Learning Methods

What Works, What Doesn’t 1 says:

Fast Facts

  1. Some study methods work in many different situations and across topics, boosting test performance and long-term retention. Learning how to learn can have lifelong benefits.
  2. Self-testing and spreading out study sessions — so-called distributed practice — are excellent ways to improve learning. They are efficient, easy to use and effective.
  3. Underlining and rereading, two methods that many students use, are ineffective and can be time-consuming.
  4. Other learning techniques need further testing and evaluation. In the meantime, students and teachers can put proved study methods to use in classrooms and at home.

Learning Methods Ranked by Efficacy

Learning methods and their efficacies were also discussed. The winners according to the study are :

  1. SELF-TESTING or Quizzing Yourself Gets High Marks
  2. DISTRIBUTED PRACTICE or Spread Your Study over Time Spaced Repetition Don’t cram; earning over time is much more effective.
  3. ELABORATIVE INTERROGATION or channel your inner four year old
  5. INTERLEAVED PRACTICE - Mixing apples and oranges


  1. Dunlosky, John & Rawson, Katherine & Marsh, Elizabeth & Nathan, Mitchell & Willingham, Daniel. (2013). What Works, What Doesn’t. Scientific American Mind. 24. 46-53. 10.1038/scientificamericanmind0913-46. Some study techniques accelerate learning, whereas others are just a waste of time—but which ones are which? An unprecedented review maps out the best pathways to knowledge