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The 4 Times Rule For Learning

Author: Pencil Case  Date: 22 August 2019

Learning = Time + Importance + Repetition

In short, humans need multiple exposures to information to learn it. Rome wasn't built in a day!

So often, education involves learn once, forget, repeat the process!

The 4 times rule, gives you an effective way to improve your efficiency, but also indicates the bare minimum amount of effort required to learn a given piece of information. By "bare minimum", I mean that effective students would review their information much more than four times, but this gives you a minimum framework to work from.

The 4 times rule starts with:

Time 1, learning the information first in class time. Sounds simple, but often we gloss over information in class thinking "don't worry, I'll study this later". This may be true, but later often means the night before a test or exam meaning that you won't have time to move the information from short term memory to long term memory. You have the chance in class when the teacher says "it is important that you know meiosis is the process by which cells divide into reproductive cells". When you hear this, your ears should prick up, and you should say to yourself a couple of times "meiosis is the... meiosis is the... meiosis is the...". What you have done now is to attach importance to that information. This means that your brain will care more about it (increasing the chance that you will remember it) and it means that you have learnt this information at least once.

Time 2, is to review that information within 24 hours of first learning it. Our brain holds information in short term memory for 24 to 48 hours at the most. So ideally, we have to review our information that day but at the most within 24 to 48 hours of learning it. Read over it, say it out aloud, draw a picture of it, whatever! Do something that reinforces the fact that you have learnt it. This information is now heading towards your long term memory and it's only taken you a few minutes.

Time 3, is to review that information on a regular basis from now on. A successful student would put it in a folder marked weekly review and would do little more than read over the information once a week. Could you imagine, if you had re-read something you learnt in week one of year 12, once a week for 40 weeks by your end of year exams you know it inside out!

Time 4, is to review this information a day or two before a test. The information is already stored in your brain, it is just a matter of freshening up your memory just before you need it.

It is vital that I stress here, that the 4 times rule is a bare minimum. A successful student uses the 4 times rule, but in addition, reviews all their important information at least twice weekly and often daily.


Reflect on your own situation. How can you make sure that you get at least 4 exposures to the information you need to know?

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