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As I began to collect and review my interview material I kept stumbling across p ieces of advice or strategies that appeared again

and again. Even more unexpecte d, many of these repeat offenders were strategies I too had devised as part of m y own academic turn around. I soon developed an astonishing theory: When it come s to making straight A s, there seem to be a collection of universal laws common st rategies that almost any student who sets out to improve his or her performance will ultimately stumble upon. Like the laws of nature, they are fundamental. One of the most prevalent of these straight-A laws, and arguably the most import ant, is the following: The Quiz-and-Recall Method Most students study using rote review. The method is simple. Collect all of your notes from both lecture and reading assignments, then read them silently to you rself, again and again, as many times as you can tolerate before you become over whelmed by fatigue. Conscientious students start a day or two in advance and are able to review ever ything several times. Less conscientious students wait until the night before an d are often still rote reviewing up to the literal last minute before the test. Indeed, the word cram can be defined as: rapid rote reviewing. The straight-A students I interviewed did not do rote review. In fact, they despised rote review because they could correctly identify its ine fficiency. As any cognitive scientist will tell you, silent reading is a terribl e way to retain material. Your mind wanders and the material is retained at an a bysmally low rate. Here is what straight-A students do instead: They collapsed their notes into clusters which I call big ideas. It doesn t re ally matter how they decide this grouping, it s enough that clusters are somewhat consistent. They assigned a one-sentence prompt for each big idea. For example: How do G ibbon s ideas contrast with the scholars of the early 20th century? For each prompt, they attempt to lecture out loud, as if talking to an imagi nary class, the main points from the corresponding big idea. They do this withou t looking at their notes. If they are successful, they move on. If they had trou ble, they put a checkmark next to the big idea. After the first pass, they take a break, and then repeat, only focusing on t he big ideas that got checkmarks. After this run-through, they repeat again, foc using only on the big ideas that still gave them trouble in the second pass. And so on. This continues until they finish a pass with no checkmarks. I call this the quiz-and-recall method. And it s incredibly effective. Two things to notice: First, for some reason, lecturing out loud makes concepts stick in your mind. On ce you explain an idea, it has a way of intertwining itself in your neural pathw ays, and refusing to let go. Once is enough you re going to remember that material. The same doesn t hold true for rote review. You can read over a set of notes 10 t imes and still forget the important ideas by the next morning. Second, by only focusing, on each pass, on the big ideas that gave you trouble i n the previous pass, you re eliminating wasted time. Ideas you are familiar with g et a minimum of time. Tough ideas get the most time. In essence, you minimizing

the time required to learn every last idea. It s Like Magic Students who trust the quiz-and-recall method report that its effectiveness is a lmost eerie. A common experience for me, using this technique, is to sit down fo r an essay exam and find myself able to remember, almost word for word, argument s from lecture that I ingrained using q-and-r. Needless to say, the resulting es says (and grades) were strong. This is a simple change. But it s devastatingly effective. If you change just one thing about how you study, consider making the crucial switch from rote review t o quiz-and-recall.