A brilliant student need not be naturally brilliant. A brilliant student is simply a student who studies brilliantly, cooperating with how his or her brain naturally works, not working against it. Every student can be a brilliant student in his own way if he learns to do these five things.

Brilliant Student Secret #1: Learn a Little Every Day

Brilliant students learn a little every day. For long-term knowledge retention and recall, this strategy performs dramatically better than cramming. If you would like your children to learn the names and the capitals of all of the fifty states in the United States of America, which strategy do you think is better?

Strategy A: Spend three hours today in totally focused study—180 minutes total.

Strategy B: Spend three minutes a day for the next fifty days, distributing studying over time—150 minutes total.

Cognitive research clearly demonstrates that these strategies are not equivalent. In fact, one of them is dramatically better than the other at supporting long-term memory of the material. Did you pick the correct strategy? Yes, it is Strategy B. A few short minutes of focused study followed by a period of rest supports how the brain naturally consolidates long-term memory. 

There are other benefits as well.

  • Strategy B requires less time to produce better results.
  • Strategy B is easier for the student.

“Easier” plus “more productive” is a winning combination. Natural study rhythms are less than seven minutes long for children. Spending three minutes at a time in focused study is actually something children can do successfully. Spending 180 minutes in focused study is almost impossible.

You should slow down information acquisition by spreading it over time. A year of learning just a few facts a day means your students can learn three thousand new facts this year. At the end of ten years they will have learned thirty thousand new facts. If you implement the remaining secrets to ensure they retain and recall these facts, you will have absolutely brilliant students.

Brilliant Student Secret #2: Reinforce Facts With Spaced Repetition

Spaced repetition is a technique for making study time highly effective, a technique for choosing what to study and review on any given day. In spaced repetition, we carefully schedule each follow-up review for a specific fact. With every successful review, the time before the next review increases. With every mistake, the time before the next review decreases. For example, Derek is learning this fact: the capital of Massachusetts is Boston. Derek learns the fact on January 1. He reviews it successfully on January 2, 4, 7, and 14. 

This review schedule is an example of spaced repetition. With each successful review the spacing between reviews increases. The review spacing continues to increase as long as Derek recalls the fact correctly. If at any time Derek fails to recall the fact, the spacing would be decreased or even restarted at day one. 

Spaced repetition review is always dynamic, adjusting the schedule for each specific fact based on how well the student can recall that fact. Each well-timed review provides an opportunity for the student’s memory to be strengthened. 

Spaced repetition is proven to work. It makes it possible for students to remember more with dramatically less effort. Spaced repetition helps brilliant students retain and recall successfully everything they have learned.

Brilliant Student Secret #3: Study Using Active Recall

To make a memory as strong as possible, have your students actively recall the facts they are learning. For example, Jessie is memorizing the names of all of the presidents of the United States. Initially, she hears or reads a fact to be learned, such as “Andrew Jackson started serving as president in the year 1829.”