During your college experience, you will undoubtedly end up having to study for a test. The best method to learn and retain information varies from person to person, and it can be a bit of trial-and-error before you find what works well for you. However, some memory-boosting tips—such as getting enough sleep and exercise—can work for anyone. Beyond that, there are several techniques you can try for yourself that will help you get that “A” on your next exam!
Organize organize organize!
One way to simplify and retain information is to organize it into more manageable clusters or lists. Taking similar concepts and grouping them together allows you to see things more clearly and feel less overwhelmed. Sometimes when we get overwhelmed, we start to shut down, panic, and lose focus. So get out those highlighters, create those lists, and do what you need to do to get everything organized in a way that makes sense to you.
Utilize Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic devices are essentially shortcuts to retaining and recalling information. You can use things such as acronyms, songs or rhymes to help jog your memory. For example, “Naughty Elephants Squirt Water” is an example of a mnemonic device, as it can help people to remember the directional order of North, East, South and West. You can get as creative as you want with this—make it your own!
Use Visual Tools
A visual learner is someone who learns and retains information best by physically observing things such as photos, drawings and graphs. Drawing stick men and other simple sketches (badly drawn or not!) while studying can help visual learners to truly understand and retain facts. Textbooks and websites will often use graphs or infographics to display information too, which are great visual learning tools. If you find that reading and lectures are just words that go in one ear and out the other, visual learning could be for you!
Talk to Yourself
It’s not as crazy as it sounds! Reading out loud while studying allows you to both read, and to hear information at the same time, increasing your understanding and retention. Feel weird about talking to yourself? (Maybe you’re in a group setting, we understand). Try teaching the concepts you are learning to someone else. Being able to relay new information out loud to another person will help you to truly understand and memorize content.
Get Enough Sleep
As we mentioned in the introduction, sleep is a memory improvement tool that works for everyone. Have you ever gotten very little sleep and done something out of character like add juice to your cereal instead of milk? People tend to be less productive and make more mistakes when they’re tired, so why would you try to study or write a test without getting enough sleep? Some studies have even shown that sleep can improve memory retention. We learn while we are awake, but we can consolidate that information while we sleep. So take a nap after your next study session and see if it does the trick!