Research-backed strategies to help you learn

Research into how our brains work has given us some handy tips to help us learn. There are six key strategies that anyone can use to study more effectively. You can read more about each strategy below and download a poster that explains how to use it.[i] 

  1. Spaced practice

It is more effective to spread out your studying over time rather than doing it all at once. For example, it is better to spend an hour a day studying maths from Monday to Friday than to spend five hours on it on Monday. Spreading out your learning helps you to remember what you’ve learned for longer.

Click here to download a poster with more tips on spaced practice.

  1. Retrieval practice

Retrieval practice involves remembering something you have learnt in the past and bringing it back to mind. This helps to consolidate the memory and makes it easier to remember next time you need it. You can use retrieval practice to review past learning before learning something new. Tests and quizzes are easy ways of doing this.

Click here to download a poster with more tips on retrieval practice.

  1. Elaboration

Elaboration means describing and explaining something you have learnt. It is effective because you need to understand something deeply in order to be able to explain it. Try to create the explanation yourself before checking your notes to see if it’s correct. It can also help to make links between the ideas you are currently learning and your existing knowledge.

Click here to download a poster with more tips on elaboration.

  1. Interleaving

Rather than focusing on learning one idea for a long time, it is better to switch between them. For example, rather than working on one type of maths problem for half an hour you could do five problems of one type and then five of another.  Interleaving is effective because noticing connections and differences between different ideas helps to strengthen your understanding of them.

Click here to download a poster with more tips on interleaving.

  1. Concrete Examples

It is easier to remember concrete examples than abstract information. If you are trying to learn about an abstract concept, it can help to find several real-life examples. For example, when learning about forces in physics, consider concrete situations like a car accelerating and braking. 

Click here to download a poster with more tips on concrete examples.

  1. Dual Coding

Dual coding means combining words with pictures or diagrams. Presenting information in this way can make it easier to understand and give us more ways of remembering it. It could be as simple as drawing a chart or a doodle in your notes. For example, if you are trying to learn some key dates for a history exam, it might help to put the events on a timeline. 

Click here to download a poster with more tips on dual coding.

[i] All posters were developed by the Learning Scientists: https://www.learningscientists.org/posters


Peter Henderson

Peter is on secondment to The Education Hub from the Education Endowment Foundation, a UK charity which supports teachers to use research to improve their practice. Before he joined us, Peter co-authored five EEF guidance reports and led the EEF’s grant making in maths, literacy, and special educational needs. He also chaired the governing board of a primary school in North London.