Experimenting with the Active Recall study technique

This very popular study technique truly does live up to its reputation.

Active Recall is a study technique where you quiz yourself to recollect and remember information that you have already studied.

It’s sort of a vigorous exercise regime for the brain-teasing it and testing to see how much of the topic you actually remember.

Active Recall, according to my personal experience can be broken down into these simple steps

  1. Read the material and make notes, annotations
  2. Create questions
  3. Write the answers to the questions
  4. Test yourself at regular intervals

Let’s break these steps down quickly

1) Reading the material

When you are reading the material for the first time, make notes as you go along. Try to understand what the entire chapter is talking about. Break up your entire reading material into smaller parts, divide it into pages, and then process the information.

Read it once without trying to learn everything, just get an overall understanding of the text.

2) Create possible questions on the material

Create questions on the readings you have gone through. This includes any and all kinds of questions such as :

  • Definitions
  • Terms
  • Objective q’s
  • MCQ type questions
  • Theory-based q’s
  • Short note questions
  • Explain and give an example – type questions and so on

3) Write the answers

Based on what you have studied, write the answers to these questions. You don’t have to quiz yourself just yet, but use the textbook and make sure the answers you are writing are accurate

Resources :

Here are some templates you can use to implement the technique

  1. Notion Toggle Feature
    • This is the easiest method to use – type your questions out and then put the answer under the toggle
  2. Quizlet
    • Create digital flashcards with the question on one side and the answers on the other
  3. Anki
    • Similar to Quizlet, Anki also allows you to create flashcards quickly
  4. Handwrite it
    • Write all the questions on the left side and all the answers on the right side of the paper. When quizzing yourself cover the answers with a book or your hand.

4) Test yourself

Now comes the actual Active Recall part of the whole technique. Now that you have studied your material, and have prepped your questions it’s time to actually quiz yourself.

But, this needs to be done in regular intervals. If you made your question set on Monday, then wait till Wednesday to go through the list of questions.

When you quiz yourself this time, do not look at the answers. Try to answer it yourself first, and only if you get it wrong or don’t remember – look at the answers. This cycle repeats until you are able to gather information related to the topic without the help of any cues or prompts.

You can also choose to mark the questions you got wrong the first time so that the second time around you pay more attention to these particular concepts.

By making your brain actively recall information – you are not just passively absorbing the information. You are actually able to explain the concept, gather information and immerse yourself in the topic. Active recall is done at spaced intervals – so making a plan of action is important.

This method is also pretty convenient due to its flexibility. If you are in a long line at the grocery store, you can easily take out your active recall sheet and begin quizzing yourself.

Active Recall, because of the sheer brain power it needs to be successful does take up a lot of energy. So working in short sessions helps beat the fatigue.