Improve Your Memory in Class

Edited by Nerissa Avisado, Eng, Lynn, Rob and 3 others

When someone says he never forgets, by all probability he has a powerful memory. The techniques you utilize to drive your vehicle, recall the names of all your relatives, or the meanings of the words in your Hunger Games book are the exact mechanisms you can use to memorize formulas in chemistry, medical procedures, or economic principles.

Learn What Your Mind Can Do

The good news is, there are so many things you can do to improve your memory in class. The key to using memory more effectively is to remember that, unless you're injured, inflicted with a debilitating disease, suffered brain damage or dying, the brain never loses anything. The moment a perception or thought is put into your memory, it will stay there for the rest of your life. What you call "forgetting" is either your inability to recall the stored information or your failure to store the information properly to begin with.

For instance, during certain kinds of brain operations, the patient will remain conscious. When specific sections of the brain are stimulated with a gentle electrical current, the patient will usually remember events of his childhood vividly. He can recall thoughts he believed he had long forgotten, such as the smell of his mom's Sunday dress, or the feel of sunlight on her face through the window of her third grade classroom.


People who have undergone hypnosis have also reported similar experiences. There are people who were able to recall events that took place shortly after their birth. Working with the authorities, hypnotists have allowed witnesses of crimes to remember crucial information, such as a vehicle's plate number.

The moment information is stored in your brain, it will never be lost, but there are times, however, that you will have difficulty recalling information from your memory. The data is still in your head, but you simply cannot find it. Kind of like when you can't remember where you put your keys. Oftentimes, you may think you have forgotten something, when the truth is that you never really stored it in your memory in the first place.

Organize Your Mind

Here are some techniques you can try and experiment with to make a flexible system to perfectly suit your learning style. They are divided into four categories, each of them representing a general principle for memory improvement. These are:

  • 1. Organization.
  • 2. Using Your Body.
  • 3. Using your brain.
  • 4. Recall.
  1. 1
    Learn from the general going to the specific
    Try imagine looking at a new painting this way. Blindfold yourself, then place a magnifying glass to your eye. Move your face about a few inches away from the painting. Then, remove the blindfold and start studying the painting, a square inch at a time. What do you think will happen? Even after you've finished "looking" at this artwork this way, you still won't have any idea what it is. Unfortunately, a lot of students approach their textbooks and courses this way. They feel the need to immediately jump in and tackle all the details, before understanding the big picture. So here's another way to do things.
    1. Before you start your next reading assignment, browse through it to get the general idea.
    2. You may also apply this technique at the beginning of your course.
    3. If there's somebody who's already taken it, ask him if he can do a quick review for you.
    4. A textbook reconnaissance of these assignments during the entire course will definitely help.
    5. This technique usually works best at the beginning of your school term, but then again, it's never too late to use it.
    6. Every time you feel lost, take a step back and try looking at the big picture; that way the details might make more sense.
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  2. 2
    Try making things memorable
    Do you think a skydiver would become bored learning how to pack her parachute? Of course not! The reward for learning this specific skill - getting to live - is far too important.
    1. Find out what you want from your education; this way you can look for connections between what you want and the things you are studying, and the value of your studying. If quadratic equations bog you down, step back for a while.
    2. Think how these math courses truly relate to your goal of becoming a successful electrical engineer.
    3. Know that when certain info helps you get what you want, it's so much easier to remember. This is exactly the reason why you need to be specific about what you want.
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  3. 3
    Create associations
    All the data that is stored in your memory is arranged according to the scheme that makes sense to you. When you put in new data, you will be able to recall it more effectively if you try and store it near related or similar data.  
    1. For instance, you're introduced to someone named Greg.
    2. A way to remember him by name is to know another person you know who's also named Greg.
    3. When you see the new Greg, your brain will more than likely associate him to the Greg you already know.
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Using Your Body

In theatre this is called Body Memory. It's how our physicality actually holds memories by action.

  1. 1
    Learn it once, but actively
    Remember the old saying that people remember 90 percent of what they do, 75 percent of what they see, and 20 percent of the things they hear? These statistics may not be scientifically provable, but the idea behind this is definitely sound. Action is an excellent memory enhancer. Test this theory for yourself by studying using the same energy you usually bring to Zumba sessions or the football field.
    1. When you sit at your desk, don't slouch; sit up straight. Sit on the edge of your chair, like you're about to spring out of it to sprint across the room. You can also try standing up while studying; it's more difficult to fall asleep when you're in this position. Some people swear by this, and say that their brains work better when they're standing up, rather than sitting down.
    2. Try pacing back and forth and try some gestures while reciting your material aloud. Use your arms, your hands, and get every part of your body involved while studying. These are also great ways for fighting boredom. This will put your memory to sleep. You need to wake it up by moving your arms and legs, as well as your ears, eyes, voice.
    3. The main reason you "forget" is that you never really learned it in the first place, even if you think you did. Learning can be quite deceptive. Learning, especially in higher education, usually takes place in a passive atmosphere. The students are either sitting down, subdued and quiet. Don't believe this. Learning requires energy. Every time you learn effectively, you also burn calories, even when you're just sitting at your desk reading a textbook.
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  2. 2
    When you are relaxed, you absorb new information quicker and recall it with better accuracy. A great part of this is really just common sense.  
    1. Those students who cannot recall vital info during their final exam, when nervous, are often able to recite the same facts later on, when they are not under pressure, as in when they're in a totally relaxed state.  
      1. You may think this is the exact opposite of technique number four, but it isn't.
      2. When you say relaxed, it doesn't mean zoned out, drowsy, or asleep.
      3. Relaxation is a state of alertness, when you're free of tension, during which your mind can play around with new information, spin it around, create associations, and apply a lot of other memory techniques.
      4. You can be active and still be relaxed.
    2. There are many books, ebooks, and webinars that are available to teach you how to relax. Aside from this, there are also a lot of memory exercises you can do. "Mellowing out" is one way to lower your blood pressure, and it might even help you succeed in school.
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  3. 3
    Create images
    Make cartoons and draw images. You can use these to connect facts and illustrate relationships. There are relationships among abstract concepts that can be "seen" and easily recalled when visualized. You simply need to use your imagination.
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  4. 4
    Recite then repeat
    Every time you repeat something aloud, you are able to anchor the concept in two different senses.
    1. First, you need to get the physical sensation in your tongue, throat, and lips, when voicing out this concept. Then, you can hear it. The combined result is instantaneously synergistic - same thing when you are drawing images. This is the effect of using two different senses, which is greater than the sum of the individual effects. The saying it out loud part is crucial.
    2. Reciting quietly in your head can be useful (in the library, for instance), but it will not be as effective when making noise. Your mind can easily trick itself into thinking it knows something when it doesn't. Your ears, on the other hand, are much harder to fool.
    3. The repetition part is also important because it is the most common memory device that truly works. When you repeat things, you create a trail blaze through your brain's pathways, making the information a lot easier to find. Repeat a concept aloud until you've mastered it, then say it five more times.
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  5. 5
    Write them down
    This is the most obvious, yet the easiest one to forget. Writing a note helps you remember an idea, even if you never look at it again.  
    1. Writing engages a different kind of memory compared to speaking.
    2. It prompts you to be more logical, complete, and coherent. Written reviews, for example, reveal gaps in knowledge that oral reviews usually miss, just as oral reviews will reveal gaps that the mental reviews miss.
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Using Your Brain

  1. 1
    Reduce all interference
    Turn off the music when you buckle down to study. Look for a quiet place that's free from distraction. If there's a party at your home, go somewhere else. If you have a strong attraction to food, don't do your studying next to the fridge while torturing yourself. Do you know that two hours worth of studying in front of the TV can be equal to 10 minutes of studying somewhere quiet? If you have two hours and want to do studying and watching TV, split it in two, allot one hour for TV, then one hour for studying. Please don't do them together.
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  • 2
    Maximize use of daylight
    As much as possible, study the most difficult subjects during daylight hours. A lot of people concentrate better during the day. The early morning hours are the most productive, even for those who hate to get up with the sun in their eyes.
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  • 3
    Over learn
    This is one great way to fight mental fuzziness; you need to learn more than you intend to. Students will often stop studying when they think they know their stuff well enough to pass their test. Another way is to pick one subject, examine it, go over it, and add to it, until it becomes second nature to you.
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  • 4
    Prevent short-term memory gap
    Short-term memory is different from the memory you'll need during exam week. For instance, most people look at an unfamiliar 11-digit cellphone number once and remember it long enough to dial it.
    1. Try recalling this same number the following day.
    2. Remember that short-term memory can decay after a few minutes and will barely last several hours.
    3. A quick review within minutes or even hours of a study session allows you to move material from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.
    4. This brief mini-review will save you hours of study time when exam time comes around.
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  • 5
    Distribute your learning
    No matter how hard you try, marathon study sessions won't do you any good. You can get a lot more things down in three two-hour sessions than a full six-hour session. You'll achieve a lot more if you take regular breaks. These breaks can even serve as mini rewards. After an awesome and productive study session, allow yourself to surf the net, play your favorite video game, listen to iTunes, etc., even if for a few minutes.
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  • 6
    Watch out for the wrong kind of attitude
    Notice how people who think history is boring often find it difficult remembering history. Consequently, those who believe math is excruciating also have difficulty recalling math formulas. The point is, you will always forget the information if it doesn't interest you enough. If you don't like it, you're more likely to forget about it.
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  • 7
    Choose the things you store in your memory
    Try adopting an "information diet". In the same way you avoid certain foods, try to avoid certain information. Pick what's important to remember from a lecture or a reading assignment. Choose only the salient points. Ask for pointers and focus on them, after which you can apply your newly learned memory techniques.
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  • 8
    Combine your memory techniques
    All these techniques work better when combined with one another. Choose a couple of these on a particular assignment, and experiment until you figure out which ones work best.
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  • Tips and Tricks for Better Memory Recall

    • Try to remember something else. Once you notice you're stuck, know that you're forgetting what you already know, and remember something else associated with it.
      • If you cannot remember anything about the aggregate demand curve during your economics exam, remember what you know about the aggregate supply curve.
      • If you have trouble recalling specific facts, remember your instructor's example during his lecture.
      • You will be able to unblock your recall if you know how to stimulate that area of memory.
    • Be conscious of the way you do remember. Each person has a unique memory style, some are good at remembering things they've read, others what they've seen, while others remember best when they've heard it. To help develop your memory, notice when you are successful in recalling info easily and ask yourself the kind of memory techniques you're using naturally.
    • Better use it or lose it. Even information that's stored in your long-term memory can be difficult to recall if you don't use it regularly.
      • To remember something, access it as often as you can. Read it, listen to it, speak it, and apply it.
      • Find ways to make contact with the material regularly; this way you can widen your neural pathway to this material and make it easier the next time you need to remember it.
    • Finally, remember that you never forget. Instead of saying you don't remember, you can say you don't remember it right now. The latter statement implies that the info you want is stored in your mind, and that you will be able to retrieve it, just not now.

    Hopefully, these 20 techniques are well worth your time reading. Don't expect them to work overnight, because it takes time and practice. In time however, you'll be surprised at how much you've improved if you follow these tips on how to improve your memory in class. Good luck!

    If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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    Categories : Mental Health

    Recent edits by: Nuance, Dougie, Rob

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