by Len Horridge

Study basics

There are some basic rules of rhythm and review that you should follow when you want to successfully commit something you are studying to long-term memory.

Primacy and recency

If you were to hear a list of 30 words and were then asked to recall them, you would be able to recall some words from the beginning of the list, some from the end but only a few from the middle.

These effects are known as primacy (words from the beginning of the list) and recency (words from the end of the list). How can you use this? If you are studying something that you wish to learn, split your study time into chunks of 20-50 minutes, with ten-minute breaks in between. During these breaks, it is important that you relax or do something physical or creative.

The time chunks will mean that you create more primacy/recency high points and will remember more from your studying. The breaks will give your mind a chance to rest from learning and doing something different will actually stimulate it.



Make use of the ten-minute peak.

At the end of an hour’s learning, your mind integrates the information that you have just studied so that your ability to recall it actually rises, peaks after about ten minutes and then falls off dramatically.

If you review what you have learnt at that ten-minute point, you will reinforce the information at its strongest in your mind.

Further reviews, spaced at longer intervals, will ensure the information is committed to your long-term memory.

In summary:

  1. Study for as long as you like but make sure you work for chunks of 20-50 minutes, with breaks of ten minutes where relaxation and/or something physical and fun is mandatory.
  2. Review what you have learned:
  • ten minutes after learning
  • one day after learning
  • one week after learning
  • one month after learning
  • six months after learning.