Why you should space and interleave your learning….
It may seem very tempting to leave all your revision to the last minute and just cram it in. But this isn’t the best way to get the most out of your brain.
For about a hundred years psychologists have known that spacing out learning in smaller chunks is better for long-term retention (Edwards, 1917; Gordon, 1925). What do we mean by spacing out learning? Say you have 7 hours spare to revise for a test. You could either spend 7 hours the day before cramming or you could space out your revision to half an hour a day for 2 weeks. In both cases, you would have spent just 7 hours revising. But in the spaced-out case, there is consistent evidence from the psychological literature that spaced learning helps with long-term retention (as confirmed by a recent review: Carpenter, Cepeda, Rohrer, Kang, & Pashler, 2012).
Why might this be? It may help with the survival of your neurons or connections between your neurons in the memory area of your brain – they are used over a longer period of time so that knowledge is worth keeping as you clearly need to know it regularly (Sisti, Glass, & Shors, (2007)). Your brain has developed to be efficient – if something isn’t relevant you tend to forget it fairly quickly.