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5 Effective Ways to Study and Improve Memorization

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

A student sits at a desk in a dark room. The camera points from behind so we cannot see her face. A laptop sits in front of her and she writes notes on an iPad.

Have you tried studying for a test but have had trouble remembering information? Do you find yourself getting stressed about studying?

Figuring out the best study methods for you will take some effort, and you may need to change your typical study routine entirely. Here are strategies you can use to study and improve your memory. 

Getting Started

Be in a quiet environment. You don’t want your siblings coming in every few minutes asking for things. This can disrupt your routine and make you distracted. Your phone should be on silent or off or you might end up texting your friends the entire time you’re supposed to be studying. I used to do it all the time! Stick to an environment that works for you, whether its a café, library, or at home listening to music. 

Get a good night’s sleep. As hard as it sounds, getting enough sleep is crucial. Eight hours is the recommended amount, but some may not have to sleep for eight hours to function and some may need more. Work on forming good sleep habits to stay sharp.

Eat some (healthy) food. I always find it easier to study if I have something to eat next to me. It gives me a boost because I love food. You can try eating fruits or other healthy foods such as nuts and carrots. Chips and sugary foods aren’t the best because your energy won’t be as focused, so make sure you’re nourishing your body with what it needs.

Effective Ways To Study

Retrieve and rehearse

In order to better recall information, you’ll need to store it in your long-term memory. Flashcards are a helpful way to do this. Write the question/term on one side and the answer/definition on the other side.

After practicing repeatedly, it’ll be easy to remember what you need. Note the definition of the term, study the definition, and rehearse it.

Another helpful way is to quiz yourself. This can help you identify areas that you are weak in and practice them. 

Avoid cramming

Start planning your schedule early so you can have a consistent study schedule. Spacing out your studying can help retain information and make connections to ideas you already know.

Studying materials over a period of time allows you to properly absorb each piece of information and gives you enough time to process it. You can start by studying at least one week before the test with more weeks allotted if the test is particularly important (e.g. finals or standardized testing).

Start by studying 1-2 hours each day and gradually increase it as time goes by. Spend at least 30 minutes each day going over the material you studied the previous day. This can help you be certain you’ve mastered the topic. 

Teach it to someone

The Feynman Technique is a method to learn a concept quickly by explaining it in simpler terms. You should be able to describe the concept easily enough that if you were to teach it to someone, they’d be able to understand it.

On a sheet of paper, write the concept in your own words without copying it from the textbook. Next, review what you wrote and identify areas where it can be made simpler. Lastly, teach it to someone. This can also help improve memorization because you’re the one giving out the information, and to teach it, you need to know the information. 

Structure and organize notes

Messy notes make it more difficult to recall the information from classes. Use different colors to represent different topics, or group similar concepts and terms together.

You can make an outline of your notes beforehand so everything is structured and organized in the way you want it. For example, key points can be written in red and important information can be highlighted in yellow. Don’t color everything, though, or it’ll all be colors and you won’t know which information is important. 

Use the SQ3R Method

The SQ3R is a method for comprehensive reading and comprehension. The five steps include: survey, question, read, recite, and review.

Survey by gathering all the necessary information needed to focus and understand the key topics through the title, visuals, introduction, and headings. Question by helping your mind concentrate and engage. As you look at the headings, formulate some questions. Read each paragraph in search of the answers and come up with new questions.

Recite the answer to each question to help you learn as you read. Review the questions and answers and see if there’s anything still confusing you. 

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Ways to Improve Memorization

Use mnemonic devices 

Mnemonic devices are when you associate something using a pattern of letters or ideas. The best mnemonics are those that utilize positive imagery, humor, or novelty.

You can come up with a rhyme, song, or joke to help remember a specific segment of information. It’s a fun way to use tricks to make information more memorable. For example, you might use “Never Eat Soggy Waffles” to memorize north, east, south, and west on a compass. 

Read out loud

Research has proven that reading out loud can make you remember things better by cementing the knowledge into your brain.

When you read out loud, your sense of hearing becomes a part of the experience. You’re listening to what you say and processing that information into your memory, which activates your ability to store and retain information.

Relate new information to old information

When learning new material, take the time to think about how this piece of information relates to what you already know. Your pre-existing knowledge acts as a foundation on which you can build new knowledge and develop a relationship. When you connect these two pieces of information, it can dramatically increase the likelihood of recalling the recently learned information. 

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

Rehearsing can get redundant, but it’s necessary if you want to retain information. Read it 7 times, say it 10 times, write it 3 times. This method can help stick the information into your brain after rehearsing it.

You can’t only do this every once in a while, though. It’s best if you continue to do it every day for a few minutes each day. 

Memory Tools

  • Lumosity: I have this helpful app on my phone, which has different games that challenge different aspects of your brain and exercises it. It won’t give you results in two days, so you have to consistently do it every day.
  • Sudoku: This puzzle game will give your brain a workout. It stimulates your brain to keep practicing the logical thinking process.
  • Quizlet: Quizlet has flashcards you can create, tests that it generates for you based on your flashcards, and even a memory game you can use to test your speed. 

Additional Tips

Remember to give yourself breaks. I like to study for one hour and then take a 20 minute break to do whatever, and I find that this helps. Breaks can help regenerate your brain so it doesn’t get tired.

Exercise before you study. Exercising releases endorphins, releasing stress. It can make you more motivated to study and increase your energy levels. 

Test yourself. Don’t wait until the actual test. Create a mini quiz for yourself to see which ideas you need the most help with. 

Eat well. Foods rich in omega-3 can give you a cognitive boost. 

 

You do not need to do everything on this list, but experiment with what sticks with you and figure out what works best. Some techniques can feel strange at first. The more you practice them, the easier and more natural they become. 

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Author: Quenna

I am currently a sophomore in high school. I hope to go to college in a big city and major in psychology or neuroscience. I usually spend my free time reading or embroidering. I have plans to travel the world one day and try all different types of food!