Learning Matters #21 The Power of Voice

Reading out loud can have significant cognitive benefits. In a recent study of 95 students, memory retention was strongest when reading aloud, suggesting that the impact came not just from hearing the words, but also speaking them.

This is because verbally pronouncing a word creates a memorable experience — a phenomenon the researchers call the “production effect”. The active cognitive process of encoding the word into speech also helps to encode it into long-term memory.

Additionally, when it came to words heard through recordings, students were better able to remember those recorded in their own voice than those pronounced by someone else. This suggests that hearing one’s own voice provides a distinct stimulus of self-recognition, which also helps make the content memorable.

Here are some fab ways that you can use your voice to help you learn.



If you have a key word, concept, case study or theory which you know you need to know, but you struggle to recall it, chant it out. That means saying it over and over again until it becomes familiar and memorable.

 Video explanation

If you have a complex process to revise and you have lots of posters or notes which show these processes, video yourself explaining these using your phone. Have your camera focused on your work and talk over it. Hearing these back whilst looking at the work on screen can really help your understanding and ability to recall. You can see some examples here

 Voice notes

Create voice notes of yourself explaining a topic. Listen to them back. Take notes again from them. Then re-record. You can listen to them when you’re out and about, bus journeys, walking to and from sixth form, whenever you want. Listening to an audio is often more captivating than just reading – making whatever you’re studying that much more likely to sink in.

 Group chat

Get together with a group of your fellow students. Talk about the topic you are revising. Hearing each other explain the topic in different ways can help your understanding. You can also ask questions, clarify and rephrase thing that are said to make the meaning clear.

 Rhyme or rap it

Our brains are programmed to pay attention to the unusual - something different. Incorporating novelty such as music, into strategies helps the information attract our attention and become more memorable. To avoid this information being ‘dumped,’ we associate it with knowledge that already exists, like songs we know. If the information is important and is rehearsed, it moves to another part of the brain to be coded and then is eventually stored in long-term memory. So say it out loud to a familiar tune!

 Teach someone else

Parents, carers, siblings or friends can be a great tool to test out just how much you know. Select a topic and tell them all about it. Once you’re in full flow, you should be able to recognise the areas where you stumble, suggesting less confidence, and the areas you are fluent, suggesting you know your stuff! And if you’re not comfortable doing this with someone, simply talk it through to yourself. The voice note function on your phone is a great way to evaluate how fluent you are too!

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