Two revision strategies that can prepare you for an exam much better than restudying your notes

When studying for exams, it can be tempting to just re-read textbooks or attempt to memorise your notes. But psychologists know that there are actually much more effective ways of learning — they just require a bit of extra effort. A recent paper in Applied Cognitive Psychology has highlighted two of these superior strategies. The team finds that university students whose revision involves testing themselves or making up questions about course material perform better in a later exam than those who simply restudy their notes. Past research had already shown that generating questions or being tested during the learning process helps people retain information better than passively trying to absorb knowledge. These strategies are considered "desirable difficulties" that make the learning process harder or more effortful, but which are ultimately beneficial. But many previous studies only examined people's ability to...

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14th-century Italian advice on how to survive an epidemic

Giovanni Boccaccio's work taught citizens how to maintain mental wellbeing in times of epidemics and isolation. The spread of the Covid-19 virus has triggered an epidemic of advice. This advice is important, but it seems destined to make our lives more miserable and isolated. However, there is an unusual source of counsel which offers another way to deal with an epidemic. That source is the Decameron. The Italian Renaissance author Giovanni Boccaccio wrote the Decameron in the wake of the plague outbreak in Florence in 1348. The disease ravaged the city, reducing the population by around 60 per cent. Boccaccio described how Florentines "dropped dead in open streets, both by day and by night, whilst a great many others, though dying in their own houses, drew their neighbours' attention to the fact more by the smell of their rotting corpses"....

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