The Best Study Strategies Ranked

A group of psychologist conducted a meta-analysis (a study of multiple studies) to determine what are the most effective study techniques. The group analyzed more than 700 research studies and identified the ten most common strategies used by students in multiple contexts. Then they ranked those ten strategies in order of effectiveness. Here are the strategies and their ranking:


This is how the authors defined those strategies:

  • Distributed Practice: Implementing a schedule of practice that spreads out study activities over time.
  • Practice testing: Self-testing or taking practice tests over to-be-learned material.
  • Elaborative Interrogation: Generating an explanation for WHY an explicitly stated fact or concept is true.
  • Self-explanation: Explaining how new information is related to known information, or explaining steps taken during problem solving.
  • Interleaved practice: Implementing a schedule of practice that mixes different kinds of problems, or a schedule of study that mixes different kinds of material within a single study session.
  • Summarization: Writing summaries (of various lengths)  of to-be-learned material.
  • Highlighting/underlining: Marking potentially important portions of to-be-learned materials while reading.
  • Keyword mnemonic: Using keywords and mental imagery to associate verbal materials.
  • Imagery for text: Attempting to form mental images of text materials while reading or listening.
  • Rereading: Restudying text material again after an initial reading.

Be aware that these strategies have been ranked in terms of effectiveness for general use. The fact that some of them are ranked moderate or low does not mean that they don’t work. It only means that they work better when used based on specific needs and in combination with the higher ranked strategies.


Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14(1), 4-58, 4-58. doi: 10.1177/1529100612453266