How to Learn

Being a successful student is far more about being a smart user of effective strategies than about being 'smart'. In Effective Notetaking and Mnemonics for Study, Dr McPherson showed readers many strategies for improving understanding and memory. But these on their own can only take you so far, if you don’t know how to cement that information into your brain for the long term. In this new book, Dr McPherson explains the 10 principles of effective practice and revision.

Few students know how to learn 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 optimal way. Using examples from science, math, history, foreign languages, and skill learning, that is what this book aims to teach you.

As always with the Mempowered books, this book doesn't re-hash the same tired advice that's been peddled for so long, but uses the latest cognitive and educational research to show you what to do to maximize your learning.

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

CORRECTION: Purchasers of the paperback, or previous purchasers of digital formats, please note that there is an incorrect graph! See the correction here

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Table of Contents

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

2. What should you practice?

Some examples

3. Retrieval practice

Comparison of retrieval practice with other strategies


Keyword mnemonic

Concept maps

Benefits for related information

Errorless learning

Forced guessing

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?

Session spacing may be a factor

Recommended schedule

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

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

Children's brains may work differently

Aging also affects consolidation & interference

Spacing & interleaving for complex material

7. Putting it all together

Why is spaced retrieval practice so effective?

The ten principles of effective practice

8. Specific strategies


When to drop a card from the stack

How many cards in a stack

Best practice for flashcards

Flashcard variant

Keyword mnemonic

Using mnemonics for complex information

Using a mnemonic effectively


How to display your questions

Concept maps

9. Skill learning

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

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

10. Putting all this into practice

Beliefs that stand in the way of effective learning

Test anxiety

Habits can break or make you

Scheduling your reviews

Bottom line



Product details

Formats: Paperback, E-book (pdf), E-book (Kindle), E-book (ePub)
296 pages
Publisher: Wayz Press (November, 2013)
978-1-927166-13-0 (pdf)
978-1-927166-11-6 (mobi)
978-1-927166-12-3 (ePub)
978-1-927166-14-7 (paperback)
ASIN:  B00GXJHUUU  (Kindle)

Alliance of Independent Authors

Sample Pages from Print edition