In order to actually get set up, you will need a way to test yourself. ‘Retrieval practice’, whereby you actively look to recall what you’ve learned rather than simply reading has been proven to be more effective than other methods for recall(3). Flashcards are one such approach.
I used the website www.cram.com to build up a collection of flashcards which I added to every time I came across a concept that I felt would be important to recall. I preferred this to paper flashcards because I could sync across my tablet, PC and phone, and have a set of tests that were ‘good to go’ whenever I was on public transport, a lunch break, or simply had some spare time.
To space my practice, I set reminders on my phone for 1,3,7 and 10 days after learning material. This way, I was making it harder to recall something, but not a time so far apart that I’d have to learn everything again. The goal was to struggle to recall, but not struggle so much that I’d have to re-read everything.
Getting through a trail wasn’t done in ‘one sitting’, but over a series of days. So as I got further along the set of flashcards, and my challenge to recall them, would grow.
Below is a diagram of how I scheduled out spaced repetition and learning tests
Using my reminder system, I was able to challenge myself on the high level concepts — after all you can only fit so much onto a flashcard. But of course technical jobs need much more attention to implementation details, so I needed a way to retain information from that too.
On the next page, I’ll show how the ‘learning test’ provides great bang for back when you’re looking to gain understanding of the nitty-gritty details of something.