The Pros and Cons of Overlearning As You Prepare For Your Firefighter Promotional Exam


According to Stanford, overlearning is defined as “continuing to study and to learn something after you already know it.” Sounds good right? Keep reading to find out if overlearning is a good idea or bad idea as you begin your firefighter promotional exam prep

Pros: Increase Information Retention and Recall

One of the main reasons people choose to overlearn is to increase their ability to retain and access information. If you overlearn you will remember information for longer periods of time, and will be able to access the information during periods of high stress, such as when you take your firefighter promotional exam or when you are working in your new position. Overlearning hardens the information into your brain and prevents anything else from getting in the way of recalling said information. 

Overlearning is simple, if you feel like you already know something, keep going for just a little bit longer to really solidify the information in your brain for long term recall. Make an effort to keep studying even if you already aced your online study guides. This way, when you sit down to take your exam you will be more confident in choosing your answers and spend less time questioning yourself. Remember, you don’t just need to pass your firefighter promotional exam, you need to pass the exam and then go on and put all that you learned to practice in your new position. 

Cons: Limits New Learning

The concept of overlearning sounds like the perfect scenario when studying for an exam, especially one as important as your firefighter promotional exam, but there may be one hidden downside.

The con associated with overlearning is that overlearning prevents new learning from taking place. For example, if you had a good grasp of something but kept studying it to the point of overlearning, then you moved on to a new subject to study, you are going to have a hard time retaining the information you studied after the information you overlearned. So if you are trying to learn multiple new concepts at once, overlearning will not be your best option. If you are focusing on one topic of study in a given study session, extend your session until you overlearn the information so it will stick around for your written fire promotion test and future career. 

Good news though, this effect is not permanent. All you have to do is leave a few hours in between what you overlearned and what you plan to learn next. A nap or good night’s sleep is a great option. The inability to learn new things should only last a few hours and you will be good to carry on after that time period is over and you will have a better grasp on the topic you are studying. So no last minute cram sessions when you are studying for your firefighter promotional exam and trying to overlearn, or you will not be able to retain new information after.

The Takeaway

Overlearning is a viable option for firefighters that are looking to retain the material they study for many years to come, and be able to access the information during high stress situations, such as your firefighter promotional exam. All it takes is an extended study session to really cement the information into your brain for long term recall. If you are not able to make your study sessions one topic only, stick with your normal study routine as you will not benefit from overlearning.