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Improving Metacognition- Knowing what you know

Sometimes (especially in math class) some students don’t even know what they don’t know! I’m sure this has happened to all of us before- and something we wish never happens to us again.

Knowing what you know (termed “metacognition”) can be really beneficial if you have big tests or exams coming up! If you know what you know and what you don’t, you can spend time studying the topics you really need to be studying.

Believe it or not, there are some scientifically proven ways to increase metacognition. Here are just a couple:

Don’t buy textbooks that already have highlighting in them

Or if you don’t have a choice- ignore what the previous student has highlighted. You don’t know if they got an A+ or an F! Do your own highlighting of key words and phrases. Research shows that when students read paragraphs that are already inappropriately highlighted, it impairs accurate comprehension and results in students thinking they know more than they actually do. In other words, it makes you think you know what you just read when you really have no idea!

Don't pay attention to what past students have highlighted! This will improve metacognition

Don’t equate “I know this material now” to “I’ve learnt this material and don’t need to practice it anymore”

Keep practicing the material and testing yourself on it! This is where practice tests come in very handy. Study the material before the time and then try answering questions on it. Also, don’t try memorise specific questions- this won’t aid your memory- it will only help you focus on memorising instead of really understanding. When you really understand something, you’ll be able to answer many questions on it- not just one you memorised!


Know that knowing definitions doesn’t mean knowing context

If you can recall 100 definitions word for word, great! But what if there is a question in the test that requires you to actually understand the work? What you really need to be doing is understanding the context of the material. Research suggests that writing summaries on the material boosts comprehension of the material. Use section titles to structures your notes. Make quality notes and spend time on them. It does take time and effort, but it will make studying for big tests and exams much quicker and less stressful!


I made this lil’ infographic to sum up all of that!

I hope that helps you know what you don’t know! Happy studying gang! <3

Sources (for in case y’all wanna check up on my stats ;)) :

Gier, V., Kreiner, D. and Natz-Gonzalez, A. (2009). Harmful Effects of Preexisting Inappropriate Highlighting on Reading Comprehension and Metacognitive Accuracy. The Journal of General Psychology, 136(3), pp.287-302.

Winne,P.H.  & Hadwin, A.F. (1998). Studying as self-regulated learning. In D.J. Hacker, J. Dunlosky, & A.C. Graesser (Eds.), Metacognition in educational theory and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Passer, M. and Smith, R. (2015). Psychology. NSW: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

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