Looking for a reliable study buddy? Looking for a reliable study buddy? Use ChatGPT to study and take your learning to the next level.
You can use ChatGPT to generate active recall materials and evaluate your performance on them. It can also help you by creating mnemonic devices to help you memorize information. Lastly, you can practice inquiry-based learning by asking follow-up questions on your original input to get a deeper understanding.
But this is just an overview of the main ways that ChatGPT can up your studying game. There are many other ways you can use ChatGPT as a student. For instance, I have other articles on using ChatGPT to help with your essays (without using it to write them for you) and using it as a personal educational tutor.
Let’s get into exactly why ChatGPT is so good for this purpose and how you can best use it for learning and studying new information.
Before we begin, there is something important to keep in mind.
Be Aware, ChatGPT Isn’t Always Accurate
ChatGPT is not always factually accurate. It does not provide or cite any sources so you don’t know where the information you are reading is coming from within its dataset. With this being said, I think it’s clear that you have to take what ChatGPT says with a grain of salt.
However, in my experience, it usually is fairly accurate. I usually follow up my ChatGPT questions with a google search just to make sure that It’s on the right track and actually making sense. If you are going to use ChatGPT as a learning tool you really should fact-check it.
It’s also worth noting that having to critically evaluate what ChatGPT is saying could by itself have some learning benefit (although this is hard to say for sure).
With that out of the way, let’s get into how you can use ChatGPT to learn new information using the power of inquiry.
How to use ChatGPT to Study and Learn
Generate active recall material
These next two methods make a great pair.
Firstly, ChatGPT is great at generating practice material for you to study. You can create active recall questions using it in this way. There are many options here. You can come up with short answer questions, multiple choice questions, or a complete test.
When creating these questions, it’s best to paste in some text from the material that you will be tested on. This ensures the questions are sufficiently targeted to what you need to learn. This is also a great reason to use digital textbooks.
But before we get too into the weeds here, there is a more active recall to be had with ChatGPT than just what I describe here. I actually have another article on using ChatGPT for note-taking where I describe a special active recall layered note-taking technique I came up with.
With that out of the way, here are some examples of generating active recall questions in ChatGPT.
Generating practice questions
One of the first things you can do is just generate simple practice questions. Here are the results I got.
Generate practice questions on this: [paste your material here]
But beyond this, you can also generate multiple-choice questions for a mixed set of questions.
Generating multiple-choice questions
Generate multiple choice questions on this: [paste your material here]
Another great active recall technique, as I’m sure many of you know, is creating flashcards. ChatGPT does not disappoint here.
Create flashcards on this topic for me: [paste your material here]
You can see the possibilities of using ChatGPT in this way are pretty amazing. This allows you to basically have an infinite supply of active recall practice material!
I have an entire article on how you can generate flashcards in ChatGPT for Anki (an amazing flashcard program) where I describe how to mass create and import flashcards if you are interested.
But besides generating these active recall materials, you can actually get feedback on your responses. ChatGPT can tell you exactly where you went wrong and how to improve.
Let me show you how.
ChatGPT can give you feedback and evaluate your practice question responses
After you use ChatGPT to create those practice materials you can have it evaluate your answers.
This allows you to actually get feedback on your practice questions! For instance, you can ask it to evaluate your responses to practice questions that you might find in the back of your textbook or on a practice quiz.
This takes your studying up a level because you can actually get feedback on responses to those questions on top of getting the benefits from answering them.
For instance, take a look at this prompt where I asked ChatGPT to evaluate this answer on the process of apoptosis in Biology. If you do practice questions (which you should), you can see what parts you missed or left out using ChatGPT. In this way, you can see how the answer could be improved.
Here’s what I asked ChatGPT.
Here are ChatGPT’s suggested improvements.
Promt: How could this explanation of [topic/questiuon] be improved?
[Your finished practice question here]
From here you can rewrite the answer using these ideas for more active recall benefit.
After you rewrite your own answer you can, once again, ask ChatGPT to evaluate your new response.
This allows you to get constant feedback on your work (something extremely beneficial for learning) in a way that is much harder to do without a tool like ChatGPT.
Besides active recall material, ChatGPT can also help you encode information using mnemonics.
Generate mnemonic devices using ChatGPT
The possibilities of using ChatGPT to come up with mnemonics are endless. You can ask it to just create a mnemonic and it will create what it thinks works best. This is a good general option.
I have an entire article that explains 7 mnemonic techniques to pair with ChatGPT and the prompts you can feed it for this purpose; if you are interested in using ChatGPT to improve your memory.
One of my favorite mnemonic techniques is to have ChatGPT generate a standup comedy routine about what I need to memorize. Here is what ChatGPT came up with below for explaining Apoptosis (a process in biology for programmed cell death).
This will definitely help you memorize concepts that have many steps or components. All with very minimal work on your end in terms of actually creating those mnemonics!
Use Chatgpt to summarize main ideas
This is another great reason to use digital textbooks. You can paste in a part you don’t understand and ask for clarification. This effectively makes ChatGPT into a reading buddy.
This is also very similar to one of the basic note-taking techniques that you can use ChatGPT for. I have a whole other article on how you can use ChatGPT for note-taking if you want to learn more about this.
By doing this, you can ask it to put the ideas in more straightforward terms or in bullet point form for an easier reading experience. You can even ask it to do things like “explain this to me like I’m 5” and it will give you a simplified explanation.
Here I provided ChatGPT with a prompt asking it put the abstract from a scientific article on long-term potentiation (an important concept regarding learning and memory) into 3 bullet points.
While this won’t give me a complete understanding of the text, it’s a great way to build a foundation to start adding information.
If you want to take this a step further, I find that what’s really the most helpful is when you go a bit deeper and ask curiosity-based questions based on your original input. This allows you to use ChatGPT for inquiry-based learning.
ChaptGPT for inquiry-based learning
But apart from just being generally helpful as a learning tool, there is something extra that makes ChatGPT very intriguing.
ChatGPT could be amazing at facilitating what is called inquiry-based learning. This is an active learning style using your curiosity as a guide to what you learn.
Inquiry-based learning has been shown to be superior to standard lecture-based learning in some studies.1 But it is worth noting that this type of learning has ultimately not been effective without the use of some sort of guide or scaffold to “discover” knowledge within.2
This is where ChatGPT could really shine.
ChatGPT can, in some ways act, as a “teacher” or guide to your learning. This is because you can give it a prompt and ask it follow-up questions about what you still don’t understand based on curiosity. In this way, you are using ChatGPT as your guide by asking it to explain certain aspects of the content you are still curious about.
You can think of ChatGPT as being able to open up a subplot from the main material, allowing you to get much more in-depth knowledge much more easily because it can answer the exact questions you have about that material.
Right now there is no research on the use of ChatGPT as an inquiry-based learning guide. However, to me, this looks promising.
Let’s get into how you can use ChatGPT for this purpose.
How to use ChatGPT for Inquiry-based learning
Using follow-up questions is the most inquiry-based way I can think of to use ChatGPT. This is because the questions you create will be based on what you want to know (your curiosity) rather than asking for clarification on the same ideas you have already put in.
You can use these follow-up questions anytime really. Just ask a question if you are curious about something!
Here I just asked what the implications were of long-term potentiation (the concept I asked for clarification on earlier). Here is ChatGPT’s response.
This is pretty helpful, right?
The most important thing is that these follow-up questions add to your understanding of the material and how you view its structure. Using ChatGPT like this can help you build a mental model of the topic you are learning. Using questions like, “how does X relate to Y” is especially good for this because you can start to see how the main ideas relate together more clearly.
Here are some examples of the types of questions you can ask ChatGPT to get this learning benefit (there are many more than what is on this list).
Examples of follow-up questions
- Why is X important
- How does X relate to Y
- What are the implications of X
- How does X fit into the bigger picture?
- Khasawneh, E., Hodge-Zickerman, A., York, C. S., Smith, T. J., & Mayall, H. (2023). Examining the effect of inquiry-based learning versus traditional lecture-based learning on students’ achievement in college algebra. International Electronic Journal of Mathematics Education, 18(1), em0724. https://doi.org/10.29333/iejme/12715
- ALFIERI, L., BROOKS, P. J., ALDRICH, N. J., & TENENBAUM, H. R. (2011). Does Discovery-Based Instruction Enhance Learning? Journal of Educational Psychology, 103(1), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021017
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