Today’s Learning Quotient Question: June 24, 2012
Q. If you engage in several study sessions in advance of a test, how far apart should the sessions be spaced for optimal recall of the material?
A. It depends on how far off the test is, and how long you want to remember the material. If the test is next week, it’s best to space your study sessions a day or two apart. If you want to remember the information a year from now, it’s best to space your learning sessions about a month apart. The research on spacing and memory can summed up in this rule of thumb: The longer you’ll need to remember something, the farther apart you should space your encounters with the material. If there’s something you want to remember for a lifetime—vocabulary words in a foreign language you’re learning, for example—be sure to expose yourself to it repeatedly over a number of years. In any case, packing a lot of learning into a short period is a good way to ensure that—poof!—it disappears from your memory.
Further reading: The Smart Way to Study, from UC-San Diego.
You might also be interested to read my Time.com column about spacing and recall: The New Way Doctors Learn.
About your Learning Quotient: Research on the science of learning demonstrates that it’s not some innate intelligence that determines how well you learn, but how much you know about how learning works. Instead of IQ, think LQ: your Learning Quotient. Each day on the Brilliant Blog I’ll be offering a question meant to test your LQ—and an answer meant to raise it. A full-fledged Learning Quotient Quiz is in the works, so stay tuned!