Exam prep: The Active Recall method

Exam prep: The Active Recall method

What is the Active Recall method?

Active Recall is a studying technique which involves you taking lots of tests until you frequently pass with a high enough score in order to prove that you are competent enough in that topic. It forces you to pluck out information from your mind when you need it in order to test that you know the answers.

The good thing about Active Recall is that it is continually making you use the knowledge in your head. If it’s not there i.e. you don’t know the answer, you get the question wrong, and you learn the answer. It makes sense that this technique would be more effective than what most people (myself included) do which is write notes or highlight the text and try and commit those to memory.

Where did I hear about it?

I first heard about this technique when I was listening to a video from productivity YouTuber Ali Abdaal. I was hoovering one weekend and was binging his content when the current video recommended that I watch another about exam revision techniques. As I’m currently trying to study for an exam, I thought, why not? The video starts off by listing the common study techniques and why they aren’t actually the best for revision. He also included examples of results from tests that compared sets of people using both techniques. While those using the more common methods did pass, the others using Active Recall passed with higher scores.

With this in mind, I decided to give it a try.

What tests am I using?

As I was using the content from Pluralsight, I also used their third party exam prep partner. The first text I took was using this third party system (you can read how that turned out). But I didn’t actually find this system worked for me for the following reasons:

  1. The test questions were phrased in an outdated fashion (this is obviously my opinion and could be wrong but my other resources and previously taken tests made me think I was somewhat correct)
  2. There was no pause function. If I didn’t have 90 to 120 minutes free, then I wouldn’t get an accurate result as it would just mark what I completed automatically when it was closed or timed out.
  3. There didn’t seem to be a way for me to access it easily directly via the Pluralsight app like I would via the website. And going directly to it wasn’t working.

With all this in mind, I bought a Udemy course containing a set of six Udemy exams that were reduced. This platform and tests were better for me because:

  1. They gave me a greater variety of tests (up to 500 questions within 6 tests)
  2. It had a pause function
  3. The test questions were in a much more expected format.
  4. You could switch between devices and as I’m constantly on the go, this is essential for me.

So I started using these exam materials instead.

These are the results from my first test with Udemy. So I haven’t passed yet no, but it is an improvement.

How am I finding this technique?

After a couple of weeks of trying to use this method, here’s my thoughts:

  1. I felt that I was making more progress writing notes. It’s hard to find a full 2 hour block for a test a week and time to read over results with work, family and business.
  2. Hard to do this and the other objectives from work. Now I’m at a company where HR is a thing and I have objectives, I finding it hard to complete this goal and the others before the deadline.

This might be solved by trying calendar block my time to take this on and be militant about it. Because I do find I’m jumping back and forth and getting a bit overwhelmed with it all.

So, at the moment, I’m not sure how well this is going to be honest. The deadline to take my exam is looming and I don’t even have notes to read over, but I think I’ll give this method a proper go for this exam and then figure out if I want to take it into the next exam preparation that I do.


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