September 27, 2017

Most students study the wrong way. Here are some tips from a memory prof to start off the semester

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Most students study the wrong way, says a Purdue University expert.

“There is a lot of evidence that the most popular studying strategy, rereading notes, is not an effective way to study,” says Jeffrey D. Karpicke, James V. Bradley Professor of Psychological Sciences, who is an expert on learning, memory and information acquisition. “Just rereading notes or sections of a textbook is not effective. And, reading them a second or third time is purely a waste of time.”

Instead of repetitive reading, Karpicke, a cognitive scientist, recommends students engage in active retrieval, a form of self-testing. This can be done for all school ages and college students, but younger grades will need assistance.

It’s the flip side of repetitive reading, and there are many popular online sites to set up such tests. A few things to keep in mind when self-testing:

* “There is this illusion that if I can retrieve something in the moment, then I think I’ve got it. One and done,” Karpicke says. “If you just do two extra retrievals, that slows down the forgetting rate. So, a person should recall the same concept or term a few times, not just once.”

* “It also is most effective to space out your self-testing,” he says. “If you recall one concept repeatedly at once, then it is like cramming and it’s not effective. Space out the terms and concepts within the study session, but better yet, space out your study sessions through the day or week.”

Karpicke also recommends that teachers share the benefits of studying with active retrieval. In a recent “Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied” study by Karpicke and post-doctoral researcher Robert Ariel, it was found that once students understood the value and benefits of active retrieval they were more likely to use it as a studying tool.

In 2014, Karpicke received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. He also received a Faculty Early Career Development award from the National Science Foundation in 2012.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723,

Source: Jeffrey D. Karpicke, 765-494-0273,

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