Better Learning Techniques than Cramming

My daughter, a high school junior, crams for tests. She gets good grades, but her standardized test scores are just average. Is she really learning? -- Puzzled

Answer: Standardized tests are used as one measurement of a student's progress in core subjects. If the tests are closely tied to the curriculum at your daughter's school, then she may not be retaining the material that she crammed in her head before tests as well as she should.

Students can earn high test scores on classroom tests by cramming. Unfortunately, most of this information can be quickly forgotten. What your daughter needs to do is to learn how to study smarter -- not necessarily more.

Actually, it is difficult on the brain when students spend long hours cramming for a test. So much of their brainpower has to be focused on maintaining their concentration. Plus, the message to the brain is that the material has only to be held for a short time.

There are other study techniques that work far better. One: Students can talk about the material with others. Two: They can make up tests covering the material. Three: They can write down some of the important material. Four: One of the best techniques is spacing their study sessions. Looking at material a day or two after a first study session and then a week or so later is particularly effective.

For years, everyone has been saying that students should have a special spot for studying. Now there is growing evidence that studying the same material in different environments gives them a stronger memory.