7 Things You Didn’t Know About Studying

There’s a new book out called “Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.” According to the authors, those awesome study habits you have… well, they’re not so awesome. You might be thinking,

“What??? They’ve worked so far!”


If you want what you’ve learned to last for more than a few days, then it’s time to do something different! Here’s a list of items that Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel suggest people don’t understand about effective learning.

(1) If you need to put forth some effort to learn it, you’ll remember it better.

For some reason, people think that if it feels easy to learn, then they’ve learned it better. That’s not the case. If something feels easy to learn, that’s a clue that you probably won’t remember it very long. The authors make an analogy to writing in sand… it’s easily washed away.

(2) You don’t really know what you know and what you don’t.

Unless you take a test or quiz, you really don’t know what you know. Some things help us feel good, but don’t help us learn–like rereading the textbook.

(3) Reading that chapter again–yeah, it doesn’t help.

What’s funny is that we’ve been told our whole lives to “practice, practice, practice!” But, it doesn’t work. It just makes us feel like we know it. The only way to know for sure is to test ourselves.

(4) Taking quizzes–Yeah! That helps!

Quizzing yourself gives you practice recalling the material (which you’ll have to do on the test anyway). Also, it helps you know what you know v. what you don’t know. Quizzing might be the easiest and most effective study tool to add to your toolbox!

(5) Learning styles don’t matter.

I know they told you all throughout elementary and high school that if you’re a visual learner, you should learn in a visual way, but research shows (over and over) that learning styles just don’t matter. You can learn in any way!

(6)  Take a break! You need it!

You’ll remember more by breaking up your practice into smaller chunks than by either cramming the night before or studying for long blocks of time. Studying is like making jello. You need to give it time to set. That’s what the break is for! You’re letting your learning “set.”


(7)  Mix it up!


Don’t just study math or science or psychology in one big block–rather, switch between them. By switching back and forth, you’re creating effortful learning. More effortful learning means it will stick in your memory better!