Tips to Retain Academic Information for Better Learning and Grades
BY AVA J. AVASDEN
Most students in the US today have to juggle multiple tasks including jobs, sports, and studies. On top of this, if you are a student studying a subject only to get credits without actually being interested in the subject, you are likely to battle stress as you forget most of what you had learned. Every time you have to write an essay, you would probably find it easier to jump off a cliff with your eyes closed.
This is not the ideal scenario and it can easily be dealt with. You only need to be mindful of the following tricks.
Make the most of your lectures
It may sounds like the biggest cliché circulating lecture halls and dorm rooms, but this advice has stood the test of time. The most effective memory-building skills don’t appear magically overnight. They begin from the day you start attending your lectures and being mindful of the content being taught. It is easy to remember things you have experienced or done, i.e, if you were mentally and physically present for a lecture, recalling it before an exam is not going to be a challenging task. Now, there is a difference between sitting in a class and being an active listener. To make sure that everything taught by your professor is locked and registered in your mind follow these helpful steps:
- Be an active listener. Keep your mind focussed on the lectures. Refrain from day-dreaming. Think about the concepts being explained and ask doubts. If you think your doubts haven’t been resolved, meet up with your professor after the class.
- Take fast, short notes by hand. As much as you can. Writing things down helps the creation of long term memories. We register and understand complicated things much better when we have penned them down.
- Some professors allow their lectures to be recorded by students. If your professor allows this, you have hit the jackpot. You can record the content and listen to it when you are free or even just before your exams. Listening to the same thing multiple times will facilitate better retention.
- Try to occupy the front rows in the class.
The method of loci
Or in other words, memory maps.
It is a simple memory technique that has helped Cicero in ancient Rome to Sherlock in modern-day London. In this technique, you imagine a building or street and fill it with details such as parks, rooms, paintings, boxes, etc. Assign each of these entities a set of information you would like to retain for your exams such as elements of the periodic table or historical dates. When you want to recollect the information, just take a walk down the memory lane, and voila, you will be able to recall each bit of data successfully.
Other memory building techniques could include the use of mnemonics and anagrams to remember larger chunks of information.
For example, if you are trying to memorize the order of taxonomy for biology tests, just remember – “Kids Prefer Cheese Over Fried Green Spinach” -(Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species) or for remembering the bones in the skull try – “Old People From Texas Eat Spiders” –(Occipital, Parietal, Frontal, Temporal, Ethnoid, Sphenoid).
These techniques work because they are funny and eye-catching. They relate relatively serious and mundane things with humorous ideas. And as you know, it is easy to recall a funny one-liner, especially when you are stressed for exams.
When revising texts and information, it is best not to cram everything one night before exams. Instead, have a planned routine of revisiting topics in regular intervals. Keep a mix of subjects and topics; don’t keep studying the same subject/topic for hours and hours. Bringing variety will definitely add spice here.
Attain the state of flow
There is nothing more helpful than writing and making notes. It works for most people. Whenever you get a writing task or whenever you want to learn something new and complex, start with writing a rough draft. Accumulate all the information concisely at one place with its sources underneath. You can always sort out the sources later on. Stay focussed on the topic at hand. Livia, the co-founder of Lifesaver Essays- a writing service advises students that they should avoid all kinds of distractions while writing, take short breaks, and attain the state of “flow”, which is the highest level of concentration one can achieve. She advises getting completely immersed while writing as this is likely to give a boost to your retention and maximize your productivity.
The background details
In addition to the above, there are a lot of activities we can do on a daily basis to build our retention power gradually:
- Develop a genuine interest in your subjects. Make efforts to go to the library and sit with your academic books at least once or twice a week. The more you involve your mental faculties, the better you remember things.
- Motivation, like showering, is a thing that needs to be done daily. Keep an eye on the goal and build a “can-do” attitude. Optimism will fill you with energy and concentration. And these will have a dramatic impact on memory power.
- Try to get good 8 hours of night-time sleep every day. Even before your exams, research Studies have shown that a good sleep will help you retain information much better. Pulling an all-nighter is counter-productive to remembering things. Make sure that before exams you are well-rested.
- Our brain, like any other organ, thrives when supplied with proper nutrients. Your diet has a big impact on your cognitive functions. Eat a brain-healthy diet which includes lots of eggs, fish, nuts, berries etc. Don’t skip exercises.
Ava is an avid reader and is intrigued by topics such as student motivation, performance, and education systems around the world. She had recently started writing and would like to cover topics related to education, learning, and poetry.