As you might know, we have an amazing practice tool in eFaqt. This is because you have to practice your content if you want to do well on your exams. You might think: “Isn’t reading my textbook enough?”. Well, NO. Reading is not enough. Practice is the only thing that makes perfect. This sounds like the most boring saying in the world, but today, we will finally explain to you why this is actually true.
The first step to remembering
The first mechanism behind ‘practice makes perfect’ is the difference between active and passive learning. Passive forms of learning include highlighting and underlining things in your textbook. These are passive forms because they don’t require you to do anything else with the text but reading it. Not surprisingly, scientists have tested these ‘methods’ and found that these are ineffective. People who highlight or underline, won’t remember or understand much of their content. In order to study effectively, you have to study actively. This means you have to do something extra with the text: like summarizing or formulating questions etc. This makes it more likely you will actually understand what you have studied. Next step is to remember what you have studied. Because we need to remember everything for the exam, don’t we? (PS. Don’t forget, you can make notes and flashcards in eFaqt for free!)
Practicing and remembering
To understand why practicing is essential, we need to understand a bit more about the human brain. Don’t worry, we won’t make this too complicated. Your brain consists of billions of cells that communicate. These are called neurons. They communicate information with each other through pathways. The more they communicate certain information, the more likely it is they will eventually store it and make it more accessible and easy to recognize. Same goes for studying: When you see new information on a new subject, you might note it is difficult to understand or to reproduce. This is because your neurons are still ‘working on it’ with your working memory. The more you actively approach this information, the more likely it is your neurons will get used to the information and help you store it in your long-term memory. When it is stored there, it means you have a fair chance of correctly reproducing it, and applying the information on your exam.
How much should I practice?
So basically, when you practice properly, you help your neurons transport that information to a place where it will stay for a longer period of time. If you don’t practice well, your neurons will punish you for it ;) Just kidding. However, you will make it a lot harder for yourself. You might have to do a lot more work for the same result if you don’t do it right the first time. Because, here is the thing: Some scientific research suggests, you forget up to 70% of what you study if you don’t practice and rehearse on time. If you don’t rehearse, your neurons will stop communicating the topic and it will be a lot harder to retain it later on. You might even have to relearn things, which means you have lost time.
Your next question might be: “What is the golden rule when it comes to practicing?” This is a difficult question. There is not really a golden rule because there are so many different types of content. Practicing words of a foreign language requires a different frequency than practicing a mathematical formula, or a psychological theory. This is because all three of these types of knowledge rely on different parts of the brain. However, a lot of scientists have tried to uncover a golden rule. Here are two important scientific research in a nutshell, that have very useful outcomes.
Ebbinghaus was a german researcher who tried to uncover the essence of memory. He wanted to know what it takes to remember something or forget something for that matter. Because he wanted to leave his research ‘unbiased’, he created a bogus language that had no similarities to German. He invented words and tried to see how much he had to practice to remember everything correctly. Based on this research, he figured that you forget 70% of what you learn, after one day without rehearsal. He stated the ideal practice and rehearsal scheme is after 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month and 6 months. Despite a few limitations to this research, it does imply a good practice scheme for learning content that is completely unfamiliar to you or a foreign language for instance.
Rawson & Dunlosky
Rawson and Dunlosky are two researchers who (quite recently) tried to find a golden rule for practice, rehearsal and passing an exam. Their research is fantastic, as they tested in on their own students, who had to study for a real exam on the subject they were teaching. This makes the setting of the research very real and the results very usable for us! They found that you have to practice your notes and flashcards until you answer them all correctly at least twice. Of course, it differs per student how much time it takes until they get it right. After these two successful sessions, a student has to study once more and then practice / test themselves a third and a fourth time. Students who applied this method, had the highest grade on their exams, in the most efficient way, compared to their fellow students. Note that it was the most efficient way: These students did not spend more time studying than the other students, they just used their time wisely!
Where to go from here?
Good question! First of all, you could stay in the eFaqt environment. With eFaqt, you sign up for a free account on which you can create and save your notes and flashcards. After you have saved them, eFaqt sets timers for when you have to practice them. The time on these timers are based on what is found in scientific research, so you will optimize your practice-sessions and rehearsals. Furthermore, eFaqt tells you how many you got right, and which ones you may have to practice again. So when you have reached your 100%, eFaqt will tell you so! After you reach that 100% twice, relearn your textbook and try to reach your 100% two more times so nothing can go wrong anymore.
For more help, you could read our useful blogs that explain the program, explain recent researches and provide other effective tips. We try to be a pillar of strength when it comes to studying! But, no pressure. You are free to do it another way!