Cramming May Help for Next-Day Exams. But for Long-Term Memory, Spacing Out Study is What Works

by Adam Felts

AgeLab Research Associate Luke Yoquinto and MIT Head of Open Learning Sanjay Sarma write in The Washington Post on the science of learning and memory. The article describes some insights contained in the pair's new book, Grasp: The Science Transforming How We Learn:

Studies have found that cramming can lead to better outcomes on test day than the same number of study-hours would, spread out. But in the weeks, months and years after students put their pencils down, the relative advantages of a spaced-out study strategy assert themselves. Much of what crammers forget, as they dive into the next semester, spacers tend to retain.

Cognitive scientists call the phenomenon responsible for this state of affairs the spacing effect. Today, thanks to more than a century’s worth of effort, they have assembled a remarkably detailed picture of how memory works, with the spacing effect standing front and center. It appears to be so important that introducing a bit of space into one’s study or practice schedule can improve long-term outcomes for just about anyone, at any age, trying to learn almost anything.

Read the full story here.

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About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

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