Make it Stick the Science of Successful Learning by Brown, Roediger, McDaniael

If you love learning but struggle to recall what you learn, first of all, SAME, and second, this book is absolutely for you. Whether you are a student, a teacher, or a life long learner, this book will give you the science and practical tips to take what you learn and make it stick.


To most of us, learning something “the hard way” implies wasted time and effort. Good teaching, we believe, should be creatively tailored to the different learning styles of students and should use strategies that make learning easier. Make It Stickturns fashionable ideas like these on their head. Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, the authors offer concrete techniques for becoming more productive learners.

Memory plays a central role in our ability to carry out complex cognitive tasks, such as applying knowledge to problems never before encountered and drawing inferences from facts already known. New insights into how memory is encoded, consolidated, and later retrieved have led to a better understanding of how we learn. Grappling with the impediments that make learning challenging leads both to more complex mastery and better retention of what was learned.

Many common study habits and practice routines turn out to be counterproductive. Underlining and highlighting, rereading, cramming, and single-minded repetition of new skills create the illusion of mastery, but gains fade quickly. More complex and durable learning come from self-testing, introducing certain difficulties in practice, waiting to re-study new material until a little forgetting has set in, and interleaving the practice of one skill or topic with another. Speaking most urgently to students, teachers, trainers, and athletes, Make It Stick will appeal to all those interested in the challenge of lifelong learning and self-improvement. from Goodreads.

A light blue cover with a gold star and the title “Make it Stick, The Science of Successful Learning.”



Sorry, sorry, I’ll calm down. *breathes*

I love learning new things. Sadly, many times, I reach for the information only to find that it has gently faded away. Originally, I picked up this book looking for tips to be a better student and support the students I work with but, delightfully, I found so much more.

In eight short and easy to read chapters, Make it Stick, helped me understand how learning is misunderstood, how to change my learning strategies, embrace the difficulties, increase my abilities, and make that information stick. Told through meticulously researched studies as well as real-life stories, each section of the book was absorbing and accessible.

My favorite Claims Made in Make it Stick

1. Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful. Learning that it easy is like writing in sand, here today and gone tomorrow.

2. We are poor judges of when we are learning well and when we’re not.

3. Rereading text and massed practice of a skill or new knowledge are by far the preferred study strategies of learners of all stripes, by they’re also among the least productive.

4. Retrieval practice is more effective learning strategy than review by rereading.

5. When you space out practice at a task and get a little rusty, retrieval is harder and feels less productive but the effort produced last longer.

6. We are all susceptible to illusions that can hijack our judgment of what we know and can do.

Make is Stick

I fully admit that there were sections I really struggled to embrace. At least, at first. American schools have been teaching students how to learn and study in relatively the same manner for decades. And, one of the biggest mistakes the book argues student make is re-reading the text which has never been a method I have employed. I didn’t even realized students would count this as studying which is my own blind spot!

Furthermore, in recent years there has been a move away from testing and a push for making learning “accessible” (ie, comfortable for each student). On its face, that feels welcoming and accommodating. The idea that learning should be uncomfortable made me….well, mad. Encouraging students to learn is difficult enough, sometimes, without making it uncomfortable and stressful. I had to really turn some of the points over in my mind before I could see their perspective. This book has me convinced of the power of low stakes frequent testing in lieu of the day to day feel good that so many administrators, parents, and (let’s be honest) students, prefer. The learning may not be as enjoyable but retaining the knowledge will feel so fulfilling.

To accept their proffered ideas I had to take a hard look at my own learning. The information that I remember are things that I have practiced again and again. Those hard-won and mistake laden journeys were occasionally miserable (the 1000 note cards I made for the bar exam springs to mind) but the pride I have in being able to readily access that information is easily worth it. Meanwhile, information I have gained and never used (hello my WWII spies!) fades away through time.

Wherever you are in life, if you enjoy learning but want better retention, this book is absolutely perfect for you!

Tell me, please! What’s the last book you read that made you excited to learn?


5 thoughts on “Make it Stick the Science of Successful Learning by Brown, Roediger, McDaniael

Add yours

  1. This sounds SO good and really helpful! I struggle so much to remember things I’ve learned and that I’ve read. A friend and I were talking recently about our struggles in school as well, that we never actually learned helpful and effective study/learning techniques. My method was mainly just to reread and take notes of what I thought was important, I thought writing it myself would help. It did not! I think I need this, thanks for the wonderful review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I hope you read it and enjoy it! Because you read so many wonderful books about a wide variety of topics it would be a shame to not remember the details! They give really simple tips like talking about what you learned to cement the material and hard core habits like note cards (my personal favorite). Sometimes I think just writing about the subject does help but not forever. If you check it out, let me know what you think!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I forget SOOOO much of what I read, it’s actually embarrassing. Part of why I started the blog was because when I read over even little short goodreads reviews I’d written I could remember books better, so I thought pushing myself to write full reviews would be a good way to preserve more. But you’re right, it’s also not quite enough. Note cards definitely seem a good option. I’ll look for this one!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

One Book More

Another Book, Another Destiny...

Rab's Bookish Planet

My Thoughts Are Here.


book reviews


My Life And Everything Within It

The Literary Escapade

"From that time on, the world was hers for the reading." - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Mani's Book Corner

The place to read book reviews, bookish posts and the occasional off topic posts

Superfluous Reading

- book reviews for the so inclined

Beverley A Baird

Writing, reading, on upward path to being published. Believer in "all things are possible".

Pillow Fort

We're reading in here.


Book Blog

%d bloggers like this: