Have you ever thought you were well-prepared for an upcoming quiz, only to find you’ve forgotten much of what you studied once it comes time to take the test? If so, you may benefit from adding some simple memory-boosting techniques into your study routine.
The ability to retain and apply bits of related information can be directly improved through the use of Cogmed Working Memory Training, which can help you get and keep information in long-term storage. Adding in some supplemental memory-based activities can dramatically improve your ability to generalize use of the skill and apply it to a larger variety of situations. So, if you want to improve your memory while studying, consider integrating the following strategies to achieve more mindful approach to learning.
1.) Recap information just before you go to sleep. There have been a number of studies that indicate that if you quickly review material 15 minutes before going to sleep at night, you will be better able to tap into the information later, keeping from slipping away into dreamland. Remember, this is not a full study session before bed — which can cause stress — but rather a simple recap, like reading or verbalizing out loud what you have already studied.
2.) Don’t cram. Distributed learning is generally better for memorization than cramming. What this means is that you should attempt to learn material over the course of time rather than during any single session. Many studies show that cramming is not an effective tool for learning, and the stress it brings only reinforces the argument against its use. One strategy that seems to help in consolidating memories is to periodically conduct a short test reviewing what you have studied over an extended period of time.
3.) Make learning and memorization a social experience. Study with your friends. Do a “text test” with them, exchanging short questions and short answers. Students quizzing each other is often much more successful in memorizing for a test. This is not always helpful, as the social nature of studying together can deteriorate into hanging out rather than studying, so try and have a good mixture of fun and learning. However, there may be a number of benefits in the appropriate setting. In addition to the verbal and interactive components of memorization, another person’s perspective on what is important to remember can be very useful in learning and test-taking.
4.) Study in a setting that is similar to where you will be tested. It sounds simple, but if the testing is to take place at a desk it may be useful to study at a desk. Other strategies that can make the environmental settings more alike is to have similar noise levels (i.e., quiet!), or to use the same materials and tools at home that will be use during testing. Even drinking the same drink — be it tea, coffee, or water — at while studying and taking the test can boost memory. The best option, however, is to do the bulk of the studying and memorizing during the same general time of the day, so that your body has the same level of preparedness and absorption.
5.) Encourage deeper processing and test comprehension to improve Working Memory. Go beyond simple memorization! Difficulty with Working Memory can occur because you have merely heard or seen something without fully processed it. One strategy to promote deeper processing is thinking aloud. Instead of reading text in your head, find two or three main points to read out loud. If group studying, discuss these points with other classmates. Practice this type of “talking aloud” to connect, reflect, and deepen an understanding of the material you study. Discussion of what someone has read or heard often stimulates more thinking about it than simply re-reading it. Another option would be use technologies such as Dragon Dictation to dictate short summaries while going over your notes. This forces you to consolidate your thoughts, and provides important summaries of material.