Study Tactics

Study tactic


When to use it

Practice Testing

Quiz yourself on the material you are expected to know or demonstrate. You can use flashcards, cover up content from the textbook and try to recall what you read, complete practice problems, solve equations, or try to answer questions included in your textbook or study guides.

You can use this tactic to help you learn a variety of topics and subject matter. It can be used for long (essay), or short (one-word answer) questions. This tactic is effective when your goal is to remember, understand or apply key concepts and facts. You can make this tactic more effective by pairing it with Distributed Practice.

Distributed Practice

Implement a schedule of practices that spreads out study activities over time. Revisit learning content over several study sessions and wait longer periods of time between study sessions. 

You can use this tactic for any type of to-be-learned material and at any time in your learning. It is an effective strategy when your goal is to remember what you learned for longer periods of time and when you need to rely on your memory to retrieve information. Research suggests this technique is one of the most effective learning strategies for knowledge retention and exam performance, especially when paired with self-testing.

Interleaved Practice

Implement a schedule of practice that mixes different kinds of problems, or a schedule of study that mixes different kinds of materials, within a single study session.

This tactic works best with problem solving tasks or when learning different processes in a domain. 

Concept Mapping

Create a diagram to depict the relationship between terms, concepts or ideas.

You can a create concept map to understand new material, or when you want to create a mental representation of an idea or selection of ideas. Concept maps can help you organize complex information and develop a deeper understanding of the material, which can help you analyze and evaluate the course material. 

Keyword Mnemonic

Use keywords and mental imagery to associate verbal materials. A mnemonic is something used to assist in memory recall. This type of memory aid consists of using an image or keyword to help connect with the text.

You can use this tactic to improve your memory of facts, concepts and vocabulary. It can be helpful when learning a new language, a large list, or anything with acronyms.


Explain how new information relates to known information or explaining the steps taken to solve a problem or to complete a process. Essentially you are explaining to yourself what you are doing and thinking.  

This tactic can be used when your goal is to understand, analyze or evaluate learned material. 

Elaborative Interrogation

Generate a rationale for why an explicitly stated fact or concept is true.

This tactic can be applied to almost any subject, and is most useful for enhancing your knowledge of known factual information. This strategy is effective when you are able to create connections between new information and information you already know. These connections can enhance retrieval of information because you are creating alternative routes for accessing information. This strategy is easier to use when you already have some domain knowledge about a topic and are able to answer “why” questions.


Write summaries (of any length) of content that you have read, listened to, or covered in any way.

This tactic is beneficial when you are trying to retain details, connect ideas to each other, connect new information to prior knowledge, or when trying to comprehend a text. 

Imagery for Text

Use mental images to represent text while reading or listening.

This tactic can improve memory when learning key facts or concepts, however, not all text lends itself to mental imagery thus this tactic might be limited to particular content.


Read or restudy text material again after an initial reading.

Despite its popularity, this tactic on its own is not effective for long-term retention or for promoting learning. Try pairing this tactics with other tactics to boost its effectiveness (e.g., practice testing or distributed practice). 

Highlighting and Underlining

Mark important portions of to-be-learned material while reading.

Highlighting should be considered as the starting point for studying. Highlighting is useful for organization and identifying key concepts presented in a text. However, highlighting may not be the best tactic when the goal is to make interferences from text because highlighting can isolate concepts or ideas instead of connecting them. Try pairing this tactics with other tactics to boost its effectiveness (e.g., practice testing or distributed practice).

Works Cited

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14 (1), 4-58.

Tressel., T (2017). Stick! mobile app: The design and evaluation of a self-regulation study tool. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, McGill University


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