Close the Book. Recall. Write It Down.

Researchers in Psychology who have studied what actually sticks in long term memory have discovered something that Francis Robinson figured out in 1946-students who read need to immediately connect the material to what they already know as well as thoughts that can take that learning even further. Robinson developed the SQ3R technique—survey, question, read, recite, review. When students read passages from books over and over, it gives them a false sense of security, but it doesn’t necessarily further their learning or store effectively in long term memory. Active-recall is the key to reading, remembering and storing learning for the long term. These techniques need to be taught to students long before they reach college and beginning as early as fifth grade.


That old study method still works, researchers say. So why don’t professors preach it?
May 1, 2009

The scene: A rigorous intro-level survey course in biology, history, or economics. You’re the instructor, and students are crowding the lectern, pleading for study advice for the midterm.

If you’re like many professors, you’ll tell them something like this: Read carefully. Write down unfamiliar terms and look up their meanings. Make an outline. Reread each chapter.

That’s not terrible advice. But some scientists would say that you’ve left out the most important step: Put the book aside and hide your notes. Then recall everything you can. Write it down, or, if you’re uninhibited, say it out loud.

Two psychology journals have recently published papers showing that this strategy works, the latest findings from a decades-old body of research. When students study on their own, “active recall” — recitation, for instance, or flashcards and other self-quizzing — is the most effective way to inscribe something in long-term memory.

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