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Strategies to improve your memory

Did you know that

  • You have to pay attention to something in order to remember it?
  • 60-80% of material is forgotten if not reviewed within 24 hours?
  • Your brain actively works on memory processing while you sleep?
  • Your brain uses 20% of the calories your body takes in per day, so you need to eat well to remember better?

3 Stages to remembering

Attention is the gateway to memory, so consciously pay attention to what you are trying to learn.

Stage 1: Getting started

Get an overview (the "big picture" of a lecture topic or reading) before you start

  • Determine what is important by focusing on introductions, summaries, headings and terminology
  • Create questions to help you get interested in the topic before you start
  • Look for the answers to your questions while you listen or read

Stage 2: Learning the material

Work with the information to understand it:

  • Answer questions and clarify meanings
  • Focus on steps or processes
  • Establish connections with « big picture » and to what you already know

Organize information–your brain likes it that way!

  • Timelines (History)
  • Charts (for comparing info)
  • Mind-maps  and Diagrams
  • Colour-coding

Practice what you have learned

  • Say it in your own words out loud
  • Discuss with others
  • Write summaries, do problems, map out ideas
  • Leave lots of time to practice (math/science) problems
  • Memorize facts, dates, and definitions
  • Review frequently

Spread learning out over time

  • Try doing 50-minute study blocks a few times a week per course
  • Plan rewards to sustain your motivation
  • Take short breaks —this improves your ability to process and remember information
  • Don’t study the same subject all day – switch topics and courses
  • Review regularly

Stage 3: Remembering what you’ve learned:

Test yourself –it’s important to find out what you don’t know so you can learn it properly!

  • Use flash cards
  • Use ‘look-away’ techniques: test yourself then check if you were right
  • Write summaries without looking
  • Study with a friend or in a study group
  • Solve math problems without looking at the answers first

Stretching your knowledge further

  • Talk your way through your whole course as if you were teaching it to someone else
  • Follow up on anything you do not remember/understand to fix knowledge deficits right away.
  • Test yourself on math problems from random sections of course rather than linking them to a particular chapter.
  • Create a bank of test questions for you or a study partner; make them challenging!
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