Remember how we used to study in school? Read the materials, underline, highlight, reread … repeat.
Research show that’s not only time consuming, it also doesn’t really result in solid learning. Even worse, you’re left thinking you know the material when you really don’t.
Sure, you get familiar with the text through all that rereading, but that only creates the illusion of knowing — the false impression that you will remember the material. You defeat the illusion of knowing by, you know, actually learning.
The test is the learning
After reviewing the materials, quizzing yourself is a much better way to learn compared with additional reviewing. That’s because what really cements your mastery of a topic is the act of retrieval.
Here’s an explanation of that from the book Make It Stick:
The act of retrieving learning from memory has two profound benefits. One, it tells you what you know and don’t know, and therefore where to focus further study to improve the areas where you’re weak. Two, recalling what you have learned causes your brain to reconsolidate the memory, which strengthens its connections to what you already know and makes it easier for you to recall in the future.
We generally think of quizzes and tests as an evaluation of how much retention has already occurred, but being tested on a topic is a potent way to learn the topic better.
A single quiz after reading a book or listening to a lecture results in greater retention than rereading the book or reviewing notes from the lecture.
Learn for life
Most successful students take charge of their own learning and follow a simple but disciplined strategy. And while we haven’t been in school for a bit, the need for “lifelong learning” is accelerating along with everything else.
Whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or climbing the corporate ladder, becoming better at learning is part of your job.
And if you’d actually like to get some real benefit out of those personal development books on your nightstand, it helps to be able to retain and quickly retrieve your new life strategy.