6. Mix it up
In many cases, it helps to mix up your self-testing. Don’t just focus on one thing. Drill yourself on different concepts. Psychologists call this interleaving.
Actually, your tests usually will have questions mixed up, too. More importantly, interleaving can help you learn better. If you practice one concept over and over “your attention decreases because you know what’s coming up next,” Sana explains. Mix up your practice, and you now space the concepts apart. You can also see how concepts differ, form trends or fit together in some other way.
Suppose, for instance, you’re learning about the volume of different shapes in math. You could do lots of problems on the volume of a wedge. Then you could answer more batches of questions, with each set dealing with just one shape. Or, you could figure out the volume of a cone, followed by a wedge. Next you might find the volume for a half-cone or a spheroid. Then you can mix them up some more. You might even mix in some practice on addition or division.
Rawson and others had groups of college students try each of those approaches. Those who interleaved their practice questions did better than the group that did single-batch practice, the researchers reported last year in Memory & Cognition.
A year earlier, Sana and others showed that interleaving can help students with both strong and weak working memory. Working memory lets you remember where you are in an activity, such as following a recipe.