How to improve your memory

Cramming information into your head the day before your exam might give you the information to finish the paper but it’s likely that you’ll forget it all once summer comes around. Improve your memory by trying our memorisation techniques to gain long-term knowledge and make your revision more effective.

Memorise… memorise… memorise. In secondary school, we re-read the same textbook until the pages wore thin. In University, we just watch lecture recordings on repeat in a vain attempt to absorb even one iota of information.

At uni most courses are based on previous knowledge. With shaky foundations from your A-Level studies, you will find yourself struggling to cope with the new material. But I’m here to tell you, there are a whole host of ways you can adjust, and many of them won’t even require that much extra time. Learning correctly the first time around will save you countless hours in the long run.

Effective note taking

There have been several studies done that provide solid evidence for the benefits of repetition. Instead of slacking off throughout the semester and looking at the material for the first time the day before the exam, you are more likely to retain information you have encountered before.

To improve your memory, annotate class slides and jot down the additional information the professor gives you; don’t repeat every word they are saying. At the end of the day compile your notes. I like to limit myself to one page, as this forces you to select only the most important information and rephrase the key points. Your brain becomes more involved in the process. It is no longer passive copying down, but active analysis of the information presented.

Your one page summary for each topic will become valuable study material come exam time. By the time you look back on it, and make even more condensed study notes it will be the third time you have been exposed to the material, making it much more likely that you will retain the information.

Mind Palace

“I’ll note you in my book of memory.”  — William Shakespeare

Anyone familiar with the BBC’s Sherlock, will have come across this concept before. But many of you might not know, that this is actually a genuine, and quite effective technique for memorisation. In fact it might just be one of the most ancient methods.

Over a thousand years ago Greek poet Simonides wrote about an encounter involving an accident in a banquet hall. He found he could remember all the victims, simply by create an image of the hall in his mind.

The concept can be quite daunting, and certainly this is not a technique for everyone, but the gist of it boils down to association. In your mind you form a connection between something you want to remember, with a place or an object. These connections can span large areas, such as an entire university town, with each street and shop representing a different concept.

The more bizarre the scenario you imagine the more likely it is that you will improve your memory of the content. So don’t be afraid to go all out!

Teaching

It has often been said teaching is the best way of learning something. When you are learning for yourself it is often enough to gain a surface understanding, but explain it to someone else, and you will find you will glean a much deeper knowledge.

You will understand your own explanations but often, others will need you to be clearer. This will force you to know the information inside and out and improve your memory of the subject. You will become an expert as your teach another.

Help your peers with topics they are struggling with. Or, if that makes you feel uncomfortable, try explaining something to your mum. Even if she doesn’t understand the topic you are talking about it will help all the same. And if you are able to make her understand, then you know you’ve definitely done a good job.

If you get really into teaching, you might consider starting up a YouTube channel and recording your explanations – who knows you might help students like you!


Written by Sophie Z.

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