6 Best Ways to Study According to Cognitive Psychologists

Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Mother using laptop and tablet teaching with her son online at home in his room

Studying for an exam can be a challenge for most parents and students. Especially for comprehensive tests, knowing where to start can be overwhelming — combined with the fact that your child has to learn a huge chunk of information in a short amount of time. If you haven’t found effective study techniques to help your child out, don’t despair because the best ways to study according to cognitive psychologists are simple, yet immensely effective in helping your child retain information better. Read on to learn more.


Repeat and Remember Concepts

Research conducted more than 100 years ago has shown that repeating and remembering concepts over and over — also known as repeated retrieval practice — allows learners to access information better in the future. Think about retrieval practice in this way — instead of your child having to look up the answers online or from their textbook, they can instead try to recall the answer on their own.

Repeated retrieval practice is helpful when it comes to lessons that involve memorization. For example, when trying to remember the periodic table of elements, help your child study the list once. Let them recite it, and if they are able to remember elements perfectly on the first try, repeat the process over and over again until they are able to memorize the entire table.


Ask Questions

Another effective way of testing what your child has already learned, is by asking them questions or encouraging them to test themselves. Psychology professors have suggested that testing oneself, failing, but trying, again and again, is more valuable than not making an effort at all.

In guiding your child, let them answer quizzes or exam booklets. It may also be helpful to retake exams and quizzes they’ve previously taken for that same subject. Or, you could also come up with a quiz tailored for your child, with a fresh new set of questions they can answer.


Explain Ideas

Most people may have the opinion that memorization without understanding is useless and in some ways, it’s true. Sure, your child may have a photographic memory of formulas and equations — but if they don’t understand the rationale behind them, then they may get dumbfounded when trying to solve math problems on the actual exam.

This is why it’s important that your child is also able to explain ideas and provide answers to the “Whys”. Help them go beyond by allowing your child to explain concepts and ideas in their own words. Doing this is good practice and also enables them to remember information much more efficiently.


Connect Information Together

Connecting information together seems difficult when there doesn’t seem to be anything that brings your child’s lessons together. But if you take a closer look, these lessons are actually connected. The challenge lies in finding the ties that bind these lessons to form one whole coherent idea.

Do this by trying to learn a concept one-by-one. After devoting some time for that, try to group or pair these with other ideas. Allow your child to provide self-explanations on how all of these individual concepts can be joined together in one uniform, but comprehensive thought.


Use Well-Known Strategies

It’s likely that your child has already come up with study strategies of their own that have helped them ace quizzes and exams in the past. Instead of introducing new and unfamiliar techniques to them, encourage your child to practice their own learning styles.

For example, your child might prefer remembering concepts by saying them out loud or coming up with mnemonics for them. Allow them to do this, but also supplement it with one or two of the techniques on this list.


Divide Lessons into Segments

Comprehensive exams usually cover more than three, sometimes four lessons in a single test. If your child doesn’t know where to begin, don’t try telling them to learn all the lessons in a single day. Instead, devote a few days or even a week prior to the exam where your child can divide the lesson coverage into small and manageable segments.

For example, on this particular day, your child can study two lessons that are easy to work with. After retrieval practice, repetition, and self-tests, your child can already move onto the more difficult ideas, depending on their pace. Do this until a day or a few hours of the exam, where your child can simply take a refresher and avoid overloading their brain with multiple lessons all at once.


Key Takeaway

The best ways to study according to cognitive psychologists are the following: Repeating concepts over and over, performing self-examinations, explaining ideas, connecting information together, breaking up lessons into chunks, and using strategies that your child is already familiar with.

Take note that your child will not be able to master all of these techniques in one night, which is why consistency and dedication are crucial in helping them answer their exams or quizzes.


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