Best Memory Techniques For Studying by

With growing competition in every field, having a sharp mind plays a significant role. For students, the challenge is crucial as they have to grasp new data and hence concentration plays a key role in their performance. Taking the key benefits of a healthy brain into account, has made a platform for publishing high quality articles on various aspects of memory improvement strategies.

Memory techniques for studying helps students in maximizing memory retention and minimizing loss of important information. Not everything that one studies will enter into memory. In fact, information repeatedly gets filtered during its journey through the three stages of memory storage system – from sensory and short-term memory to long-term memory. Memory power is also associated with daily habits as habits effect memory power.

The five senses of humans constantly receive signals from the surrounding, but one hardly pays attention to each and every signal. Only those signals that are attended enter into short term memory. The moment one pays attention to some input, the brain gets signal of the importance of that input. The rest of the vast majority doesn’t get registered; they are lost.

Thus, ‘attention’ is the sieve that filters information from the sensory to short term memory.

Note that short term memory has its own restrictions for recall. Some of it will be passed on to the long term memory and the rest will be lost. The longer an item stays in the short term memory storage, the better its chances of entering the long term memory. By repeating, one can increase the length of time an item stays in the short term memory and hence it prepares ground for entering into long term memory.

So, poor retention in the short term memory can be a limiting factor in learning. Therefore, memory techniques for studying must take care of this vital point.

Whatever goes into the long-term memory needs to be consolidated. It means rehearsing, recalling and associating with information already existing there. The process of consolidation involves formation & strengthening of neural synapses (neural network). It is naturally facilitated during deep sleep when the brain is emitting slow brainwaves.

Nature of Long Term Memory

One must know that the long-term memories are stored throughout the brain. Storage of each piece of information involves a group of neurons (neural network) and different aspects of the same memory are stored in different brain areas. For example, the visual aspects of an episodic memory are stored in the visual cortex and the associated sounds are stored in the auditory cortex.

Creating long term memory should be seen like creating a path in a new un-trodden territory. The first time a person walks, he leaves footprints that would vanish rather soon. If he again walks on the same path, now the footsteps stay a little longer. The more he traverses the same path (repetition), the deeper and more permanent the foot impressions become i.e. they will stay for much longer durations.

What happens if he stops traversing the path? It slowly fades away and merges in the surrounding landscape. In the same manner, memories have the ‘use it or lose it’ characteristic. Therefore, one should revise (re-study) the subject matter at spaced intervals in order to stave off forgetting and improve long-term retention and retrieval.

What are the Ways to Revise at Frequent Intervals?

Revision is an integral part of studies in the student career. Of course, one can open the same textbook and re-read the same chapters but that will not be very effective; one doesn’t form additional retrieval cues by doing that. Moreover, it is boring also.

As a rule of thumb, one should study a topic in many different ways and from different perspectives. Studying a topic from books of different authors is a good way to learn better. The following techniques will also help to revise for better memory retention.

1. Prepare self notes: Writing notes and summaries are good ways to revise any subject. When a person makes self notes – he is actively thinking and organizing information. Thus, it gives a creative angle for memory to retain that information.

2. Make a Mental Image: Making mental images of things that one learns is one of the power-packed techniques for studying. This technique of associating with images and surrounding gives the brain an additional incentive to store it better and thereby also providing better retention.

How Memory is Retrieved?

Accessing stored memory involves replicating the neural activities that happened when the memory was initially formed. The ease of retrieval is directly related to the “strength” of the neural connections.

It provides an advantage if a piece of information stored in memory has several associations (cues) with other existing knowledge. The more the cues are, the easier it is to recall that information. Therefore, long term memory techniques for studying must intentionally create several meaningful associations of the content being studied.

When one tries to access memory two processes are involved: recognition and recall.

Recognition entails comparing a current signal (say, a sight, sound, or smell) with something sensed in the past. Thus, when see a person sees another person, the mind tries to compare it with any past sensed image ; if there is a match one can recognize the other person, else he is termed stranger.

When a person tries to recall, he is directly accessing the memory space. This is the case when he is trying to recollect information stored through rote memorization. In the absence of retrieval cues, there is not much else one can do. Rote learning is a superficial way of fixing things in memory without association and context; it doesn’t create sufficient retrieval cues. It should be avoided as a memory technique for studying.

Thus, always go for proper learning that involves making as many associations as possible with existing knowledge. This helps in enhanced memory retention.

5 Effective Memory Techniques for Studying

Based on the above discussion, here are 5 effective memory techniques for studying.

1. Link new knowledge to things already known

A key to good memory is increasing the quantity as well as quality of retrieval cues.

New information gets strongly encoded when it is associated with what you already know; then it also gets easily retrieved. Thus, the memory techniques for studying should actively create logical, intuitive, and even fanciful associations with existing knowledge. The more connections you can make to the new information, the stronger it gets coded in the memory. One can do that by

  • Rephrasing, defining and describing it in own words.
  • Relating it with life experiences
  • Thinking about ways to apply it daily life
  • Using familiar acronyms, acrostics, analogies and rhymes
  • Creating concept maps

2. Involving fully in learning

Retention and recall are improved when one is actively involved in creation of self knowledge. Thus,

  • Create flash cards, slides, illustration diagrams and charts. 
  • Raise queries and answer them.
  • Play around with new knowledge until one can visualize its features. Aim for ‘dual coding’ by creating both visual and verbal memories of the same information. Associate words with pictures and pictures with words. Where possible put emotions too into it.

3. Spread out study hours

Plan to study in short sessions rather than one long marathon sitting – five 2-hour sessions are better than studying for 10 hours continuously. Further, spread out study over several days. Furthermore, plan frequent review of things that are most challenging. 

There is another argument in favour of short study sessions. Studies show that one tends to remember the ‘beginnings’ and ‘ends’ better. Thus, shorter sessions give several beginnings and ends for memory coding.

4. Avoid multitasking

Research shows that although multitasking does not impact recall, it is quite detrimental to the encoding process. Multitasking divides attention, takes up valuable short-term memory space, and thus, adversely affects the long term memory formation. Thus devoting attention to a particular thing at a time is key to improve concentration and memory power.

5. Plan a short review before going to bed

The time before one goes to sleep is ideal for reviewing. This allows the person to use the sleeping hours for productive memory consolidation. Long restful sleeping hours allow the brain to carry on the task of memory maintenance and management. In order to further enhance the memory, try to recall the information shortly after waking up.

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Disclaimer: The content in this press release is for information purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for medical advice. As always, you should consult with a qualified healthcare professional before starting or stopping any medication, nutritional supplement or protocols.

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