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Make It Stick

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Make It Stick

The Science of Successful Learning

Belknap Press,

15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

A scientific, research-based examination of the best ways to teach, study and learn.

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Scientific


Professors Peter Brown, Mark McDaniel and Henry Roediger share insights from decades of learning research. Their work suggests that the majority of learners and teachers still practice outdated methods. These include the obvious: Don’t cram for exams – space out learning instead. But other techniques – such as mixing up the concepts and steps of a complex skill or knowledge set instead of mastering one element before moving on to the next – are less intuitive. Nevertheless, the authors’ research proves the nontraditional techniques are more effective than earlier approaches. The structure of the book reflects the professors’ advice, repeating ideas frequently and mixing concepts. This makes reading it harder – but it may make the ideas stick.


You can use different strategies to learn something. But there is no learning without memory.

For decades or longer, experts regarded intelligence as innate and immutable. But recent research in behavioral science, psychology and neuroscience refutes this, along with much accepted wisdom about how people learn. 

Memories are formed through learning. But learning can occur in many ways and there are several strategies you can employ. Teachers and instructors often fail to consult peer-reviewed, controlled research findings and/or adjust their methods. Many instructors remain stuck on the outmoded notions that rereading, repeating specific elements of a wider skill or knowledge base, and cramming produce the best results.

Spaced out, repeated practice is more effective than cramming.

Instructors often pin a course’s grade on one or two exams per course or semester. As a consequence, cramming and rereading before an exam are popular practices among students. However, a series of shorter quizzes throughout a semester, each accounting for a small part of the overall grade, is more effective in the long term.

At Columbia Middle School in...

About the Authors

Washington University in St. Louis psychology professors Henry L. Roediger and Mark A. McDaniel study the psychology of learning. Peter C. Brown lives and writes in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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