Hard To Read = Easier To Remember!

A PARADOX of education is that presenting information in a way that looks easy to learn often has the opposite effect.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that when people are forced to think hard about what they are shown they remember it better, so it is worth looking at ways this can be done.

A piece of research about to be published in Cognition, by Daniel Oppenheimer, a psychologist at Princeton University and his colleagues, suggests a simple one: make the text conveying the information harder to read.

Speed Reading, Get Better GradesDr Oppenheimer recruited 28 volunteers aged between 18 and 40 and asked them to learn, from written descriptions, about three “species” of extraterrestrial alien, each of which had seven features. This task was meant to be similar to learning about animal species in a biology lesson. It used aliens in place of actual species to be certain that the participants could not draw on prior knowledge.

Half of the volunteers were presented with the information in difficult-to-read fonts (12-point Comic Sans MS 75% greyscale and 12-point Bodoni MT 75% greyscale). The other half saw it in 16-point Arial pure-black font, which tests have shown is one of the easiest to read.

Participants were given 90 seconds to memorise the information in the lists. They were then distracted with unrelated tasks for a quarter of an hour or so, before being asked questions about the aliens, such as “What is the diet of the Pangerish?” and “What colour eyes does the Norgletti have?” The upshot was that those reading the Arial font got the answers right 72.8% of the time, on average. Those forced to read the more difficult fonts answered correctly 86.5% of the time.

The question was, would this result translate from the controlled circumstances of the laboratory to the unruly environment of the classroom?

It did.

When the researchers asked teachers to use the technique in high-school lessons on chemistry, physics, English and history, they got similar results. The lesson, then, is to make text books harder to read, not easier.

3 Responses to “Hard To Read = Easier To Remember!”


  • I have purchased everything (How to get best grades. how to mind map, mastermind group, speed learning, and speed reading.) I can’t seem to find the URLs to access the videos. Would you please provide the video site for all 4 programs. I wish I had known this stuff my first go-around.

    Thank you.

    -Scott Davis

    • Hi Scott,
      Our customer service department will re-send you all the URLs you need.

      I know how you feel… “If only I had known THEN what I know NOW…!”

      That’s what I call 20-20 Foresight. It’s a skill I teach my business clients, to get and STAY AHEAD of the competition.

      Creating short cuts without cutting corners is important – otherwise you cheat yourself. Finding the best information available is the hardest part.

      What I did was exactly that – when I decided to go back to school for my MBA and PhD degrees. I just couldn’t do it the hard way. I didn’t have the time nor the patience.

      Once I created the system, I decided to share it via the first edition of my study book which was a seminar workbook, then the second edition became the first book that sold out in bookstores in Canada.

      The 3rd Edition is the eBook and all the bonuses.

      It really doesn’t have to be complicated or hard to succeed – when you what works!

  • Hi Marc,

    I have been looking for something like this for a very long time. I’ve been unable to work for the last 4 years and have cashed in final savings to enroll in an technical institute and to purchase all of your Get Better Grades study materials and programs.

    I honestly believe that you have given me the means to push ahead, learn and complete all my courses. This will allow me to get an “inside job” in a nice air-conditioned office (I can’t get get overheated or do any type of physically demanding labor anymore).

    Thank you for putting all of this wonderful material together in a way that all can understand.

    Scott Davis

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