What Are Some Useful Memory and Study Strategies?
Using Principles of Memory to Develop Effective Study Strategies
Focus. Before you even encode information to memory, it is important that you are in good shape to learn, that you have planned well where and when you're going to study, that you are willing to pay attention to what you're going to study about, and that you deliberately try to minimize distraction.
- Ensure that you are in good physical condition. Research shows that electrical shock and physical blows to the brain can cause retrograde amnesia. If you are an athlete prone to engage in physical stress, it is important that you space enough time-out between sport activities and studying. Generally, it is recommended that you are fully rested and well nourished to study.
- Plan and manage your time well. Choose a location where you can focus on studying. Ideally, a good study environment has minimal noise, relaxing but at the same time induces alertness, and not too warm nor too cold. Choose a time when you are at your best to learn. If you are a night person, go ahead and study at night; or if you are the morning type, try to schedule enough time to study in the morning. It is recommended that you allot enough time for studying, ideally two to three hours per hour you spend in class.
- Pay attention with what you are studying. Schacter (2001) observed that participants who were instructed to remember a list of words or a story while monitoring a series of tones and identifying whether the tones are high-pitched or low-pitched significantly remembered less than those who were allowed undivided attention to do the task. It is therefore important to pay undivided attention with what you're studying.
- Minimize distraction. There are times when distractions are out of our control. Give yourself reminders to stay focused, like telling yourself to "zero in" or a similar mantra. Intrusive thoughts are also distracting, because they contaminate your working memory. Instead of trying to forget about them or ignoring them (which is often ineffective), write about them. Research shows that writing about intrusive thoughts removes them from short-term memory and thus helps improve attention.
Master. Mastering the study material entails ensuring that you understand what you're studying about, and that you organize the information well into memory.
- Make sure that you understand what you're studying. Engage in deep-level processing. Extract meaningful associations with what you're learning. Elaborate from those associations by referencing them with what you already know and with what you wish to know in the future. Monitor your progress by asking yourself how well you understand the material and by identifying possible gaps or missing information in the material. Continually rehearse what you're learning.
- Organize the information well. Use hierarchies and semantic associations, and take advantage of your pre-existing schemas. If the material is too lengthy, organize it in notebook, which you can refer to later. If you are dealing with a list of words, use visual and/or verbal memory aids or mnemonics. Use the method of loci, where you "place" information in familiar locations, as when you put the different parts of the brain in different rooms of the house; the keyword method, in which vivid imagery is associated with different words, as when you associate the limbic system with your limbs; and the acronym method, in which the first letters of the words are combined to form a single word, as with HOMES, comprising the great lakes - Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior -, and Roy G Biv, comprising the colors of the rainbow - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
Review. According to Daniel Schacter's decay theory, transience is the fading of neurochemical connections in time. By reviewing the material, or just by referring to your notes, these connections are continually cultivated and are therefore strengthened. Strong connections between neurons facilitate better, that is, more accurate and faster recall.
Remember. When you are trying to remember the material during tests, it is important that you make use of effective retrieval cues. Mnemonics are useful for lists of facts, such as names, places, and dates. Concepts are better recalled by taking advantage of the way information is organized in memory. For example, when trying to remember the divisions of the autonomic nervous system, it might be helpful to re-imagine the hierarchical division of the nervous system.