Memory like a sieve or a goldfish? You're not alone.
Research suggests that most people think they've got a bad memory. This article contains 6 key tips to help improve your memory!
So why is it that we feel our memories are weaker than we'd like?
In most cases, by the time students are taught the curriculum, there's little time remaining for educators to explain how to actually commit all of this information to memory. Students simply aren't taught about knowledge retention, the functioning of the brain or the myriad of processes behind how we learn.
Put simply, students are not learning how to learn.
So how does memory work?
Imagine a big old leaky bucket holding water.
This bucket is not infinite, it has limited space. It can only hold so much water before it reaches its maximum capacity, at which point it starts overflowing. Our brains function in much a similar way- they are continuously assessing which information is important enough to keep a hold of and which it can simply discard.
Research suggests that we immediately forget about 90% of the information we take on and without regular rehearsal, the ability to retrieve the few memories we do hold on to is greatly diminished. No wonder some find revising so difficult.
Information is practically pouring through the leaky bucket that is the human brain.
When it comes to improving your knowledge retention one of the first things to acknowledge is what your learning style is, so you can optimise your studying in the first place.
1. Memory by association
A memory's place in your mind is held based on the way in which it is connected to and interlinked with other pieces of information. Therefore, to memorise by association we must create our own network of connections. If I say the word coffee, for example, you might think of tea, caffeine, mornings, reading the newspaper and so on.
Having said that, these are all obvious associations, the difficulty arises when trying to commit to memory a series of seemingly unrelated pieces of information.
At its core, this technique is a form of storytelling, the oldest method known to humankind for passing down knowledge.
In a Sherlock-esque manner, this is your opportunity to create your own mind palace (which will act as the setting for your stories) and then craft a plot that encodes all of the key terms you're aiming to memorise. Try to make as many associations as possible and the more human senses you incorporate into your story the better.
2. Rote memorisation
The next technique to try is good old fashioned rote memorisation. With this method, repetition is key.
To a certain extent, rote memorisation is essential to reap maximum benefits from the other techniques you've applied. If you're focusing on association, for example, you should still try to go through your mind palace, recounting your story a few times to ingrain it into your long term memory.
What's more, rote memorisation becomes particularly effective when we use spaced repetition which entails working out specifically when the best time is for you to recall information. Research demonstrates that the best time to try and recall information that you're learning is as you're just about to forget that it. To start with, aim to recall an hour after you initially learn the information and then 24 hours later, test yourself to recall the information once more. Then perhaps give it a week and repeat.
3. The student becomes the teacher
It has been found that teaching and group discussions have major benefits over traditional learning methods such as listening and note-taking.
In approaching the subjects as a teacher would and explaining key topics to whoever will lend an ear, you'll have to have a good basis of knowledge and be ready to get questioned on it! What's more, you'll naturally make mistakes throughout the process, which brings me the next valuable take home.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with making mistakes.
It's potentially the best way of learning. Where ever possible get involved and be hands-on with your studying. Expect to make mistakes and when you inevitably do, you'll find correcting yourself makes the information more memorable.
4. Scribble Method
The ability to recall information under exam conditions is not a skill learnt overnight, nor are all of us naturally gifted with photographic memories, sadly.
So, for those of you that do enjoy good old fashioned pen and paper. Why not try the scientifically proven 'Scribble' method as described below.
Scientifically Backed: A Step by Step Scribble Method Guide
- Gather your notes or textbook and read through the information on the first topic - don’t just scan the information, aim to understand what is being said.
- Explain the information back to yourself in your head. If you can’t do this, go back and read it again.
- Shut the book and scribble down everything you can remember (it might be handy to do this on a mini whiteboard if you have one). Focus on speed and don’t worry about memorising the textbook exactly.
- If you can’t remember some of the information, be patient with yourself. Allow some time to gather your thoughts so that the memories can be recalled.
- After you have run your memory bank dry, re-open the page again. Check what you forgot or misremembered and make a note of it.
- Close the book once more and scribble down what you missed the first time round - then move on to the next topic.
5. Curiosity and Confidence
When it comes to retaining information and developing the capacity to recall it under exam conditions, having a genuine interest in the subject makes all the difference.
It makes perfect sense really.
An insatiable urge to learn stands you in good stead to take on and recall more information. So, if you're a naturally curious individual, lean into this. If you're reading this prior to choosing your subject of study, perhaps consider making knowledge recall that bit easier and opt for the subject that you have a genuine unfettered interest in.
In a similar vein, your confidence when approaching a subject can have a huge impact on your ability to retain information, so don't give up before you've even begun. Now is not the time to have a confidence crisis but rather have a little faith in yourself. Students who believe they will be successful in memorising the information are far more likely to do so.
6. Healthy body, healthy mind
As always, when considering learning techniques we're reminded of the vital link between the body and mind. It has become increasingly evident that to reach your maximum potential when studying or revising new material you should be well-rested and have as balanced a diet as possible.
In conclusion, there's an abundance of approaches when it comes to knowledge retention. Try incorporating the above suggestions into your study routine and you should see a marked improvement in your ability to recall what you’ve learnt.
Scoodle's tutors have plenty more memorisation hacks so if you need a little help with how to remember the reactivity series or how to memorise quotes, you're in the right place. Book a lesson and improve your memory today.
Recommended for you: