Friday, 11 July 2014

Surviving the semester: Unlikely tricks to train your memory

Your studies can feel like an overload of information with only a fraction of it becoming knowledge. Retain more with these six tricks to train your memory.

1. Repetition

While we don’t expect you to recite textbooks like a multiplication table, repeating something you’re trying to learn helps lodge it in your memory. A typical path might be your lecturer saying something important, you mouthing it and then writing it down to read later. Saying it, writing it and reading it means it has been repeated three times in different ways, creating different pathways to your brain. (Teaching it to another person counts as a fourth!)

2. Building blocks

Memorising is easier when you have a foundation and then make connections between the new information and your established knowledge. If you need to remember a slab of information, break it down and add it to your memory piece by piece. For example, when trying to remember a case study, start with the who and what, and then gradually add the when, why and how.

3. Finding patterns

A mnemonic device is a common technique that links information to patterns that are more memorable, for example remembering the number of elements in a contract then expanding that to the actual elements. Commonly, mnemonics use a phrase where the starting letter of each word relates to the piece of information, or short rhymes such as Thirty days has September.

4. Storytelling

The human brain is attracted to narrative, so developing a story can help you remember details that might otherwise escape you. Turn information into characters you can describe and explain the consequences of their actions. What happens when GST meets BAS? Humour also makes information sticky, and telling someone the story further embeds it in your memory.

5. Write a song

Delve into the meaning of nursery rhymes and you’ll find many are mini lessons in history effectively passed down by putting rhyme and music together. Choose a piece of simple music and write a short song about what you’re trying to learn. You may also find that someone else has done the hard work, like this economics rap on Hayek versus Keynes.

6. Create a game

Many games are geared to aid learning, and memory games reward recollection, such as matching a piece of information with another. Creating the game is often as important as playing it because it helps you structure information for easy recollection. You can also make a game for two or more people as learning in a group and constructive socialising also assists memorisation.

People respond differently to different techniques, so have a go at some of these to see which works best for you. You can also combine these tricks to enhance the effect.

Good luck with your studies this semester!

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