Story: “10 minutes a day makes an A!”: A Story of Review

I love skeptics.

A few semesters ago I was giving my Lecture Note Taking Workshop to a group of students. Part of that workshop explains the importance of reviewing and that many students, who complain about “memory problems,” really just have a “lack-of-reviewing problem.” At the end of the workshop a student I did not recognize approached me and asked “Does reviewing really work?”

I told him, yes, for most students reviewing is the best way to improve memory. He scoffed, explaining he’s had memory problems in school his whole life. No matter how much he studied, he just could not remember anything for more than day or two. He said that he did not believe me but would try it anyway–just to prove me wrong. I just smiled and told him I’d love to hear his results if he tries my review tips for himself.

Over a month later I was in my center working when a student walked in. I did not recognize him at first, and asked if he needed any help. He said he did not need help, but that he did want to talk with me. He went on to explain that, after my workshop, he did start reviewing every night. He would simply open up his note book and spend 10 minutes each day looking over all his notes, beginning with the most recent and working his way back to his oldest. He did this for 2 weeks then had to take a quiz.

He was shocked when he got 10/10 on the quiz; he usually got a 7.

Then he thought that maybe his score was a fluke; maybe the material was easier than normal, or maybe he guessed better than usual. But he kept reviewing, 10 minutes each day, until his next quiz 2 weeks later.

Another 10/10.

This was no fluke; he was remembering more, and for longer. And what the teacher said made more sense with each lecture. Things were coming together.

After his second perfect score, he sat down and tried to remember what he used to do to “study.” Often he would just reread his book (or, he said, read a few paragraphs, then quit because he was bored), or review his notes in the week before his exam (going months without looking at some of the material) and try to cram the old material he had forgotten.

He had a “lack-of-reviewing problem” not a “memory problem.”

Before he came to see me that day he had received another perfect quiz score, and a stellar mid-term exam score. “10 minutes a day makes an A!” he laughingly admitted. He felt he should probably come by and tell me that I was right: Reviewing really does work.

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