If you can get more out of your studying simply by paying attention to how you schedule and space out your study sessions, depth is all about what you actually do while you're studying so you can learn it more deeply and have a more flexible command of the material in the way that you'll be asked to demonstrate that knowledge.  Here are some habits you can make a part of your approach.

Test yourself ("Retrieval Practice"): Like working a muscle, it’s the act of repetition and practice, which results in strengthening the memory. Eventually, it will come easier and you'll see results!

  • Take practice tests – if they're not readily available, make your own! 
  • Use flashcards (there are apps that let you create flashcards and you can use the Leitner system to combine this with the “space it out” strategy for an even more powerful effect). 
  • Write or type out everything you know from memory vs. looking over your notes or in your text for similar problems (even if you get it wrong, the act of correcting it will make it stick better). 
  • As you read, ask yourself “What was that about and why is it important?” 
  • Study in the way that you’ll be tested: 
    • Match the testing conditions, when possible: time, place, situation. 
    • Prepare by doing the same things with the material that you’ll be asked to do on the test. Will you be asked to identify that term and remember its definition verbatim? If so, study that way. Or will you be asked to demonstrate your knowledge by writing a longer answer or essay? If so, make sure to study with that in mind.  

Retrieving the information, especially when you have to work harder to do it, strengthens its long-term storage and more closely resembles the testing conditions. This is why reading and re-reading your notes that are in front of you is not as effective. It feels easier, but this is called the “fluency illusion” - you are relying on short-term memory and think you know it better than you do (and then feel surprised at test time). That’s the paradox – what feels to be an easier study method now is often not nearly as effective for long-term recall and learning. And what feels more difficult now can be far more effective!  



Teach It! (“Elaboration”): Be the teacher, build your own connections, put it in your own words and explain it out loud to a friend, study group member, family member, or even just yourself!

If you’ve ever had to teach anyone else anything, you’ll know that there’s nothing quite like this experience to reveal what you really understand about a subject – and where your thinking is still fuzzy! You have to really know it at a deeper level to anticipate questions, transform it to articulate it in your own words, and make it speak to a particular audience.