The Technique of Evocation in Learning: What Is It

The technique of evocation is very important for the learning process. When we have an exam, we have to evoke what we've learned. If we have't practiced it before, it'll be more complicated.
The Technique of Evocation in Learning: What Is It
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 23 May, 2023

All of us, at some point, have had to face an exam, and we know how boring it can be to sit in front of a book to study. Surely, you’ve read and reread texts and notes to make outlines and summaries thinking that this is the only thing you can do in order to pass, but this isn’t actually the case. Here, we’re going to see the technique of evocation, which will be of great help in order to improve efficiency when preparing for an exam.

Reading and rereading the content that’s going to be evaluated is fine, but what we need is to remember it. The test will be written, and we’ll have to remember everything we have seen in order to get a good grade.

A child getting bored of studying.

What is the technique of recall in learning?

There are many study techniques that can be used. Some write down every word the teacher says, while others underline everything with colored markers, make outlines, or summaries, and even put sticky notes on the pages of the book to have a quick overview of what’s being talked about.

Each of these techniques involves a greater or lesser degree of effort, but they all have in common that with them, we review the content we’ve seen. However, we don’t practice recall, i.e., evocation. When we make summaries or outlines, we’re not making the necessary cognitive effort to remember what we’ve learned, and this is precisely what we will need to achieve for the day of the exam.

The technique of evocation aims to bring to mind what we’ ve seen or read in books. That is, it means practicing remembering, not just reading. With the traditional type of exam, in which we read a statement and we have to write about what we’re asked, we need to remember and evoke what we’ve studied. It’s not enough to read the material over and over again. We need to know how to recall what we’ve studied in order to use the knowledge during testing and apply it later in life.

The evocation technique: How do we learn?

In order for us to learn, these processes must take place:

  • Encoding: This is the moment in which we obtain information.
  • Storage: The moment when the information obtained is stored.
  • Evocation: This takes place when we retrieve the information we’ve obtained, with or without the need for clues.

The great majority of the study techniques we use involve only the first two processes and don’t reach the moment of evocation. When we listen in class to the teacher’s lesson or read, we’re performing the encoding process. How well or how badly we encode will depend on our state of alertness, on how interesting we find the subject, or if we already knew what the teacher is talking about.

Then comes the storage, which is basically reading, underlining, or making schemes of the content, by which we store the information in our memory in order to later be able to search for that information and bring it to consciousness. That is where the process of evocation comes in.

More things about learning

Almost all the techniques we use remain in the storage process and don’t go any further. In other words, the document is created and stored in our memory, but we don’t know where. Therefore, learning involves creating the document with the acquired information, saving it, and then knowing how to retrieve it when necessary.

Who hasn’t had the feeling of having a blank mind during an exam despite having studied? Surely, this has happened to many of you. The information is there, it hasn’t disappeared. However, we’re not able to retrieve it without any clues. These clues can make us remember some random aspect but we’re not evoking the total content that we’ve learned.

What’s the technique of evocation?

When you learned to ride a bicycle, you likely needed days of practice to ride it without falling off. In the same way, you can’t take an exam in which you’ll be asked to write down the contents you’ve learned without having first practiced evocation at home.

How can we apply this technique?

You’ll apply it in the same way you would do it in the case of an exam. Once you’ve studied the lesson by reading, summarizing, and outlining, you should take out a sheet of paper and write down each of the sections without looking at the book.

In this way, you’ll be practicing recall and finding out what you know and what you don’t know. Therefore, come exam day, it’ll be much easier to bring what you’ve learned to your consciousness because you’ve already practiced it.

A teen studying at his desk in his room.

Many kids think that learning is passively absorbing the contents and then magically bringing them out on exam day, but this isn’t learning. No matter how much reading we do on a piece of content, it won’t help us locate that information on the day of the exam. The important thing is to practice recall during study sessions; this will improve your ability to retrieve stored knowledge.

About the recall technique

In summary, the recall technique is the most beneficial technique to achieve good learning in those exams that require us to write down everything we know. Therefore, if after our study session, we test the contents we think we know using the technique of evocation, instead of just re-reading the whole subject, the results obtained on the day of the exam will be much better.

Reading the subject, outlines, and summaries are useful, but they’re not the only strategies we should use. It’s evocation that will complete the learning process: Codification, storage, and evocation. Therefore, try to have your children use recall when they’ve studied a lesson so that they can check what they have and haven’t yet learned.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.