Effective studying may depend more on how time is organized than on just the amount of time spent. Learn how to take advantage of the spacing effect.
Study time can be hard to find. There may always seem like there is more to do than time allows, especially for high school or college students when they want to have a personal life too. Many students have learned how to use good study strategies and how to find time to study. However, the one thing that is often overlooked is not how much study time is put in, but rather how that time is scheduled.
How to Schedule Study Time
Study time should be scheduled on a calendar to prioritize it and to prevent procrastination. Cramming at the last minute can cause panic and it can hurt memory and recall. Everyone finds themselves in a situation where they need to study at the last minute but that should be avoided when possible. Scheduling study time on a regular basis can prevent that last-minute cramming and the panic that goes with it.
If an assignment is known about in advance, then figure the amount of time that will need to be put in and then space that time out over several days or even weeks if possible.That will increase long-term retention and recall of the information and will help students avoid that s remember it on test day. It is referred to as spaced trials or the spacing effect.
How to use the spacing effect
The spacing effect works best with information that has to be remembered at a later date, such as information for an exam or for use years later in a personal career. For example, if an exam might require four hours of study time, that time could be spaced out over a period of days by studying for 30 to 45 minutes a day for a week. Studying for less than 30 minutes at a time, however, may not be sufficient to make good use of a single study session.
Factor in the type of exam that will be given or how the information will need to be recalled and used when planning the overall amount of study time that will need to be put in. Having to recall information for an essay question or for use in a career will require more study time than simply having to recognize that information for a multiple choices quiz.
RESEARCH ON THE SPACING EFFECT
The positive benefits of spaced trials, or spacing effects, have been known for about a century. Some of the earliest research was done by Herman Ebbinghaus in the late 1800s. His studies on learning trials found that multiple trials were a significant factor in memory, as was spacing those trials out. He also found that once information is committed to memory, continuing with more trials helped to make the information more resistant to forgetting over time.
The neuroscience behind the spacing effect
Research on the spacing effect has continued since Ebbinghaus. Learning and Memory reported more recent research in the article “Neurogenesis and the spacing effect: Learning over time enhances memory and the survival of new neurons.” That research helps to continue to support Ebbinghaus theories. Their research showed that, not only did spaced trials enhance memory, the resulting increase in memory produced in an increase in the long-term survival of neuron cells.
SCHEDULING STUDY TIME
Scheduling study time is a very important factor in the long-term retention of information. Spacing study time out into multiple repetitions of exposure to and rehearsal of information is essential. That, along with scheduling and prioritizing study time can be a very effective strategy for good grades and quality career performance.
Knowing how to effectively schedule study time can greatly improve memory and help students make better grades. Start using the spacing effect to improve learning and retain information!