Are you struggling to remember what you're studying?
It’s probably not the first time where the material just isn't sticking no matter how hard you try!
Trust me, I’ve been there! As an ex-uni student, before I discovered active recall, I wasted countless amount of time using passive methods to study.
So in my helpful blog post, I’ll take you through a couple of effective study techniques that students of all kinds can use to help store information in their brain, long-term!
Let’s combine these two styles side by side and discover more about active recall versus rereading.
I’ll help you uncover exactly what is active recall, whether it works better than simply rereading, the benefits of each, and also give you different ways to use both methods to level up your study game!
This post is all about Active Recall vs Rereading.
ACTIVE RECALL VS REREADING
Before we dive into the advantages and disadvantages of cornell note taking method, we need to known what the cornell note taking method is and how to use it.
So let’s get started with the mini-answer first.
Active recall reinforces memory networks and improves long-term information memory retention, critical thinking and test-taking skills
Re-reading is best for complex material, but may not be effective for large amounts of information or if you do not have a long time. The best method depends on the material being studied and the individual,but consistency is key.
Ok, that’s the takeaway in place. So although you may know and have practised re-reading what about Active recall?
You’ve probably already used some of these techniques before without realising! So let’s discover more about Active recall and what it is.
What is Active recall?
In a nutshell, Active Recall is a learning approach that relies on retrieving information directly from your memory instead of simply looking over your work and re-reading it.
So it’s essentially a process of intentionally recalling information from your long term memory without relying on your study textbooks or notes.
So how does this super magic work? When you actively recall information, you are reinforcing the neural networks that connect the information to your memory. It makes it easier for you to remember and retrieve it from your brain.
Ok, sounds good, right? Let’s find out the benefits of using this powered-up study time strategy.
What are the benefits?
This evidence-based approach has numerous benefits, including faster learning, retaining information for a longer, and enhancing critical thinking skills.
It’s no surprise then to discover that the active recall method has been used as far back as 1620 when Francis Bacon discussed it as an active learning strategy. This is what he had to say!
“What is this? If you read a piece of text through twenty times, you will not learn it by heart so easily as if you read it ten times while attempting to recite from time to time and consulting the text when your memory fails.”
It also helps to improve your test and exam-taking skills since you are more likely to remember and apply what you have learned.
So let’s find out how it works in practice.
Examples of active recall
There are several active recall methods you can use to level up your study game, depending on the type of new information you need to learn.
One of the most common ways is to quiz yourself so you can retrieve specific information such as definitions, formulas and those history dates!
You can also use the Cornell note-taking system to actively recall information in summary form. ( A fancy way of organising your notes!) This system has been used effectively since the 1950s.
Trust me, taking cornell notes is a great way to absorbe your learning material. Crafting your own questions and retrieving the correct answers to them requires cognitive effort, which further strengthens you knowledge retention.
While other study methods may be 'low utility' like re-reading your notes. Active recall is a high utility study method and when used in an efficient way, it is one of the most effective revision techniques out there.
It is best used another learning technique: 'spaced repetition'. I mentioned this in another article I wrote called my 2 Secret Note Taking Techniques for Students - Apple these now!
Another method is the Feynman technique, which involves teaching the concept to someone else to assess your understanding. We’ve all probably realised how much we know when we start explaining our studies to others!
So it’s not much of a surprise to find out this is a great method of hitting your exam goals!
Whichever method you use, the idea is to engage your brain in retrieving information and storing it in your long-term memory.
How should I practice active recall?
One of the easiest ways to incorporate retrieval practice into your learning process is to divide your study periods into several short sessions.
This fits in nicely with another well known study method, Pomodoro technique to ensure productivity. Sounds clever but essentially involves timing yourself accurately between sessions. Interestingly this technique takes its name from the Italian word for tomato as its inventor suggested you space your learning out using a kitchen timer!
Although we’ve all been there burning the midnight oil, it’s best to avoid cramming where possible.
Instead try spacing out your study sessions over a period of time.
So if you have a maths test coming up for example, you can make flashcards with mathematical formulas you need to learn and then do practice testing (test yourself) each day leading to the exam.
Are there any drawbacks of active recall?
Although active recall is an effective learning approach, like any study method, it isn’t always the best choice if study technique.
So it can be a little time-consuming mainly because it requires students to create and use learning tools such as digital flashcards, quizzes, and do practice questions.
This time commitment can make it a challenge for it to become your main study tool. It can be hard enough simply opening your books, right?
It can take up a lot of time too if you are studying for multiple subjects.
Ok so now we’ve got the bar of active recall, let’s find out a little more about re-reading as a study technique.
What is re-reading?
Re-reading is exactly what it says!
It’s basically a study technique that involves reading the same material over again with the intention of understanding and retaining the information better.
It's a simple yet super-effective technique that doesn't require any special tools or technology.
This makes it simple to get going and also makes it accessible to pretty much anyone!
Although it sounds fairly obvious, it’s worth understanding that Re-reading is a really powerful study technique that can help you retain and understand complex information better.
This is where it differs slightly from active recall as it’s better for facts, dates, lists and formulas.
It works simply. By reading the same material many times, students can absorb the information at a deeper level, which improves their overall ability to recall it later.
So you might find that Re-reading works best when you're dealing with a complex subject that you might have found a little difficult to understand on the first read-through.
“It's a simple yet super effective technique that doesn't require any special tools or technology.”RIAR
Benefits of re-reading
One of the biggest benefits of re-reading is that it helps you remember information better.
When you read something over and over again, your brain is better able to store that information in your long-term memory.
This means that when you need to recall that information for end-of-term tests or even your finals, it'll be easier.
Re-reading also can more obviously also help you catch any information that you may have missed the first time around.
As you re-read your understanding will become deeper.
Drawbacks of rereading
However, re-reading isn't always the best study technique for every situation.
It may not be effective if you're dealing with a large amount of material that you need to get through quickly, or if you're short on time.
It could also be that for some, re-reading can become tedious or even overwhelming! This is especially true if the material hasn’t been understood the first time it was read.
So if you are in the process of re-reading, then as mentioned above using the timer technique, don’t forget to space out your study sessions, rather than swamping your brain with hours of back-to-back reading!
By doing this your brain to will be able to process the information you are reading more effectively.
Also it’s good practice to actively engage with the material as you re-read it.
So you could summarise the material in your own words, highlight the important bits or take notes.
Which is the best? Active recall vs rereading?
So, I bet you’re wondering which is the best method of smashing your study goals, active recall or re-reading?
Well, the big news is ultimately that the correct answer really does depend on the individual and the type of material you are studying.
Active recall works really well for retaining information, but it does require a little more effort and as I mentioned previously, it can be quite time-consuming.
Re-reading will help you get a better overview of the material and can help with overall understanding.
The key is to find what works for you, and to stay consistent with your chosen method.
Finding your own niche when it comes to using types of study can be really effective and using the right technique for the right type of study means you can master even the trickiest of subjects like a pro!
Final thoughts on Active Recall vs Rereading...
So there it is! I hope you found that helpful and also have learned a little of how active recall is the best way to help you ace your tests and exams!
The effectiveness of Active recall methods depends on how you use them. For best results, use all kinds of material such as making your own quizzes, using flashcard app, making concept maps, use practice tests answering exam questions. Also, space out your retention intervals.
To find out more about active recall study methods, check out one of other helpful articles