Vlad's Roam Garden

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When we try to answer a question before we know how to, we will later remember the answer better, even if our attempt failed (Arnold and McDermott 2013). If we put effort into the attempt of retrieving information, we are much more likely to remember it in the long run, even if we fail to retrieve it without help in the end (Roediger and Karpicke 2006). Even without any feedback, we will be better off if we try to remember something ourselves (Jang et al. 2012). The empirical data is pretty unambiguous, but these learning strategies do not necessarily feel right. Intuitively, most students resort to cramming, which is just another term for reading something again and again in a failed attempt to learn it (Dunlosky et al. 2013). And as much as rereading doesn’t help with learning, it certainly doesn’t help with understanding. Admittedly, cramming does get information into your head for a short while – usually long enough to stay in there to pass a test. But cramming won’t help you learn. As Terry Doyle and Todd Zakrajsek put it: “If learning is your goal, cramming is an irrational act” (Doyle and Zakrajsek 2013).