If you want to learn something new — a foreign language, perhaps — you’ll probably study it by reading and re-reading the same words and phrases over and over until it sticks. But you’ll actually have more luck if you just start testing yourself.
Photo by Komsomolec.
In a study from Temple University, researchers examined two different methods for retaining information: studying and then testing yourself over the info (what they call repeated testing) or just studying and then studying some more (repeated study). Researchers found the latter was effective in the short term (as in five minutes), but over time, repeated testing was better for retaining the info. They reported:
Two experiments investigated recall following two study conditions, (1) repeated test: a study trial followed by multiple recall trials, and (2) repeated study: multiple study trials with no tests. At a retention interval of 5 minutes, repeated study produced a higher level of recall than repeated test. When the retention interval was extended, forgetting was much more rapid in the study condition, with the repeated test manipulation leading to higher recall at an interval of 7 days.
You’ve probably done this in your own studies. If you’re trying to learn a language, you’ll look at the word, then put your hand over it and try to say it on your own. That’s repeated testing, and, what the research suggests is that this is worth more of your study time than trying to memorise the word just by looking at it over and over.
Business Insider cites a similar study and goes into more detail about how efficient this strategy is. Check out their full post at the link below.
Different rates of forgetting following study versus test trials [National Center for Biotechnology Information via Business Insider]