Practice Tests and Spaced Repetition
If someone asked you, point blank, to remember what you ate last Tuesday…could you do it?
You can quiz yourself by using software such as Anki, which can be installed on your computer or accessed online with a free account. You can also download the app (available for Android and iPhones) when you’re on the go. The best thing about it is that it synchronizes your progress across all your devices. If you work on some material on your phone, the information synchronizes to your computer and to the website. So you won’t have to worry about losing your place. As long as each device has internet access, you won’t lose your place.
Anki uses a method called spaced repetition that sets a daily limit to studying. After you’ve studied the limit for the day, the application stops. Of course, everyone has different abilities for learning and retaining information. You could always adjust the settings to study more, or study less, in a single day.
With Anki, you can create your own flashcard set (called decks) or use a shared deck. The Anki community of users have shared decks in almost any subject you can imagine.
With dedication and motivation, flashcards could be your best friend. I suggest keeping a study journal to keep track of how long you’ve studied.
A few minutes a day, every day
As you dedicate yourself to studying, you won’t have to devote hours to learn something. Studies show that by dedicating a few minutes a day, you can learn better than by attempting to “cram” for hours. By testing yourself often, your short term memory recall will move into your long-term memory. The key is to remain motivated and stick to a study schedule.
Short Term Success, Long-Term Benefit
I can imagine myself sitting at a cafe in the French Riviera ordering breakfast calming watching as the tide goes by. All because I learned today that the word for ‘the lightbulb’ is ‘la ampoule’.
Every few minutes spent studying is a positive reinforcement towards a longer goal. Maybe your goal is to speak another language or to learn to recite verse. These are all long-term goals that can take a long…long time. I have been learning French for almost ten years now. While I can carry on a conversation and answer some basic questions, I know that I won’t be a fluent speaker any time soon. But with every word that I learn or phrase that I pick up every time I study, I consider it a small victory that reinforces my long-term goal. Learning takes time. Small successes lead to grand achievements.
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