Psychological Self-Help

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1324
try to use some system to help you remember a list or series of points,
e.g. use the first letter of each point as a clue for remembering, such
as SQRRR. Associate the new information with things you already
know, e.g. you know that active rehearsal is critical for remembering. 
Protect your memory from interference. If you know some material
will be on the exam, review that information frequently, preferable
every day for 4 or 5 days before the test. Recite it to yourself. Try to
study each subject for only an hour or so at a time, and then switch to
a very different subject during the next hour. Similar information
causes more confusion. And, spacing out your learning into smaller
batches is helpful too. 
Over-learn the important material. Keep on rehearsing even after
you think you "have this stuff down cold." The anxiety of the test may
disrupt a weak memory, so over-learn. Moreover, you aren't just
preparing for a test; you are preparing to design a space ship, to teach
a learning disabled child, to make major business decisions, to do
bypass surgery, etc. You need practice learning and remembering well. 
Time involved
It may take only 5 minutes to learn this method. It will take
several hours to make it a habit. At first you will have to force yourself
to QUESTION, READ and RECITE. When you have become proficient
with the method, it is uncertain how much extra time it will take
(beyond straight reading) because you will comprehend faster and
more, and retain more from your reading. 
A classical study by Gates in 1917 indicated that self-rehearsal
greatly improves the recall of facts. He concluded that 10% to 50% of
your study time could profitably be used reciting and reviewing what
you have read. The drier and more disconnected the facts, the more
rehearsal is needed. Also, some material needs to be known in minute
detail; other material needs to be recalled only in general terms and
can be skimmed. 
Common problems
Three problems are common: (1) many people think they are
already good readers (that usually means fast) and are disinterested in
learning to read better. Most of us would benefit greatly from retaining
more of what we read. (2) Some people fail to stick with the method
long enough to learn the skill. Reading is an unpleasant chore for
many people, even college students. Unfortunately, we are not a land
of readers; lacking that skill will limit our depth of knowledge. (3)
Some people waste time by applying this method even though the
material doesn't need to be recalled in detail. Many things don't
deserve to be read laboriously. 
Effectiveness, advantages and dangers
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