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Techniques to learn better, remember longer

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Gloria Seper's math class soaks it all in. There's a test coming up and they want to ace it.

"I usually study three nights ahead like our teacher told us to," said elementary school student, Nina Edwards.

Three nights of study or more may sound like overkill, but science says it's exactly what the brain needs. In St. Louis, Washington University psychology professors, Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel are leading experts on human learning and memory. 

"People underestimate how many times they need to practice something before they really know it," said Roedinger.

Think you'd be fine running through information once or twice? Wrong! The experts say students need to review five to seven times.

That's why they say it's best to break up study, a little bit every day and different topics every few days. Also, mix up your learning, variety helps.

"If you're a college student and you're taking five subjects well, try to study a little bit on each one every day," added Roedinger.

For students of all ages,  when it comes time to remembering  or retrieving information,  play detective and ask yourself questions, like "what if," "how" and "why."

"Once you explain why, that understanding leads to perfect memory," said McDaniel.

Quizzing students helps keep information at the top of their minds, and the tips of their tongues.

Roediger says many students will want to re-read the textbook as they are studying.  Roediger cautions students not to do that. He says re-reading gives the brain false cues that the student knows the information better than he really does. He and Mark McDaniel and Peter Brown have more tips in their book, "Make It Stick: the Science of Successful Learning."