Acing Your Final Exams: The Best Way to Study

What is the best way to ace your final exams?

Reading your textbook and notes over and over again isn’t going to cut it, according to some interesting research.

While poring over the written material seems like a no brainer, researchers from Purdue and Washington University insist that it’s not the best approach.

Here’s a better way to improve test scores:

You should practice retrieving as much information as you can from memory just as you would have to do on test day. You can do this by writing down what you absorbed — without consulting your notes or book — or you can review what you know out loud. And you should do this several times.

Even if you think you know it, the research shows retrieving it about three or four more times can achieve big gains in learning.

In contrast, simply reviewing your notes or textbook can provide you a false sense of confidence. In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, here’s what one of the researchers, Jeffrey D. Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue, had to say about this phenomenon:

“So you could say to yourself, ‘Yeah, I know this. Sure, this is all very familiar.  But, of course, when you go in to take a classroom test, or in real life when you need to reconstruct your knowledge, the book’s not there. In our experiments, when students repeatedly read something it falsely inflates their sense of their own learning.”

Unfortunately, you can’t read the research unless you want to pay big bucks because the papers are published in pricey research journals. Here is a press release from the Purdue study, however, that talks about performing better on tests.

Who ever thought that hitting the books might not always be the best strategy?

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller and a workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Cut the Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree. Follow her on Twitter.

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