Best Study Schedule


Rank these professions in order of average IQ, highest to lowest (just give it your best taxi_empire_state_buildingguess).

  • Neurosurgeon
  • Nuclear physicist
  • Professor of Law
  • New York cab driver

Yeah, yeah. I know what you’re thinking. There are probably some real idiots in those first three professions, and there are probably some certifiable egg-heads driving cabs. But that ain’t the way to bet.

Now rank them again, this time in order of which will know the best route from Central Park to LaGuardia at 5pm on a Friday afternoon.

This time, I’m betting on the cabbie.

Even your relative dullards in the world of cab-driving havea HUGE amount of information stored in their brains when it comes to driving. And they don’t spend much time–if any–formally studying that information. They know it because they use it … regularly.

The best schedule should take that into account. Use the information you’re trying to learn–on a regular basis–and it will stick.  In fact, you’ll recall it whether you want to or not if you use it often enough.

The very best study schedule is the one in which you study just enough for the material to stick in your long term memory and no more. You don’t want to study it any more than is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, you’re wasting time!

Here’s how to find that perfect ratio–minimum review to maximum recall…

Use the flash card stack method I wrote about earlier. Here’s the relevant section…

Separate your cards into stacks that get reviewed at different intervals. You should have an initial stack–the new stuff you are just learning–that gets your attention several times a day. Each time you instantly and correctly recall a card, make a small check mark on it. When the card has two check marks, move it to the next stack.

The next stack is only reviewed every three days; Wednesdays and Saturdays, for example. When cards in that stack can be perfectly recalled, move them to a stack you only review once per week, say every Sunday.

After that, move cards to a once-every-three-weeks stack, which you will probably need to schedule on your calendar. You can then add a nine-week stack, a six-month stack, a one-year stack, etc.

Everyone’s brain is different, so you’ll have to experiment a bit to find the intervals that work best for you. Your goal is to review each card as little as possible while still getting excellent recall.

Let’s say you are looking over that once-a-week stack on Sunday and there are two cards that you’ve spent five minutes on, trying to remember them, but it just isn’t coming to you. Move those two cards back to the stack you carry around with you, and send it through the system again. Don’t move a card to the next stack until your recall is instantaneous and perfect; for example, you see the Spanish word, la vaca on one side, and you immediately think cow.

Hint: If you can’t immediately recall the word, don’t cheat and look at the other side!  Struggle with it and rack your brain to recall it, even if it takes four or five minutes.  When you finally do recall it, the memory will be much stronger!

Use one of these flash card programs designed to find that perfect ratio.

Use a feedback loop. As you study pay close attention to what you remember and what you forget. Give yourself constant feedback. “Okay, I studied this page of notes (this stack of , this diagram, whatever) two days ago. I remember about 95% of it. That’s too much. Next time I’ll wait five days and see how that works.”

In general, 80% recall at each study session is just about right. For example, in a stack of ten flash cards, you should be able to recall 8 of them at each review. Two of them, would have to be moved back. More than 80% and you can probably make your intervals a little longer. Less than 80% and you should make the intervals between review shorter.

Remember, the perfect study schedule will enable you to study each piece of information as little as possible while getting maximum recall. The stack intervals outlined above works just about right for me with most subjects–but it does depend on the subject. Start with my intervals above and modify it to suit your memory. However, using I can usually move those intervals out quite a bit! Better mean less review.

© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.