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How Active Recall Saved My GPA and How It Can Save Yours

Although I am now a Junior in college, I have never truly grasped and mastered the art of studying until recently. As a student with a Media Arts and Design (SMAD) major, my classes often consist of a project-heavy curriculum. However, once I started taking classes for my business minor and upper-level SMAD classes, I suddenly had a test nearly every week. Luckily I found a study method called active recall that helps me not only remember information short term for my tests, but I found myself remembering the information long term as well.

Active recall can take many forms, but the general idea is to retrieve information from your brain instead of just putting it into your brain through something like reading over your notes or textbook (Owen). Retrieving the info forces your brain into active learning instead of passive learning (Owen).

There are many ways to study using active recall. My personal method consists of re-reading my notes or going over PowerPoint slides, creating questions based on the material, and then answering those questions without using my notes. During the first round of answering the questions I crafted, I noted any information I could not remember. I study these terms again until I can confidently answer all of the questions. Pro tip: I use a whiteboard to write the answers to the questions to enhance my memory of the information further by writing it. Other ways to practice active recall include teaching the material to a peer or using flashcards to practice the material.

My method can be fairly time-consuming. A more tech and time-savvy option can be to make flashcards using an online tool. I sometimes use quizlet and type the questions I craft on the front of the flashcard and the answers on the back. I then use the learn feature to remember the information. The learn feature has a step that requires you to type out the other side of the flash card, which is a form of active recall! This was the method I used recently for a media law exam where I had over 20 pages of notes along with over 100 PowerPoint slides to study. I remembered almost all of my notes, something I had trouble with before I used active recall.

I encourage everyone to try active recall at least once to see this study method's short and long-term benefits.

Works Cited

Owen, Michael. “Active Recall: The Most Effective High-Yield Learning Technique.” Osmosis Blog, 21 Feb. 2022, highyield-learning-technique.

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