The Stack System

11:29 AM

It took me two years of competing at Nationals to realize this, but you probably won't remember something unless you review it many times.  When I first qualified for Nationals in 2013, I learned all the verses and thought I was prepared enough for the oral round.  Well, when I got in there I couldn't remember the first reference, and so I had to get several helps to get started.  After that, I starting laughing while reciting one passage, because the humorous side of it had never really struck me before since I had only said it a few times (the next year I was a little smarter and practiced reciting Song of Solomon 2:9-13 in front of the mirror without cracking a smile).   I managed to make it through all the memory passages within the time limit, but a made lots of mistakes and stumbled over my passages quite a bit.  When I got my score, I was quite disappointed.

The next year, my goal was semi-finals.  I don't think that I ever actually admitted it to anyone, but I was really hoping to make it into the top fifteen.  I memorized all the passages again and studied a good bit more than I had the previous year.  I reviewed my verses almost as often as necessary but I made one big mistake: my standard was not perfection.  This meant that a passage could still be considered pretty good, and I would still be making big mistakes.  But, I still felt like I was fairly prepared.  I was prepared enough on the written test, and if I had gotten a perfect (or close) oral score, I would've been in semis.  I recited most of my passages well in orals, but in one passage, I got about halfway through and switched over into another passage.  I had already used a start-over, and by the time I realized my mistake, I had already said more than fifteen wrong words.  I assumed that I had gotten zero points for that passage, and I calculated that I had probably missed 5-10 other words throughout the other nine passages.  A few weeks later, I was very surprised when I got my score, and saw that my mistakes were equal to getting a zero on two passages, plus making five more mistakes.  To this day, I still don't know what my other mistakes were.  I may have recited a wrong passage, replaced "said" with "answered", or left out a phrase.

I hope that I haven't bored you with my long story about my oral round experiences.  I don't easily get tired of hearing other people talk about the Bible Bee, but maybe I'm the only one who can listen to Bible Bee stories for hours on end.  But hopefully, you can learn from my oral round mistakes without having to make them first yourself.  Due to all these errors that I've made, I've come up with a simple system for reviewing the Nationals memory passages, and I wanted to share it in this post.  Most likely, I'm not the first one who has come up with something like this, so my apologies if this looks like plagiarism.

The Stack System

When you first get your cards, they will all go in the Unmemorized stack.  Spellcheck says that Unmemorized is not a word, but I beg to differ.  You should go through your cards very soon and take out all the ones that you have learned in previous years or that you are just very familiar with.  These cards will go in Stack 0.

Stack 0 is for the passages that you think you have learned, but have not been tested on yet.  Remember: a passage can only be considered memorized when you have recited it word-perfectly.  Stack 0 is really just an "in-between" stack, and a few days after you receive your cards, Stack 0 should not have more than a few passages.

When you think you have learned a passage, it is now time to be tested on it.  Ideally, you will recite it to someone.  If no one is able to test you on your verses at the moment, you can record or video yourself saying the passage, and then play it back while listening.  You are less likely to catch mistakes this way, but it's still much better than nothing.  You probably won't get the longer passages (and even many of the shorter ones) right on the first try.  It usually takes me three tries, and sometimes even more.  This can be discouraging, but the good thing is that reciting it so many times builds confidence.  Even if you do recite it perfectly the first time, you will probably be sort of shaky on it and stumble over your words.  So messing up is great! :)  If you do recite it perfectly, it goes into Stack 1 and is now considered memorized.  I have a spreadsheet with all the references and boxes next to them for checking each time I recite the passage without any mistakes.  I will check next to the passage for this first time that I have recited it perfectly.

Next up is Stack 2, as you probably guessed.  Within a few days of memorizing a passage, you should recite it again.  If you get it perfect, it goes into Stack 2.  If not, it remains in Stack 1.  Have your tester mark your mistakes, and then go back over the passage and work on correcting your mistakes.  Later that day or the next, recite the passage again, and if you get it perfect it moves onto Stack 2 and a check mark goes in the second column next to that passage.  Within a week, you should try to move it up to Stack 3.

Hopefully, you get the idea by now.  A passage remains in the Stack it is already in until you get it word-perfect.  Whether or not you count self-corrections as a mistake is up to you.  I personally don't until the passages are maybe in Stack 5 or something.  You will also need to make a goal for how many times you would like to review each passage perfectly.  Last year, my goal was five, and I think that my passages went up to about Stack 7 or 8.  This year my goal is 10, but I'm hoping I can review them more than that.

I prefer not having my stacks spread out over a bunch of numbers.  I try to memorize my verses somewhat quickly (over about five weeks for this year), so I won't have some cards in Stack 1 and others in Stack 6.  When all the verses are memorized, I don't move on to getting cards into a new stack until I have finished up the old stack.  As I mentioned above, mark your mistakes.  There was a time when I didn't do this because I didn't like to mess up my cards, but last year I decided that it was worth it.  This year, I'm getting erasable highlighters, and I'm looking forward to trying those out!

 Well, that's the Stack System!  Let me know if something didn't make sense.  I would love to hear your review system, too.

Happy studying, memorizing, and reviewing!

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  1. Thanks so much Anna! This was really helpful, since I was looking for a review system (and getting frustrated when I can't get passages I 'memorized' word-perfect.)

    I love hearing Bible Bee stories because I always learn something new.
    See you at Nationals!

  2. I'm glad that this was helpful! Yes, it's really frustrating to spend so much time memorizing and then forget just about everything you've learned.

    By the way, you may not start getting 95+% of the passages right until you are in Stack 5 or even beyond that. You just kind of have to stick with it, even when it's hard and doesn't seem to be working.

    Congratulations on qualifying! :D See you at Nationals!


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