I recently completed reading the excellent book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Brown, Roediger III and McDaniel. This was recommended to me by two of the professors that I am currently working with. The book is an great overview of how we learn and why the way we are taught to study is wrong. Below are the notes I took while reading the book.

Main Ideas:

  1. Active Retrieval - practice retrieving new learning from memory
  2. Space out your practices - wait until forgetting has started before studying again
  3. Interleave - study different problems will help create links between ideas
  4. Elaboration - find additional meaning of new material
  5. Generation - attempt to answer a question before learning how to solve it
  6. Reflection - what went well during the lecture/lesson? What can I do differently?
  7. Calibration - make sure what you know and what you THINK you know are aligned


Retrieval strategies like quizzes or flash cards are better than re-reading text and lecture notes.

Retrieval interrupts forgetting (I.e.-low stakes quizzing and self-testing frequently instead of just reviewing). Regular self-quizzing is very potent.

Learning is about interrupting the process of forgetting (we forget about 70% of what we just read).

Immediate testing after reading material has better outcomes even a week after than simply reading alone.

Retrieval practice (recalling facts or concepts/events from memory) is more effective. I.e. Flashcards

A single, simple quiz after reading text/hearing a lecture produces better learning and remembering than rereading/rewatching

Rereading text does not help learn the text if there has not beThree ways to amp up the intelligence we already have: Growth Mindset, Practicing Like an Expert, Constructing Memory Cuesen a large amount of time between readings. Active retrieval is much harder than just re-reading text.

Massed/blocked practice (practicing one skill at a time over and over until competent) is more successful in short term for an immediate test but interleaved/randomized practice is better for long term retention.

Massed practice - rote memorization by trying to burn things into memory doesn't work. It is transient at best. It's also time consuming. This is why you can cram for a test and get a bunch of information in, but you'll forget it a week or two later.

Need to space out practice of a task and interleave the practice of multiple subjects to help produce longer lasting learning

"Practice like you play and you'll play like you practice" (better transfer of learning). Perfect practice makes perfect performance.

Sleep is important for memory consolidation. If you're not sleeping, get ready to suck at learning.

Spacing, interleaving, mixing up practice require more effort and slow down learning in the short term but more than compensate for this by making the learning stronger, more precise and more enduring. Applying effort to retrieval assists with learning the material.

Reflection is a great tool for learning. After reading a chapter or attending a lecture, writing down the important topics covered helps cement these in your memory.

Retrieval from short term memory is an ineffective learning strategy.

People don’t know what they don’t know.

Be the one in charge of your learning

Expertise is a state of continuing development. Focus on your weaknesses.

Adopt aggressive learning styles (retrieval practice, spacing, interleaving etc.)

Our success is determined by focus and self-discipline which are offspring of motivation and one’s sense of personal empowerment.

Three ways to amp up the intelligence we already have: Growth Mindset, Practicing Like an Expert, Constructing Memory Cues

Increasing your abilities comes down to self-discipline, grit and persistence.