But of course! I would say preparing questions for material you study is pretty much the key to retention. You should also test yourself on those questions, that's even better.
Such a learning tool even has a name: flashcards.
Flashcards come from the idea of preparing a stack of index cards where each card takes the question on the front-side, and the answer on the flip-side. You then go through this deck of cards for a given subject, reading out the questions, trying to remember the answer, and then flipping it to see if you got it right.
Preparing questions for flashcards is itself an art. You want to make it so each question is very well-defined and encompasses a unit of information, not more. That means they should be simple and straightforward to answer. Fortunately, it's easy to detect when you've made your question too complex/unfocused: you'll repeatedly have trouble remembering it's answer--for instance you might recall part of it but always forget some little details. That means those little details (if relevant) should have actually been each on a separate question of their own.
Q: Describe the flying saucer model 51
Could be broken down into:
- Q: What propulsion system does the model 51 saucer use?
- Q: How are model 51 saucer's cockpit controls arranged?
- Q: What makes the model 51 saucer prone to crashing so much?
Depending on how important the details are, the questions above could even be further broken down. The granularity which you should give to each question depends on the scope of what you are studying.
Of course, depending on the context of your deck of cards, you want to make sure the question doesn't give out too much hint on the answer. Especially, you want to make sure your answer doesn't simply give you some verbal cues to which you associate the answer mechanically (like an actor rehearsing a line), instead of making you think.
Spaced Repetition Learning
But the real magic of all this deck building is in their software implementations. Some complete freak named Dr. Wozniak decided to create, a good many years past, a better way for him to review his english vocabulary lists. Thus SuperMemo was born, and with it a powerful algorithm that incorporates the psychology concept of spaced repetition learning to figure out just the right time for you to review each of your flashcards, based on your last outcome (whether you remembered or not, and how well).
Software does a great job of keeping track of the flashcards you should be reviewing each day out of decks of hundreds or thousands of cards (as many as you want to create, of course). People (like me) use it to remember, without breaking a sweat, unsurmountable things like the thousands of chinese characters you need to know to even read a goddamn news article.
What the spacing effect research says, and the software implements beautifully, is that we have predictable learning curves, and we should review material when we are just about to forget it. This is counter-intuitive to the rote memorization methods we were taught, of exhaustive intense repetition, but amazingly more efficient in allowing you to retain knowledge with minimal effort. Below is the general pattern the SuperMemo algorithm employs to schedule the repetitions for each of your flashcards:
The above chart is from Wired magazine, and I REALLY recommend their fascinating article (I sometimes re-read it just for kicks) about the man and his creation. And his absurd lifestyle.
(WIRED) Want to Remember Everything You'll Ever Learn? Surrender to This Algorithm
Popular implementations of the SuperMemo algorithm are, obviously, SuperMemo itself and Anki, amongst many others. Here's a good list with feature breakdown, including versions for iPhone and Android.