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How to Revise & Practice

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In this revised edition of How to Learn: The 10 principles of effective revision & practice, examples and exercises from science, mathematics, history, foreign languages, and skill learning, are used to show exactly how to apply the 10 principles of effective practice and revision.

Few students know how to revise effectively, which is why they waste so much time going over and over material, as they try to hammer it into their heads. But you don’t need to spend all that time, and you don’t need to endure such boredom. What you need to do is understand how to review your learning in the most effective way. Using examples and exercises from science, math, history, foreign languages, and skill learning, that is what this book aims to teach you. This workbook will tell you

  • what you should practice or revise
  • how you should revise
  • how often you should revise
  • how far apart you should schedule your sessions
  • different strategies you can use in your practice / revision
  • how skill learning differs from ‘fact’ learning

and more.

This workbook is for students who are serious about being successful in study, and teachers who want to know how best to help their students learn.



1. What you need to know about memory

The 8 basic principles of memory

How neurons work

Working memory — a constraining factor

The role of consolidation in memory

Points to remember

Review questions

2. What should you practice?

Some examples

Points to remember

Part I: Principles of retrieval practice

3. Retrieval practice

Keyword mnemonic

Concept maps

Mnemonics & concept mapping can support retrieval practice

Benefits for related information

Errorless learning

Forced guessing

Points to remember

Review questions

4. How often should you practice?

Criterion levels set the number of correct retrievals

Task difficulty affects optimal criterion level

Individual items may demand different criterion levels

Individual differences matter

How many times should you review?

Recommended schedule

Points to remember

Review questions

5. Spacing your practice

The advantage of spreading out your practice

Optimal spacing

The need for review

Stretching the review interval

Distributing your reviews

How type of material & task may affect spacing's benefits

Points to remember

Review questions

6. Spacing within your study session

The importance of interleaving for category and type learning

Why should interleaved practice be more effective than massed practice?

Why people persist in believing massed practice is better

Preventing interference

Consolidation during rest

Spacing & interleaving for complex material

Points to remember

Review questions

7. Putting it all together

Why is spaced retrieval practice so effective?

The ten principles of effective practice

Part II: Specific strategies to use for and with retrieval practice

8. Flashcards

When to drop a card from the stack

How many cards in a stack

Best practice for flashcards

Flashcard variant

Review questions

9. Keyword mnemonic

Choosing when to use the keyword mnemonic

Using mnemonics for simple facts and definitions

Using mnemonics for associated pairs

Using mnemonics for complex information

Using a mnemonic effectively

Review questions

10. Linking differences & asking questions

Linking differences


How to display your questions

Points to remember

Review questions

11. Concept maps

Points to remember

Review questions

Part III: Skill practice

12. Learning a skill

Skill learning begins with instruction


Automating action sequences is the heart of motor skill learning

How ‘muscle memory’ is different from information memory

Deliberate practice

Breaking down a skill

Varied repetition


Self-monitoring and goal-setting

Metacognition and self-monitoring

Not all practice is, or should be, deliberate practice

Mental practice

Mental priming

Points to remember

Review questions

13. Cognitive skills

Worked examples provide models for cognitive skills

Automatization is the core attribute of all skills

Approach skill learning like an expert

The 10 principles of effective skill practice

Points to remember

Review questions

Part IV: Putting it all into practice

14. Specific subjects



Learning a new alphabet

Learning vocabulary

Learning grammar

Achieving fluency

Summary of strategy choice


Symbolic knowledge & number sense

Embodied cognition & reducing cognitive load

Pattern recognition & spatial visualization

Balancing practice & theory

Main points


Doing science

Learning basic facts

Understanding science

Perceptual fluency & conceptual understanding

Reading science

Every science is different

Main points


Review questions

15. Obstacles to effective practice

Beliefs that stand in the way of effective learning

Test anxiety

Habits can break or make you

Scheduling your reviews

Bottom line


Chapter notes

Answers to review questions

Answers to exercises




Formats: Paperback, E-book (pdf), E-book (Kindle), E-book (ePub)

Size: 296 pages

Publisher: Wayz Press (November, 2013; Revised edition November, 2020)



978-1-927166-65-9 (paperback)