The Science of Learning


This information advises you on how to learn more effectively.
The advice is evidence-based – that means that all of the claims have been tested on real students. The percentages stated come from these studies.
The tips don’t only apply to on-line lessons – they will also be useful for your time in school.


Students who work in a quiet environment score 60% better than those who listen to music with lyrics
– this is true even when the student thinks that they work better with music
– it also doesn’t matter whether or not you like the music, although music without words isn’t as bad


– Having a mobile phone in your line of sight causes a 20% reduction in attention, concentration and performance.
this is true whether it’s your phone or someone else’s
– It’s also true whether or not there are any notifications
– It also doesn’t matter how much you normally use your phone.
– Schools that ban mobile phones receive, on average, a 6.4% increase in their exam results – this increases to 14% for lower-achieving students.
– Don’t have your phone on the desk during lessons or while you do your assignments!

Note Taking

It can be a good idea to take notes during on-line lessons
– students who take notes during lessons perform 12% better on subsequent problems, but…
– students who make summary notes after the lesson (rather than writing down everything) do 10-15% better still!
– Studies show that students who take their notes on a computer write 30% more words than those who write on paper, but perform worse on questions afterwards.


Highlighting or just re-reading notes are NOT effective ways of learning. The following techniques are better:
– Retrieval practice – you need to try to remember the detail for yourself, e.g. by answering exam questions.
— in tests, students who did one session of retrieval practice scored 30% better than those who did two sessions of re-reading their notes.
– Elaborative interrogation – as you think about the topics, ask yourself Why is this true? or Why might this be the case?
— students who are given explanations recall 35% of them correctly, students who had to come up with their own explanations recalled 71% of them correctly.
– Distributed practice – spread out your learning, i.e. “little and often” rather than big blocks of revision.
— students who space out their revision get an average score of 74%, whereas those who “cram” (do all of the revision in one go) scored 49%
– Interleaved practice – mix up the subjects you’re learning and the type of activities you do, rather than spending a lot of time doing the same thing.
— one week after the revision, students who interleaved scored an average of 63% while those who didn’t scored 20%

– Having a good night’s sleep prior to learning allows you to create new memories more effectively.
– People who are sleep-deprived are more likely to forget positive memories and remember negative memories.
-Excessive sleep loss can increase the likelihood of you experiencing negative emotions.


Meta-cognition means thinking about your learning.
Students who regularly ask themselves these three questions score a third of a grade higher:
– Which things do I need to help me study?
– Why are these things useful?
– How will I used these things?


– Students who revise by reading out loud perform 12% better than students who read in silence.
-The mid-morning dip in a student’s performance is reduced by 50-65% if they have eaten breakfast.
– A 12-minute walk improves your mood and improves your performance on “hard and boring” tasks afterwards!
— Even a five-minute walk gives you some benefits.
— The walk doesn’t need to involve going outside.