If you really want to make your studying stick, there’s a better way than boring repetition. Instead of reading the information over and over again, use these eight easy steps for improving your study memory. Try them on whatever you’re studying now!
One of the easiest ways to memorize detailed facts is to translate them into your own words. Let’s say you have to learn the following information about the Velvet Revolution:
“The Velvet Revolution was a non-violent transition of power in what was then Czechoslovakia, occurring from 17 November to 29 December 1989. Popular demonstrations against the one-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia combined students and older dissidents. The result was the end of 41 years of one-party rule in Czechoslovakia, and the subsequent dismantling of the planned economy and conversion to a parliamentary republic.”
– Excerpt taken from Wikipedia’s entry on the Velvet Revolution
Step 1: Cut
Highlight only the most important facts in your text, as we did above.
Step 2: Rewrite
Create a new text that sounds like the way you speak and think. Your translation might look something like this:
The Velvet Revolution was when the people of Czechoslovakia ended 41 years of one-party Communist rule. It happened from November 17th to December 29th, 1989. It was a non-violent protest. People of all ages participated and it resulted in a parliamentary republic.
Not only is the translated text shorter, it allows you to remember the facts without cluttering your brain with additional unnecessary vocabulary. It is also a great way of testing if you understand the material. If you can’t say it in your own words, try asking for help to better understand the material.
Step 3: Say it aloud
Once you’ve written your own text, read it aloud. You’re more likely to remember something you read aloud versus silently.
Step 4: See it
YouTube is a great way to get your eyes and ears involved in your memory quest. You don’t need to spend hours watching documentaries on every subject. Do a quick search, watch a 4- or 5-minute video and move on to your next subject.
Step 5: Reward time
After you have personalized a few facts, allow yourself a short reward break. Glance at your social media page or check out some cute Instagram pets. If you’re afraid you might fall into an internet black hole, save the most tempting “rewards” for the end of your study session.
Step 6: Share it
Study groups are popular for a reason. Meet up with classmates and share what you’ve learned. It’s best to do this after you’ve tackled the majority of the material yourself. Feeling behind can be very discouraging, whereas being the “teacher” will allow you to share your knowledge in your own words. You’ll also get a chance to see the subject matter from another’s perspective or get help with sections that you couldn’t quite understand.
Step 7: Sleep well
Many learn the hard way that cramming all night before a big test is not a good idea. According to Time Magazine, “Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered that losing half a night’s rest—three or four hours—in just one evening can erode memory.” Don’t allow an all-nighter chip away at your hard work.
Step 8: Exercise after and before
Several studies have shown that exercise can have a positive effect on information retention. After a big study session, instead of going zombie in front of a screen, take some time to get your body moving. Dance, run, lift weights, swim, do whatever physical activity suits you best.
Before a big test, take a brisk 20-minute walk. It will have a more positive effect on your performance than no exercise at all.
There is no getting around the fact that improving your study memory is about investing time, but these steps will allow you to keep your study routine personal and fresh, ensuring that your investment pays off.
Health.com. “7 Tricks to Improve Your Memory.” Time, Time, 8 Apr. 2014, time.com/52237/7-tricks-to-improve-your-memory/.
“How to Get a Better Exam Memory.” Uniavisen, 20 Jan. 2017, uniavisen.dk/en/how-to-get-a-better-exam-memory/.
Leyden, Andrea. “20 Study Hacks to Improve Your Memory.” ExamTime, 24 May 2017, www.goconqr.com/en/examtime/blog/study-hacks/.
“Velvet Revolution.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Mar. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velvet_Revolution.