The Power of Explaining: A Study Strategy Backed by Research

If you’re studying for the Series 65, Series 7, or another securities licensing exam, try this evidence-based study strategy. Continue reading

Solomon Exam Prep’s learning system is built on understanding how people learn. Solomon Exam Prep is always looking for new ways to help our students.  

Research from Dr. Tania Lombrozo of UC Berkeley, published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Science, shows that explaining a new concept to another person is an enormously helpful learning technique. When you explain an unfamiliar concept to another person, your brain makes crucial learning connections. However, many people do not have a person around them that is ready to listen to their new knowledge. Thus, Dr. Lombrozo recommends self-explanation, which is the practice of explaining concepts to yourself in order to better understand them.

Why does explaining work?

Dr. Lombrozo found that the positive effects of self-explanation can be attributed to the generalization process. Explaining requires you to put new information in the context of “prior beliefs,” which makes you generalize the information. In doing so, you are forced to pick out what is most necessary for understanding the concept. In thinking about how to explain something, you in fact learn more about the thing itself!  

Dr. Lombrozo describes an experiment by psychologists Amsterlaw and Wellman that demonstrates the power of explaining in understanding. In Amsterlaw and Wellman’s experiment, they administered logic tests to children under various conditions. During the course of the experiment, the children were split into groups. One group would answer, and then they would be asked to explain the correct answer once it was revealed. A comparison group did the same, but only for half the problems. The third group was a control group and gave no explanation at all. According to Amsterlaw and Wellman, “children in the explanation condition significantly outperformed the comparison and control groups….” In other words, explaining increases understanding.

How to use this strategy for licensing exams:

What does this mean if you’re studying for the Series 65 or the Series 7 or some other securities licensing exam? Solomon Exam Prep suggests finding someone in your life who will listen to you explain topics from your securities exam prep. The person you choose does not need to have any knowledge of securities. The person just needs to be a good listener; even better, someone who will ask questions. What if you don’t have anyone who can do that for you? Well, as Dr. Lombrozo showed, the practice of self-explanation is also helpful and will increase your understanding of the material you are trying to learn.

Other recommended Solomon study strategies include:  
  • Listen to the Solomon audiobook while you read the Solomon study guide.   
  • As you read the Solomon study guide and watch the Solomon video lectures, take notes by hand.
  • When practicing in the Solomon exam simulator, read and re-read the question at least twice. 
  • If you answer a question correctly, explain to yourself why it was correct before reading the question rationale.  
  • If you answer a question incorrectly, read the rationale carefully. Explain to yourself what the right answer is, and why. Write down the explanation in your notes. 
  • Study with a partner. Trade off testing each other on concepts and asking for an explanation.  

Solomon Exam Prep has helped thousands pass their securities licensing exams, including the SIE and the Series 3, 6, 7, 14, 22, 24, 26, 27, 28, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 63, 65, 66, 79, 82 and 99.

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