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How to Study Effectively

Many students would quite like to study, but don’t really know how, or where to begin. Fortunately, the science of learning shows us the best bets for effective learning and study. Rather than using ineffective techniques such as ‘highlighting notes’ or re-reading, students should utilise these findings from science.

Three Key Techniques

(proven by science!)

Image by Joshua Hoehne


Interleaving is a process where students mix, or interleave, multiple subjects or topics while they study in order to improve their learning. 

This means switching between subjects and topics. This strategy forces the brain to continually retrieve because each practice attempt is different from the last.

For example:

Write a paragraph for English 20 mins, then self-quiz biology notes using flash cards for 20 mins, then practise a maths problem from a past paper 20 mins.

Retrieval Practice

Aka 'thinking hard'. Evidence indicates that students learn better when they use strategies that involve active retrieval of information as opposed to relatively passive study techniques such as rereading or highlighting.


For example:

1. Get a blank sheet of paper and write down everything you know about a topic. Then (this is the crucial bit) ...

2. Check your class notes/text book to see what you missed or what you got wrong.

Flashcards are another form of retrieval practice.

Memory retrieval feels hard at first, like failing to do a pushup. But that’s precisely why it works. You will  “remember a little more each time (you) attempt to remember.”  (Dan Willingham)

Image by Kenny Eliason
Image by Kelly Sikkema

Dual Coding

When making handwritten notes, use icons, diagrams, mindmaps alongside written explanations and notes. We all learn best when we have multiple representations of the same ideaWork your way up to drawing what you know from memory.

Before you begin...

1. Set up for study. 


Make it obvious;  


Always study in one area, have everything set-out ready for the session.


Look to ‘stack’ habits. This will help establish routines you stick to.


Create a revision timetable which includes other commitments.

Studying at Home

2. Make the time to read the notes and watch the videos below.


They will help you to understand how to study really effectively (from The Learning Scientists).

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