Studying and retaining new information is difficult on its own, but the reality is that many students also have job or family obligations to attend to. If this sounds like you, then the following memory techniques may help you absorb information more efficiently in the time you do have.
Getting enough rest at night is a well-known way to improve memory and recall, but daytime naps have their place as well. A study in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory found that naps lasting 45 to 60 minutes can improve memory recall up to five times over a control. Consider taking naps on days when you learn several new concepts.
Chunking is remembering information by breaking it into smaller pieces. A great example of chunking is the dashes we put after the third and sixth digits of phone numbers. In effect, this chunks 10-digit phone numbers into three chunks. It is much easier to remember phone numbers this way than it would be to recall the entire number together. In a studying context, you could chunk by breaking a large pile of flashcards into smaller, arbitrary piles and studying one stack at a time.
Writing lecture notes with pen and paper may help you better retain information. Because most of us can type faster than we can write, it may seem easiest to type lectures word for word. But when you write notes by hand, you are more likely to process what is being said into smaller, more memorable sound bites that are easier to write down. This processing helps you better engage with information and have more customized notes to refer to later.
Writing notes by hand allows you to create mind maps and other visual cues for yourself on the fly. It also makes it easier for you to doodle in the margins as you listen, which has been found to help with focus.
Studying the same concepts repeatedly over time helps material enter your long-term memory. Reviewing material soon after the first time you initially learned it can help you make “ the forgetting curve” less steep, meaning you’ll have an easier time recalling information for longer. It also allows concepts to be encoded during several sleep cycles.
Teach someone who has never studied the concepts you are trying to remember. For example, you could explain how the heart functions to a younger sibling, cousin or nephew to help you remember concepts in a physiology course. Simplifying concepts for others can be more interesting than standard drilling, and it is a great way to make sure that you really have a concept down.
Next time you have a lot of material to study at once, give these memory techniques a try. We hope they can help you study as efficiently as possible.