20 rules of knowledge formulation

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The way we formulate questions in learning has a monumental impact on memory and its longevity.

20 rules of knowledge formulation, compiled in 1999, describes the most important rules needed to formulate questions effectively for long-term retention.

Quick summary of the rules:

  • don't learn things you do not understand
  • learn before you memorize
  • start from basics before going into complexities
  • keep questions simple
  • images help memory
  • learn mnemonic techniques, e.g. peg lists
  • avoid lists, sets and enumerations
  • personalize and provide examples
  • cloze deletion is fast and has a great mnemonic power
  • use redundancy (similar items asking similar questions from different angles)
  • use references

With the advent of incremental reading, some of the rules have been modified or changed in priority.

Changes of strategy in incremental reading:

  • building comprehension may be part of the learning process, and creating cloze deletion of poorly understood phrases is acceptable
  • learning and memorization may occur in parallel
  • items can be complex early in the process and get simplified incrementally depending on priority and available time
  • multiple cloze deletions on different formulations of the same statement may often substitute for mnemonic techniques
  • lists, sets, and enumerations can be easily tackled with cloze deletion
  • personalization is easy: add your own stories to texts that you learn