of the topic and what you need to work on before moving on.
Third, connect the next topics to the previous topics that you studied and continuously test yourself on those topics. This way, you are retrieving memory as you go, so that it remains relevant and is related to the material you are currently learning.
Of course, not every college student has the luxury of time, or has hit a bump in the road of the semester, so this studying strategy is best done when there is more time to do this. The best advice that I can offer to alleviate this predicament is in the beginning of the semester, try to get as ahead as possible. Be diligent about your work from the beginning, so that if something happens to make you fall behind, you are able to spare at least one day. College students’ stress can be alleviated significantly if they are not always pressed for time, and studying in smaller amounts more often can be just the recipe we have been asking for. So as fellow college students, I urge you to practice this studying strategy and let me know how well this has worked for you!
Karpicke, J. D., & Blunt, J. R. (2011). Retrieval practice produces more learning than
elaborative studying with concept mapping. Science, 331, 772–775. doi: