A few weeks ago, my friend Catherine said, “Debbie, it’s time for you to read Daniel Willingham.”

Willingham is a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia.  His website is a treasure trove of useful information about how we learn.

From Willingham’s article, What Will Improve a Student’s Memory:

Wanting to remember some-thing doesn’t have much bearing on whether or not you will actually remember it….Here’s how you should think about memory: it’s the residue of thought, meaning that the more you think about something, the more likely it is that you’ll remember it later.

Students allocated, on average, just 68 percent of the time needed to get the target score.  We can sum this up by saying the third principle is that people tend to think their learning is more complete than it really is.

The final strategy to avoid forgetting is to overlearn…..Students should study until they know the material and then keep studying……A good rule of thumb is to put in another 20 percent of the time it took to master the material.

The whole article is well worth the read.

I’ve been doling out the tips like little Scooby snacks to my son, as he prepares for finals. Surprisingly, he’s interested and is using the advice.


Illustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis