Photo: fizkes (Shutterstock)
To retain what you’ve studied or learned, you should try active recall. This technique is all about actively retrieving content from your memory instead of just reviewing it passively. That sounds easy enough until you try to think of ways to do it. Besides simply re-reading your notes over and over, here’s what you can do to use active recall in your own studies.
What is active recall?
Active recall, according to the Windsor University School of Medicine, is exactly what it sounds like: You’re consciously forcing your brain to retrieve information. This does two things for you: It helps you move the information into your long-term memory and identifies concepts you’re having a harder time with.
Active recall has been the subject of a number of research studies, too, and they have found that actively engaging with retrieved memories, as opposed to passively reviewing content, helps you retain more information.
How do you use active recall to study?
We use active recall all the time in real life. For instance, when someone asks you what you did two days ago, you pause to retrieve the memory. When a website asks for your login password, you do the same thing. You consciously direct energy to the retrieval process, which makes it easier to get the info next time you need it, too. (Once you enter the same password in enough times, it starts to come automatically, right?)
To engage in active recall while you study, try these methods:
Each of these tasks forces you to retrieve the information from your brain, think about it, and communicate it in some way, which is what active recall is all about. Taking a test, too, is an example of engaging in active recall—so practice doing this as many times as you can before your test to make it second nature by then.