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Author of "Manual of Mental and Physical Testa," "A Guide to High-School 

Observation," "Questions on General and Educational Psychology," 

"Questions in School Hygiene," "Problems in Educational 

Psychology," Editor of the Yearbooks of the National 

Society for the Study|of Education, etc. 


Bloomington, Illinois 

Copyright, 1916 

First 1,000 copies printed July, 1916 
3,000 copies printed Sept., 1916 
5,000 copies printed Dec., 1916 
10,000 copies printed July, 1917 
10,000 copies printed Aug., 1919 
10,000 copies printed Aug., 1921 
10,000 copies printed Mar., 1923 


Not long ago I was asked by a group of high- 
school students to present to them some suggestions 
on the technique of studying, with the idea that 
better knowledge of the methods by which school 
work could be prepared might increase their 
efficiency as students. A survey of the available 
literature seemed to warrant the conclusion that, 
despite the existence of a number of books upon the 
art of study, there was still room for another 
treatment that should be limited to the direct laying 
down of a series of rules or maxims, with just 
sufficient explanatory comment to make them 
readily intelligible and serviceable for the needs of 
the average high-school or college student. I judge 
that many students in our high schools and colleges 
are not now working under the best possible 
conditions, and that they would be glad to increase 
their efficiency, if only they knew how to do it. The 
rules which follow are intended to help these 
students. Most of the suggestions could also be 
profitably kept in mind by elementary-school 
teachers, whose business it should be as early as 
possible to develop right habits of study in their 


While it is true that much of what is presented in 
the school is calculated to appeal directly to the 
native interests of students, to elicit their curiosity, 
and to challenge their attention, it is equally true 
that most studying is real work, and that most boys 
and girls have to acquire the art of studying as 
they have to acquire many other habits and skills 
necessary to success in life. Moreover, conditions 
in many elementary schools are unfortunately such 
as to promote only the most superficial kind of 
studying, to put a premium upon the mere 
committing to memory of words, to permit fickle 
and ill-sustained attention and the avoidance of hard 
intellectual work. Students in both high school 
and college have been studying, it is true, for years, 
but too often they have not been studying efficiently, 
have not formed right habits of mental work, and 
indeed, do not even know how to go about the 
development of an adequate method or plan for such 
work. They are often unable to recognize as such 
the problems set before them, nor do they have clear 
ideas as to the methods by which problems should 
be solved. Neither do they know fully how to deal 
with those 'lessons' that must be 'learned' more or 
less verbatim. For by 'studying' I mean to include 
the 'getting of lessons/ like learning a list of words 
in spelling, as well as studying in the sense of 
solving problems and making an investigatory 
examination and critical survey of a topic. 

In what follows I propose no universal remedy 
for these ills. The fundamental differences between 


stupid children and bright children will remain 
whether they are taught to study or not. No scheme 
of instruction will bring all students to the same 
level of proficiency. But the proficiency of each 
student may be increased by teaching him to use 
more skillfully what brains he has. Thus, Breslich*, 
for example, shows that a weak section studying 
only at school, but under careful supervision, may 
be brought up to the performance of a strong section 
allowed to study at school without supervision, plus 
an hour and a quarter a day at home. Granting that 
these results are typical, how much time must have 
been wasted in the studying of the strong pupils? 

Efficiency is the watch-word of modern industrial 
life. The school, after all, is a sort of brain factory. 
Its material is found in the subject-matter of the 
various studies and in the mental operations of its 
students. Studying is the method by which subject- 
matter is converted into ideas that shall be effective 
in the subsequent life of the students and by which 
at the same time the mental capacities of the 
students shall be drilled and trained. It is safe to 
say that failure to guide and direct study is the 
weak point in the whole educational machine. There 
is more than a fanciful analogy in the parallel 
between scientific management in modern industry 
and control of the technique of study in the modern 
school. The elimination of 'waste motion' in the 

*See Suggestions For Further Reading, appended to the text, for refer- 
ences to books and articles dealing with studying. 


factory must be paralleled by the elimination of 
'waste motion' in the school. The chief source of 
this waste lies in the process of studying. 


1. Keep yourself in good physical condition. 

Your mental efficiency depends on the efficiency 
of your central nervous system. This system suffers 
like any other part of your body from inadequate 
exercise, insufficient sleep, ill-digested food, or 
confinement in ill-ventilated rooms. 

Sleep. More students sleep too little than sleep 
too much. From the averages of the six best 
authorities we may recommend the following 
duration of sleep: 

Age 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 
Hours 12.3 11.5 11.2 11.0 10.5 10.2 9.8 9.6 9.25 9.0 8.75 8.5 

Exercise. Remember that exercise, particularly 
in the form of outdoor recreation and games, is 
valuable not merely for requiring strength, and 
skill, but also for stimulating the digestive, 
circulatory, and excretory systems of the body to 
the more active supplying of nutrition and removal 
of waste products. Further, that exercise carried on 
under pleasant auspices affords a useful antidote 
for mental weariness and monotony. 

2. Attend to, remove or treat physical defects that 
often handicap mental activity, such as defective) 
eyesight, defective hearing, defective teeth, adenoids, 
obstructed nasal breathing. 


Vision: Thirty per cent, of school children have 
defective vision. In high school and college the 
percentage is larger. Consult a competent oculist 
if you have difficulty in seeing clearly objects at a 
distance (like writing on the blackboard) or if you 
experience, eye ache, twitching of the eyelids, 
inflamed lids, headache, nervous irritability, nervous 
dyspepsia and similar symptoms of eye-strain, after 
use of the eyes at close range, even though you see 
the printed page quite clearly. 

Defective teeth seriously affect the work of 
students, because (a) the mastication of food is 
inadequate; (b) the neglected cavities afford a 
breeding ground for scores of varieties of bacteria 
(including the germs of serious infectious diseases, 
like diphtheria and tuberculosis) ; (c) the pus which 
develops often finds its way into the blood and 
alimentary canal and thus pours into the body 
millions of noxious germs and produces general 
bodily ailments, like intestinal catarrh, anemia, 
lowered vitality and other general disturbances 
which appear to be in no way connected with the 
local disturbances in the teeth; (d) the pain of 
toothache acts directly to distract attention and 
indirectly to induce various reflex nervous irritations. 
When we consider that one or more defective teeth 
are found in 90 per cent, of school children, the total 
loss of efficiency in school work attributable to this 
single cause is truly startling. 

Adenoids are enlargements of spongy tissue in the 
upper part of the throat just where the nasal 


passages open into it. They are found in some ten 
per cent, of school children, particularly of children 
from 3 to 16 years of age. They interfere with 
breathing, clog the Eustachian tube and thus induce 
hardness of hearing, mouth-breathing, snoring, 
projecting teeth, stunted bodily growth and 
imperfect development of the bones of the nose and 
jaw. In some persons they cause a peculiar sort of 
mental sluggishness, or stupidity, with inability to 
control and direct attention for long to a difficult 
mental task. They can be removed by a relatively 
simple operation and with marvelously beneficial 
results to both mind and body. 

3. See that external conditions of work light, 
temperature, humidity, clothing, chair, desk, etc., 
are favorable to study. 

A quiet place for work that shall be reasonably 
free from interruption and from distracting conver- 
sation is greatly to be desired. Too many students 
have to do their home work under conditions that 
are far from ideal. Study, at least when it is begun, 
demands active attention. In order to get attention 
upon work, it must be withdrawn from other 
matters. Every happening in the room in which you 
are working makes a claim for your attention. A 
portion of the energy you exert in attending to your 
work has to be expended to shut out these distracting 
claims. Clearly, then, if you can work in a room in 
which these outside appeals are reduced to the 
minimum, you will gain that more energy to devote 
to your tasks. 


As you get older, your capacity to direct all your 
energies upon your mental work, even against 
distraction, ought to increase. A profound 
philosopher in the midst of his meditations would 
never notice the little noises and movements that 
immediately distract the attention of the kinder- 
garten child. However, the difference between the 
child and the philosopher is largely one of degree 
of how much gunpowder, as some one has expressed 
it, would have to be exploded under his chair to 
wreck his train of thought. This getting used to 
distractions is a good thing to acquire, but still there 
are usually enough of them without deliberately 
placing yourself in conditions that will increase their 

Light should never shine directly into your eyes. 
Don't face a window or brightly lighted wall. Don't 
let an artificial light hang in the immediate range of 
your eyes unless they are protected by an eye-shade 
or by a suitable shade on the lamp. Nor should the 
illumination be so directed as to be reflected directly 
from paper or books into your eyes. The direction 
of illumination should be predominantly from above 
and for desk work from a point to the front of, and 
to the left of, your body, in order that shadows shall 
not be cast on your work by your head or by your 
hand (in right-handed persons). For reading, when 
the book is held in the hands, the light may be placed 
above and somewhat behind, whether on the right 
or left is then indifferent. An ideal illumination for 
desk work at night may be secured by a single small 


electric lamp (perhaps 8 candle-power) under an 
opaque reflector, arranged to flood the desk with 
light, but to be itself invisible to your eye. The 
cutting off of illumination from the remainder of 
the room is restful and assists, by lessening distrac- 
tions, in concentrating attention upon the work 
before you. 

A temperature between 65 and 68 degrees is 
conceded to be favorable to most workers. Beyond 
70 degrees, particularly under artificial heating, 
flushing of the face, headache and other signs of 
discomfort are apt to appear. This discomfort is 
usually more a consequence of low humidity than 
of high temperature. In the winter, therefore, any 
sort of device that will add moisture to the air 
(evaporation from pans of water over furnace or on 
steam or hot-water radiators, etc.) will lessen the 
dryness of the indoor air (often exceeding that of 
the Desert of Sahara) and comfort the skin and 
mucous membranes of the body. Recent experi- 
mental studies show also that the keeping of air in 
motion by fans will remove the discomfort felt in 
ill-ventilated rooms to an extent not usually 
dreamed of. 

Tight clothing, particularly tight neckwear, in- 
terferes with mental work directly by its discomfort 
and indirectly by impeding respiration and circula- 
tion. A tight collar checks the flow of venous blood 
from the head and tends toward flushing the face 
and increasing blood pressure in the eyes and the 


The study desk and chair should be of a height 
to fit your needs. Too low a desk encourages stoop- 
shoulders, a contracted chest and a congested head. 
Too high a desk is uncomfortable for your arms and 
brings the work too near your eyes. A little ex- 
perimenting, especially with the height of the chair 
relative to the desk, will often make a wonderful 
difference in the comfort with which study can 
proceed. \ 

The equipment of your desk should be such as to 
bring the various 'tools' of study conveniently 
before you. Have these 'tools' of study (pencils, 
erasers, ruler, pen and ink, blotters, dictionaries, 
drawing sets, pads of paper and the like) in good 
condition and so placed as to be at hand when 
wanted, but out of the way when not wanted. High- 
school and college students who can afford it ought 
to buy a typewriter, have a simple stand for it, and 
do as much of their work as possible upon it. A rack 
that will hold heavy books, like dictionaries used in 
translation work, at a reading angle of 45 degrees 
is another useful desk device. 

4. Form a place-study habit. 

Have a particular place a particular desk, a 
particular chair at which you study. Do your 
studying there unless special conditions warrant 
doing it elsewhere. At least, don't permit yourself 
to do anything but work at this particular place. 
Don't ever loaf or read novels or newspapers in the 
chair dedicated to study. This advice may strike 


you as a bit far-fetched. By no means. Once get 
this place-study habit formed and you have only to 
take your place to start up the studying attitude. 

5. Form a time-study habit. 

When school work follows a regular schedule 
there can be discovered a natural sdhedule for 
studying. For most persons there is a real advan- 
tage in doing mental work by schedule, in setting 
aside given periods for study and in following this 
schedule rather closely. For one thing, you are not 
likely then to get behind in your work. And again, 
a tendency appears to be developed in the nervous 
system of turning to mental work at times ingrained 
by habit. 

Whether this time-study habit should be more 
specific, so that a particular subject is studied at a 
given day and hour (geometry, daily at 11; Latin, 
Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 p. m.) is open 
to question. I doubt that the nervous system can 
be trained to habits of working with particular 
subjects at particular hours. However, many stu- 
dents are convinced that such a plan is valuable be- 
cause of the advantages of pursuing daily work 
methodically, of laying out a program and sticking 
to it. 

Whether, again, different people are by nature so 
constituted as in general to do mental work best at 
different portions of the day, so that A is a "morning 
worker/' B an "afternoon worker," C an "evening 
worker," is also open to question. Habit would 
appear to play a considerable role here. I think that 


most evening workers could become morning 
workers if they had to. Several of the writer's 
friends think they do creative and constructive 
work better late in the evening and 'hack' work 
better in the day time. By preference they would 
write an essay at night and revise it in the morning. 

6. When possible prepare the advance assignments 
in a given subject directly after the day's recitation 
in it. 

This is a special case under Rule 5 : "Form a time- 
study habit." The reasons for it are these : (a) The 
mind is 'set* or 'tuned up' for the particular sub- 
ject; there is a special fitness for work in physiology 
or history or whatever the work may have been, and 
this 'swing' should be utilized.* (b) The assign- 
ment for the work to follow is fresh in mind, (c) 
The study of a given topic is separated from the 
recitation on that topic by an interval probably 
twenty-three hours or more. As is explained below 
(Rule 25) two impressions of a given material are 
more effective for permanent memory when separ- 
ated by an interval. It follows that the transposed 
order study x, then at once recite x, which is so 
much favored by students on account of the benefit 
of 'recency* cannot be recommended for the best 
permanent results. 

7. Begin work promptly. 

Observation of high-school students! shows that 

*There is little danger of loss of 'swing' through being bored. The ac- 
tual material studied will be different from that dealt with in the recitation. 
tSee Breslich, Reference 1, page 105. 


even when they know that only a short period is 
available for studying a given lesson, nearly every 
one is slow to start. Some of them take ten or 
fifteen minutes to go through the motions of getting 
started. Here is a woeful waste of time. Get before 
yourself the ideal of a quick 'get-away/ Reduce 
your starting time from minutes to seconds. One 
help to this is to: 

8. Take on the attitude of attention. 

Get your materials laid out before you. Take 
your pen or pencil. Sit up straight. Open your 
book. Carry out all the 'motions' of getting to 
work. If you have drilled yourself well, this will be 
enough to start you to work. The beginning is often 
the hardest point; once begun, you can keep on 
without much effort. 

9. Work intensely while you work: Concentrate. 

You are not likely to remember what you deal 
with half-heartedly. Vivid impressions are most 
lasting. Ideas flow most rapidly when you work 
'at white heat/ Put as much 'steam' into your 
work as into your play. Don't dawdle. When 
E. B. Andrews was President of Brown University 
he used one phrase in his Chapel prayers that might 
well voice the attitude of all good students: "Help 
us to apply ourselves with unremitting assiduity." 
Note, too, that this means be attentive in class as 
well as in your home work. 

10. But don't let intense application become flus- 
ter or worry. 


You can be intent without being anxious, earnest 
without being flustered. There is a kind of hurry 
that "defeats its own end." In especial, don't worry 
because you can't keep pace with the best student in 
your class. No two of us are alike. Do your best 
and admit your limitations if others learn faster, 
recite more readily and secure higher marks. 

11. Do your work with the intent to learn and to 

Laboratory experiments with memorizing under 
different conditions show very clearly that one of 
the most important conditions of good memory is 
the taking of the attitude of 'intent to remember' 
when the materials to be learned are presented. 
Closely allied with this is the attitude of 'confi- 
dence' in one's ability to remember what one is 
learning. An illustration may be seen in the fol- 
lowing incident. I once had occasion to read aloud 
a list of words to a student enough times so that he 
<:ould recite them correctly. I repeated the process 
with a second and with a third student. I then dis- 
covered to my amazement that I was unable to 
recite the list by heart myself. Here not only the 
most charitable, but also the psychologically correct 
explanation, is that I never intended to learn the list 
myself. I had repeated it mechanically and not in 
the memorizing attitude. 

12. Seek a motive or, better, several motives. 

Some school subjects are intrinsically interesting. 
You would rather study them than not. Without 


urging you find them interesting. But other sub- 
jects, or even the favored subjects under certain 
conditions, are not intrinsically interesting. If at- 
tention is given to them, it is because a motive or 
incentive is found that can be attached to them. 
Among the most obvious incentives are recognition 
of the value of the subject to you in the future, 
anxiety not to fail in anything you undertake, long- 
ing to be a credit to your parents, resolve to 'get 
your money's worth' out of your investment in 
schooling, ambition to beat your classmates, to beat 
your own previous .record, to maintain a good repu- 
tation, competition for grades, prizes, honors, sense 
of duty, love of the approval of teachers, parents and 
friends, necessity of graduating to get a better start 
in life, fear of various penalties, etc. Our motives 
are mixed, some are remote, others immediate. 
Some of them are felt to be higher and worthier 
than others. The fundamental point is that to do 
your best work, you need strong incentive. Skillful 
teachers know how to develop and appeal to many 
motives, but you can help yourself by deliberately 
seeking for motives for your own work. Moreover, 
many a task begun under artificial compulsion 
comes in time to be itself directly attractive. 

13. Get rid of the idea that you are working for 
the teacher. 

The teacher's real function is to supply the ma- 
terials, guide your application and test your per- 
formance, not for the teacher's sake, but for your 


sake. Remember that you are really working for 
yourself when you are studying. 

Whoever watches students in the preparation of 
their tasks must be struck with the extent to which 
the form and quality of their work is dictated by the 
attitude and demands of the teacher of each subject. 
Miss X insists on neat papers and gets them. Miss 
Y insists that all references shall be looked up, and 
they are looked up. Mr. Z. is found to be keen on 
the knowledge of idioms, and they are known in his 
class, though his references may not be looked up 
nor his papers rendered in neat form. Admittedly, 
you can hardly be blamed for thus controlling your 
work in some measure through motives of exped- 
iency: your immediate object is to get good grades. 
What I urge is that beyond these lesser details you 
should see clearly that in the larger view your 
work is, after, all, primarily done for yourself, not 
for your teachers. 

14. Don't apply for help until you have to. 

Don't give up the problem after the first failure to 
solve it, but "try, try again." You learn by your 
own effort and progress through your own failures. 

It is the teacher's province, of course, to give aid 
to students, but the best aid to mature students 
comes through suggestions, hints, queries "Where 
do you think the trouble lies?" "Have you tried this 
method?" "Do you see any connection between this 
problem and that?" "Read over such and such a 
page again," etc. 


15. Have a clear notion of the aim. 

Understand definitely what the task is not 
merely how many examples or pages or lines of 
translation you are to do, but what the purpose of 
the assignment is, by what methods you are sup- 
posed to work, what aspects of the lesson are salient 
and essential, what things, if any, should be learned 
verbatim, what you should 'look up* outside the 
textbook in short, what this particular piece of 
work is for. Naturally, it is the teacher's business 
to be sure this aim is made clear in assigning the 
lesson. Unfortunately, too little attention is paid by 
many teachers to steering the student's work on the 
coming lessons. 

16. Before beginning the advance work, review 
rapidly the previous lesson. 

The reasons for this rule are fairly obvious, (a) 
The subject-matter is familiar and hence not diffi- 
cult to attend to. Your work starts off easily, (b) 
The reviewing is directly useful to deepen the im- 
pression of the reviewed material. It aids you 
greatly in recalling that material later on. (c) The 
mental activity used in the reviewing serves to 
'warm up* your mental processes for the studying 
to follow, (d) The subject-matter thus reviewed 
will have numerous points of contact, numerous 
'hooks' upon which the new material can be fast- 
ened. The reviewing helps, in other words to "as- 
sociate the new to the old," which is one of the most 
fundamental maxims in all learning. 


17. Next make a rapid preliminary survey of the 
assigned material. 

This rule is not applicable to all subjects, but for 
work in language, history, geography, physiology 
and the like, and even in most forms of mathematics, 
this preliminary canter over the ground gives a 
useful notion of the 'lay-out' of the whole task and 
frequently economizes time otherwise lost in the 
earlier part of the lesson in struggling over points 
that are explained in the later part. The prelimin- 
ary survey also helps to hold the material together 
in a more unitary whole. It should never, of course, 
replace the careful study that is to follow: it is 
only preliminary to that. 

18. Find out by trial whether you succeed better 
by beginning with the hardest or with the easiest 
task when you are confronted with several tasks 
of unequal difficulty. 

Individuals differ in this respect. Many find that 
anticipation of the more pleasurable, easier task to 
follow lightens the more difficult and less pleasur- 
able task. It is a distinct satisfaction to say: 
"There, that's done, now for something easier." 
Others, especially those who 'warm up' slowly and 
do their best work only after they have been men- 
tally active for a period, can probably defer the 
harder task to some advantage. A lengthy stint 
with portions of unequal difficulty can be done then 
by 'cleaning- up* the easier portions first and then 
making a final spurt for the remainder. 


19. In general, use in your studying the form of 
activity that will later be demanded when the 
material is used. 

You will use your knowledge of spelling ninety- 
nine times in a hundred in the writing of words in 
sentences. In accordance, then, with this rule it 
would be better to learn your spelling by writing the 
words than by learning them merely orally ; in fact, 
it would probably be still better to learn them by 
writing them in actual sentences than to learn them 
merely by writing them in lists or columns. Young 
pupils need to know their multiplication tables for 
use in actual arithmetical work : it follows that these 
tables will be really learned only when they can be 
used in actual problems. Teachers are often sur- 
prised to discover that pupils who have learned the 
multiplication tables fairly well as tables still cannot 
multiply rapidly and accurately when they try to 
solve examples. Again, conversational French or 
German is to be employed presumably in talking: 
let it be learned aloud, then, rather than by silently 
perusing a textbook or by writing dozens of French 
or German sentences from dictation. Similarly, 
students who sometimes complain that they "know 
that stuff but can't answer questions on it" would 
do well to do their reviewing of it by asking them- 
selves questions about it and practising the giving 
of answers. 

20. Give most time and attention to the weak 
points in your knowledge or technique. 

This rule seems almost too obvious to mention, 


yet it is one that is frequently infringed against, 
because human nature takes most satisfaction in 
doing what is easiest. Thus, most children in tak- 
ing piano lessons spend their time in playing over 
and over simple 'pieces' that they have already 
learned to do fairly well, but have to be constantly 
urged to devote time to the fingering of difficult 
runs and to the important exercises with scales. In 
school work, similarly, teachers and. texts often de- 
vote too much time to what is easy: the child has as 
much drill in "two times two are four" as he does in 
"eight times seven are fifty-six," despite the fact 
that the latter connection is probably several dozen 
times more difficult to master. Mature students are 
competent enough to detect their own weaknesses 
and to seek by special exercises to fortify them- 
selves at these points. If your translation of Ger- 
man is interfered with by irregular verbs, spend an 
extra half-hour a day for several weeks on the con- 
jugation of these verbs. If your exercises in physics 
come out wrong because of mistakes in arithmetic, 
take the trouble to remedy this defect by special 
practice in number work. 

21. Carry the learning of all important items be- 
yond the point necessary for immediate recall. 

Adequate learning means permanent acquisition. 
Any bit of information that is needed for your life 
work must be studied more than is sufficient barely 
t recall it for the purposes of tomorrow's recitation 
r next month's examination. Remember that all 


impressions tend to fade with time and that this 
fading must be met by over-learning. If the process 
of extracting a square-root needs to be perfectly 
ready for use at the age of forty, it must be drilled 
upon in the grammar grades far longer than is 
necessary just to keep it in mind during the work in 
the grammar-school arithmetic. Superficial learning 
of spelling may answer for the immediate -test, but 
is totally inadequate if the aim is to get the process 
so automatic that all words in common use can be 
written at any time in your life correctly and with- 
out hesitation. Prom this it follows : 

22. You must daily pass judgment as to the de- 
gree of importance of items that are brought before 
you, and lay special stress on the permanent fixing 
of those items that are vital and fundamental. 

Naturally, young children are in no position to 
make these decisions. It is the business of their 
teachers to accentuate these essential points and by 
suitable emphasis and repetition to insure their 
mastery. But many high-school and most college 
students are mature enough to appraise the items 
of knowledge and to select for careful learning those 
that are valuable for them. These items might as 
well be learned once for all when they appear. 

At the same time, this rule does not mean that the 
thousands of less fundamental items are not to be 
thoroughly understood and attentively mastered as 
they are encountered. The prospect that ten years 
after you graduate you will be unable to recall the 


third person, singular subjunctive of anw or to give 
a clear statement of Avogadro's hypothesis or to 
demonstrate that the sum of the angles of a tri- 
angle is equal to two right angles does not prove 
that you would better not spend time on them now. 
If all the time and energy we spend studying the 
thousands of facts that we are afterwards unable to 
recall were time and energy thrown away, education 
would be, indeed, a most ridiculous farce! In 
reality, knowledge once known but not now re- 
callable is by no means valueless. 

(a) It may have had an immediate direct useful- 
ness when learned, sufficient to justify learning it, 
using it for a time and then forgetting it. I take a 
quarter of an hour to learn the main streets and the 
general system of transportation in London, though 
I expect to be there only one week in my life. 

(b) Much of what we learn has value primarily 
as preliminary instruction. It furnishes the tem- 
porary scaffolding by means of which the permanent 
structure may be laid. No doubt Latin, properly 
taught, improves English composition, oral and 
written. At thirty you will have forgotten your 
Latin grammar, but you will probably speak better 
English for having done the Latin translation for 
which the grammar prepared you. 

(c) Somewhat similarly, in order to understand 
and to retain permanently the larger generalizations, 
it is necessary to assimilate a considerable number 
of the detailed observations on which the general- 
izations are built. Put quantitatively, one might 


say that to make ten principles one's own, one must 
first acquire knowledge of a hundred or a thousand 
concrete facts and illustrations. These examples 
will be forgotten, but they will have done their 
work by guaranteeing the memory of the principles 
behind them. The particular experiences combine 
to form a valuable mental acquisition. 

(d) Knowledge once learned and now forgotten 
can be re-learned in far less time than the original 
learning. Some part, then, of the original labor is 
still conserved in the nervous system, even though 
actual recall is impossible. 

(e) The original labor of learning has taught you 
where to go to get information of certain kinds and 
by what methods to get it. 

It would not, therefore, be entirely ridiculous if 
a well-trained man were to boast : "I have forgotten 
ten times as much as you ever knew!" 

23. When a given bit of information is clearly of 
subordinate importance and useful only for the 
time being, you are warranted in giving to it only 
sufficient attention to hold it over the time in 

Contrary, then, to the notions of many teachers, 
'cramming' or reliance on 'recency' is sometimes 
perfectly legitimate. No lawyer has all his legal 
lore 'on tap' perpetually. No clergyman knows at 
every moment in his life all the details of theology 
and scriptural exegesis that he pours forth so 
fluently from Sabbath to Sabbath. No engineer 


could elaborate a new bridge without 'sweating up' 
on those phases of bridge designing that pertain to 
his new problem. In so far, then, as the school aims 
to train for life, it may properly seek to train this 
ability to cram. 

24. Make the duration of your periods of study 
long enough to utilize 'warming-up/ but not so 
long as to suffer from weariness or fatigue. 

However successful you may become in making a 
prompt start (Rule 7), you are likely to be in a bet- 
ter 'swing' after five or ten minutes than after two 
minutes. It would be unwise, therefore, to cut short 
your work at the end of ten or fifteen minutes unless 
the task were extremely hard, you were extremely 
tired and you had come to a natural break in the 
work. Easy work, especially when the task is 
changing from minute to minute, can often be con- 
tinued profitably for two hours or more with little 
interruption. Hard work, with quick onset of 
weariness, is best interrupted oftener, say every 
fifteen or twenty minutes, by short breaks, say of 
one minute, made at points that afford natural stop- 
ping places. Walk about a bit. Open the window. 
Get a brief change and relaxation, but do not do 
other mental work. 

It is impossible, then, to lay down any hard and 
fast rule concerning optimal length of study, save to 
say: (a) the maturer the student, the longer he 
should be able to work; (b) the easier the subject 
matter, the longer he should be able to work; (c) 
the slower the student is to get 'warmed up/ the 


longer he should continue at work. A special case 
is indicated in the following rule : 

25. When drill or repetition is necessary, distrib- 
ute over more than one period the time given to a 
specified learning. 

It is not possible to state just precisely what is the 
best possible way to distribute the time to be de- 
voted to learning ('so much depends upon the vari- 
ous conditions of work as indicated in Rule 24). 
Obviously, a small task that can be learned in a few 
minutes had better be learned in one sitting. Obvi- 
ously, a difficult task requiring, say four or five 
hours of labor, had better be learned in several sit- 
tings. The present rule means that, in general, the 
work of studying is more economical and efficient 
when a given amount of time is divided into several 
sittings than when it is taken in a single sitting. 
Experiments show, for example, that more rapid 
progress is made in learning to typewrite if the 
practice is in two periods of thirty minutes each, 
separated by a day, than if the practice is all under- 
taken in one period of sixty minutes. Similarly, a 
piece of piano music that can be learned by heart 
in a single sitting of 120 minutes can be learned 
equally well in less than 120 minutes if taken in 
sittings of 15, 20 or 30 minutes each, separated by 
intervals of several hours or days. Especially in 
the case of college work, where conditions often 
favor deferring application to certain courses until 
a forth-coming 'quiz' compels extensive reading and 
reviewing, there is an undoubted loss of efficiency, 


because the same amount of labor expended in 
shorter and more frequent periods of study would 
ensure considerably greater permanence of the ma- 
terial. The distributed learnings can be undertaken 
with less fatigue, with less fluster and worry. More- 
over, it is probable that during the intervals be- 
tween these learnings some sort of 'organization' or 
'incubation' of the material takes place. Many per- 
sons find it profitable, for instance, to assemble data 
for a paper or essay several days before they at- 
tempt to write it, as experience shows that these 
data 'come out' in better shape for having been al- 
lowed to 'stand' for a time. 

26. When you interrupt work, not only stop at a 
natural break, but also leave a cue for its quick re- 

This is peculiarly important when undertaking a 
relatively long bit of constructive work, like writing 
an essay. At the moment you stop, you have fairly 
clearly in mind the general perspective of your task. 
What you have done is fresh before you ; what you 
propose to do is more or less already in outline. 
Everyone knows how 'cold' and even distasteful such 
a piece of work can be when it is picked up after a 
day or two devoted to other matters. To remedy 
this, jot down memoranda before you leave it: 
"Start next a discussion of so-and-so." "Pick up 
point on page 4 for further treatment." "Look up 
this and that in the encyclopedia," etc. 


27. After intensive application, especially to new 
material, pause for a time and let your mind lie 
fallow before taking up anything else. 

The impressions just made are liable to be blurred 
or 'swamped' by the second set, unless they have a 
little time to settle down. It is a matter of common 
experience that the details of a day spent in sight- 
seeing in an environment full of novel impressions, 
your first day at a World's Fair, for example, are 
peculiarly hard to remember. I once urged a Ger- 
man friend who was visiting America for the first 
time to meet some colleagues at my home in the 
evening. He declined courteously on the ground 
that he had just spent a busy day in an intensive 
study of the George Junior Republic and that un- 
less he could spend a quiet evening at the hotel, he 
would not carry home with him a clear memory of 
the institution he had just visited. His attitude was 
quite correct. His evening at the hotel would suf- 
fice to arrange his impressions, to fix them indelibly 
in his memory, unobscured by other impressions of 
a different sort. He would spend his time, of course, 
in thinking over what he had seen and heard during 
the day. This brings us to a particularly important 
set of rules. 

1 8. Use various devices to compel yourself to 
think over your work. 

The function of the recitation is to induce thought 
as well as to 'hear lessons.' Examinations have as 
one function the incitement through the reviewing 
in preparation for them of a comprehensive survey 
of the ground covered by them. 


Certain plans for inducing thinking- are sufficiently 
important to be embodied as specific rules. 

29. Form the habit of working out your own con- 
crete examples of all general rules and principles. 

This rule is applicable more particularly to the 
work of students in college and in the upper years 
of the high school where the subject-matter of study 
is more apt to deal with abstract and generalized 
statements. A good textbook or a good teacher will 
be sure to supply one or more concrete examples of 
such general principles, but the good student should 
supplement these by examples of his own. The 
point is that your personal experience is different 
from that of the author of the text or from that of 
the teacher. If, then, you really understand the 
principle you are studying, it is probable that some 
illustration of it will occur to you that is different 
from the one given you, and quite likely better than 
that one for your own purposes. Teachers who 
have real insight will always give more credit for 
a student's own attempt to apply a principle, even 
if it be a crude one, than for a mere parrot-like 
repetition of the illustration made in the text or the 
classroom instruction. 

30. Form the habit of mentally reviewing every 
paragraph as soon as you have read it. 

A properly constructed paragraph centers about 
one thought which may usually be epitomized in a 
single sentence or even a single phrase. Make sure 
that you can 'tease out' this thought. This habit 


of mental summarizing by paragraphs might well 
be developed by teachers in the grade schools. 

31. Don't hesitate to mark up your own books to 
make these essential ideas stand out visibly. 

The marking may take the form of underlining or 
side-heads may be written against each paragraph. 
It is well to do this after reading each paragraph. 
The decision what to mark or what to write will 
necessitate thinking out the gist of the paragraph. 
The text is also left in better shape for subsequent 
reviewing by topics. Naturally, this advice sug- 
gests that each student should own as many texts 
and reference books as possible. 

32. Whenever your desire is to master material 
that is at all extensive and complex, make an out- 
line of it. If you also wish to retain this material, 
commit your outline to memory. 

It has often amused me to see the eagerness with 
which college students scan the pages of the 'pat- 
ent* books on memory which advertise to teach 
one the secret of "how to master the contents of 
books at a single reading," and how sadly they greet 
the advice : "Read the book carefully, make an out- 
line of it and memorize the outline." Nevertheless, 
this is perfectly sound advice, psychologically and 
pedagogically, for there is "no royal road to learn- 

The outlines should be much condensed, prefer- 
ably in noun-form statements, topics, catch-words 
and phrases rather than full sentences, and the most 


careful attention should be paid to their organiza- 
tion under main headings, sub-headings, etc. The 
idea is to get from the reading of a chapter or ?n 
essay or an argument the framework of the whole 
structure and to set this down on paper in a form 
that reveals its organization in a glance.* 

33. In all your work apply your knowledge as 
much as possible and as soon as possible. 

There is scarcely any rule more fundamental than 
this one. To be sure to remember a thing, do some- 
thing with it, try it, use it, put it into function, tell 
it to some one, go to almost any length to express 
what has been impressed upon you. All teachers 
knowthat they reach most complete appreciation and 
permanent retention of any topic when they have 
had occasion to teach it to others. The astounding 
grasp displayed by men in the learned professions 
over the thousands of intricate details of their call- 
ings is a consequence of the constant use they are 
making of these materials. Even so trivial an 
issue as the remembering of some good story is 
best met by telling the story to some one as soon as 
possible after hearing it or reading it. An excellent 
plan for any student who is anxious to master any 
topic is to seek to explain it to another person. 

In this connection the query may be raised : Does 
group studying operate to increase the effectiveness 
of the individual student's work? The answer must 

*Students of law, debating:, argumentation and the like will find de- 
scribed in J. H. WIGMORE, Principles of Judicial Proof (Part III., pp. 744 
on) a very interesting- and valuable plan for charting in visible form the 
details of a mass of evidence. 


be: "It depends." In certain high schools experi- 
ments with a form of group work applied to the 
studying of history, civil government and the like, 
under the direction of the teachers, have been de- 
cidedly successful.* When students, outside of 
school hours and without supervision, combine in 
the preparation of their assignments, the results 
may be good, provided the students in question are 
more or less of the same grade of ability, and pro- 
vided they take pains to share the labor in such a 
manner that each one of them continues to partici- 
pate in the several aspects of the assignment. The 
tendency that too often develops within such volun- 
tary groups for a few of the students to do the work 
and pass it over to their weaker brothers or for the 
several tasks to be delegated, so that one student 
looks up the vocabulary, another keeps watch on the 
grammar, a third makes a rough translation and a 
fourth polishes it off for the group, is plainly an un- 
desirable tendency. If group studying brings about 
a real and active discussion of the material of the 
assignment with interchange of opinion and argu- 
mentation, the result is highly beneficial and con- 
tributes to the efficiency of all members of the group 
by putting their knowledge into use as advised in 
the rule given above. 

34. Do not hesitate to commit to memory verba- 
tim such materials as definitions of technical terms, 

*See, for instance, I^OTTA A. CLARK, Group work in the high school. 
Elem. School Teacher, 7: 1907, 355-444. Also C. B. SHAW. Some experiments 
in group work. Ibid,, 329-334. 


formulas, dates and outlines, always provided, of 
course, that you also understand them. 

Younger students are apt to commit their 'les- 
sons' to memory and to recite parrot-like, in the 
exact words of the textbooks. The efforts of 
teachers are frequently expended, and quite wisely, 
too, in breaking up this habit or at least in ensuring 
that these students surely know the meaning of 
what is reproduced in this fashion. On the other 
hand, older students may make the mistake of avoid- 
ing entirely reliance upon rote memory. You should 
understand that committing to memory is perfectly 
legitimate when the subject-matter has but few 
natural cues for recall (as is the case with many 
formulas and dates) or when the subject-matter 
condenses into brief compass certain fundamentally 
important principles (as is the case with definitions 
and rules of procedure). You should aim to under- 
stand this material, but you should also take the 
pains to commit it to memcry by the simple process 
of attentive repetition. 

35. When the material to be learned by heart pre- 
sents no obvious rational associations, it is perfectly 
legitimate to invent some artificial scheme for learn- 
ing and recalling it. 

An artificial scheme of this sort is termed a mne- 
monic device. To take a stock instance, I remember 
that the volcano of Fujiyama in Japan is 12,365 feet 
high by dwelling on the circumstance that this num- 
ber embraces the twelve months and 365 days of the 
year. To avoid getting the wrong volcano I might 


even concoct some far-fetched association between 
Fujiyama and fugitive year. Or, again, I remember that 
a certain infant used sixteen words at the age of one 
year by recalling the proverb "speech is silver," etc., 
and that Bryan's speech on the silver question ar- 
gued for "16 to 1 !" It may be pointed out that most 
of the books of patent recipes for memorizing err 
in urging the use of such artificial devices when a 
rational association, a logical connection, would be 
preferable. Thus, the scheme that they recommend 
of learning- vocabularies by the insertion of artificial 
connecting links has little to recommend it. You 
can, to be sure, learn that tree is the translation of 
the Latin arbor by saying to yourself: "tree sug- 
gests mast; mast suggests ship; ship suggests har- 
bor and harbor suggests arbor." But it would be 
far wiser for you to dwell on the fact that "Arbor 
Day" is a day devoted to tree planting and that our 
"arboreal ancestors" were the apes who lived in 
trees. In any event, if you must use a mnemonic 
device, invent your own rather than adopt a second- 
hand one : you are less likely to forget it on account 
of the very effort that you make in constructing it. 

36. In committing to memory a poem, declama- 
tion or oration, do not break it up into parts but 
learn it as a whole. 

In other words, read it straight through from be- 
ginning to end, then repeat this until the whole can 
be said without error. The advantages of this 
method are several, (a) The mental connections 
formed between the words are distributed evenly 


over the entire material, whereas, when the learning 
is 'by parts/ certain portions, say the first line, 
are repeated many more times than is necessary, 
while other portions, say the connection between 
the eighth and ninth lines, are not impressed as 
many times, so that forgetting appears at these 
weak links in the chain of associations, (b) It is 
easier to keep attention upon the material when it 
is read as a whole than when a small bit of it is 
repeated monotonously over and over, (c) The 
impressions made of any given section follow each 
other after a longer interval when learning is by 
wholes and thus there is a gain in efficiency in ac- 
cordance with the principle stated in Rule 25. (d) 
The meaning of the material is kept to the front 
when it is learned as a whole, and this aids in its 

In case there is in the selection a portion that of- 
fers special difficulty in learning, the rule just given, 
should be modified to the extent of devoting a few 
extra, short repetitions to this harder section in or- 
der to bring it up on a level with the remainder. 

You may feel discouraged when you first use the 
method of committing to memory 'by wholes/ be- 
cause, after you have expended some time upon the 
work, you find yourself unable to repeat any consid- 
erable part of it, but you must remember that the 
entire selection is already partly impressed and that 
when recall does become possible, it will pertain to 
the whole selection. The gain by the 'whole* 
method is greater when the selection is a long one. 


even so long as to take more than a single sitting 
for a single perusal. 

37. In committing to memory, it is better to read 
aloud than to read silently and better to read rap- 
idly than slowly. 

Attention is probably better sustained when the 
reading is aloud, and in addition an appeal is then 
made directly to the ear as well as to the eye, and 
some assistance is given by the 'feel' of the words 
in the throat and mouth. 

There is a gain by fast repetition only in the sense 
that, given a specified time for learning, a fast rate 
will be advantageous by permitting you to repeat 
the material more times. Thus, if you can read 
through a poem slowly in five minutes, more learn- 
ing will result by doubling the rate and thus read- 
ing it through twice in five minutes. 

38. If your work includes attendance at lectures, 
take a moderate amount of notes during the lec- 
tures, use a system of abbreviations, and rewrite 
these notes daily, amplified into a reasonably com- 
pendious outline, organized as suggested in Rule 32. 

College students are seen to err in both directions 
in taking notes. Those who scribble away indus- 
triously throughout the hour undoubtedly take 
down too much and on the whole lose something 
of the lecturer's presentation. On the other hand, 
the few students who take no notes, because they 
think they can do better by giving undivided atten- 
tion to the lecturer's presentation, are equally de- 


ceived, for no person can carry away and retain 
permanently the essential features of a typical lec- 
ture, without memoranda to which he can refer 
subsequently for study and review. 

Since the taking of notes and memoranda of read- 
ing in reference books, class discussions, etc., is an 
activity that will be prominent in the daily work of 
most secondary-school and college students, some 
simple system for recording the commonest words 
and for systematically abbreviating other words 
might profitably be taught to all high-school stu- 
dents. A single symbol should be used for all 
common particles, like in, on, of, with, to, tion, ing, 
which, that, etc. Make up a system for yourself. 

You will actually gain time in the long run if 
you will take the pains daily to go over the notes se- 
cured in class and at least to revise them, if you do 
not rewrite them completely. This work enables 
you to scrutinize your memoranda while they are 
still 'warm/ to make such alterations and additions 
as will increase their serviceability in the future, 
and, what is equally important, it serves in itself as 
a valuable second learning, separated from the first 
impression by a suitable interval (Rule 25) and con- 
sequently peculiarly valuable in assuring permanent 


1. Keep yourself in good physical condition. 

2. Attend to, remove or treat physical defects that 
often handicap mental activity, such as defective 
eyesight, defective hearing, defective teeth, ade- 
noids, obstructed nasal breathing. 

3. See that external conditions of work (light, 
temperature, humidity, clothing, chair, desk, etc.) 
are favorable to study. 

4. Form a place-study habit. 

5. Form a time-study habit. 

6. When possible, prepare the advance assignment 
in a given subject directly after the day's recitation 
in it. 

7. Begin work promptly. 

8. Take on the attitude of attention. 

9. Work intensely while you work: Concentrate. 

10. But don't let intense application become flus- 
ter or worry. 

11. Do your work with the intent to learn and to 

12. Seek a motive or, better, several motives. 

13. Get rid of the idea that you are working for 
the teacher. 

14. Don't apply for help until you have to. 

15. Have a clear notion of the aim. 



16. Before beginning the advance work, review 
rapidly the previous lesson. 

17. Make a rapid preliminary survey of the as- 
signed material. 

18. Find out by trial whether you succeed better 
by beginning with the hardest or with the easiest 
task when you are confronted with several tasks of 
unequal difficulty. 

19. In general, use in your studying the form of 
activity that will later be demanded when the ma- 
terial is used. 

20. Give most time and attention to the weak 
points in your knowledge or technique. ^ 

'-21. Carry the learning of all important items be- 
yond the point necessary for immediate recall. 

22. You must daily pass judgment as to the de- 
gree of importance of items that are brought before 
you, and lay special stress on the permanent fixing 
of those items that are vital and fundamental. 

23. When a given bit of information is clearly of 
subordinate importance and useful only for the time 
being, you are warranted in giving to it only suffi- 
cient attention to hold it over the time in question. 

24. Make the duration of your periods of study 
long enough to utilize "warming-up* but not so long 
as to suffer from weariness or fatigue. 

25. When drill or repetition is necessary, distrib- 
ute over more than one period the time given to a 
specified learning. 


26. When you interrupt work, not only stop at a 
natural break, but also leave a cue for its quick re- 

27. After intensive application, especially to new 
material, pause for a time and let your mind be fal- 
low before taking up anything else. 

28. Use various devices to compel yourself to 
think over your work. 

29. Form the habit of working out your own con- 
crete examples of all general rules and principles. 

30. Form the habit of mentally reviewing every 
paragraph as soon as you have read it. 

31. Don't hesitate to mark up your own books to 
make the essential ideas stand out visibly. 

32. Whenever your desire is to master material 
that is at all extensive and complex, make an outline 
of it. ir If you also wish to retain this material, com- 
mit your outline to memory. 

33. In all your work apply your knowledge as 
much as possible and as soon as possible. 

34. Do not hesitate to commit to memory verba- 
tim such materials as definitions of technical terms, 
formulas, dates and outlines, always provided, of 
course, that you also understand them. 

35. When the material to be learned by heart 
presents no obvious rational associations, it is per- 
fectly legitimate to invent some artificial scheme 
for learning and recalling it. 

36. In committing to memory a poem, declama- 
tion or oration, do not break it up into parts but 
learn it as a whole. 


37. In committing to memory, it is better to read 
aloud than to read silently and better to read rap- 
idly than slowly. 

38. If your work includes attendance at lectures, 
take a moderate amount of notes during 1 the lec- 
tures, using* a system of abbreviations, and rewrite 
these notes daily, amplified into a reasonably com- 
pendious outline, organized as suggested in Rule 32. 


(1) Breslich, E. R. Teaching high-school pupils 
how to study. School Review, 20 : 1912, 505-515. 

(2) Breslich, E. R. Supervised study as a means 
of providing supplementary individual instruction. 
Thirteenth Yearbook, Part I, National Society for 
the Study of Education, 1914, pp. 32-72. (Bibliog- 
raphy of 19 titles. 

(3) Dearborn, G. V. N. How to Learn Easily: 
a Book for Students, Teachers and Parents. Boston, 

(4) Earhart, Lida B. Teaching Children to Study. 
Boston, 1909. 181 pp. 

(5) Giles, F. M. Investigation of study-habits 
of high-school students. School Review, 22: 1914, 

(6) Hall-Quest, A. L. The direction of study as 
the chief aim of the high school. (Chapter X in The 
Modern High School, by C. H. Johnston and 

(7) Hinsdale, B. A. The Art of Study. New York, 
1900, 266 pp. 

(8) Jones, Olivia M. Teaching Children to Study; 
The Group System Applied. New York, 1910. 
193 PP. 

(9) Lunt, F. S. Some investigations of habits of 
study, Jour, of Educational Psychology, i : 1910, 

(10) McMurry, F. M. How to Study and Teach- 
ing How to Study. Boston, 1909. 324 pp. 



(11) Parker, S. C. Methods of Teaching in High 
Schools. Boston, 1915. 529 pp. 

(12) Reavis, W. C. T.he importance of study- 
program for high-school pupils. School Review, 19 : 

(13) Rowe, S. H. The study habit and how to 
form it. Education, 30: 1910, 670-683. 

(14) Ruediger, W. C. Teaching pupils to study. 
Education, 29: 1909, 437-446. 

(15) Sandwick, R. L. How to Study and What to 
Study. Boston, 1915. 170 pp. 

(16) Watt, H. J. The Economy and Training of 
Memory. New York, 1909. 128 pp. 

(17) Wiener, W. Home-study reform. School 
Review, 20: 1912, 526-531. 


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