The air is growing cooler and the bookbags are getting heavier. If you're in school or even just trying to remember something important, eVitamins has some great tips on how to beat that next memory test.
is a tricky thing. You may study for hours only to see it on an exam and draw a giant blank where the answer should be. Where did all your hard work go? Converting short term memory to longer-term is a harder task than it first sounds. It's not always just about repetition. Here's the rundown.
How Memory Works
Memory starts in the brain with little things called neurons talking to each other. They're the ones that alert you to important things like reacting to a loud noise or identifying the facial expressions of your conversation partner. They're basically responsible for all your thinking.
When you try to remember something, neurons build a pathway between each other like a rope bridge. Every time you think about that memory, the bridge gains another rope. If you don't reinforce that bridge enough, it'll collapse if you try to cross it. Some memories are strong and built from strong rope like big events that happen in your life that you remember forever. There's a reason you don't remember every day of school you've ever had but do remember that catchy gum jingle. One you've probably revisited a few too many times.
Good Study Tricks
Building up the bridges will help you remember the important things on the test. How do you do this? Try these:
1. Learn the material. Whether it's a subject you hate or you don't think you have enough time, some things you don't actually WANT to learn. I was in school once, I get it. But memory is dependent on understanding and building those bridges. Learning the material actually builds bridges between knowledge you already have access to, making your bridges that much stronger. If you don't think you have time to learn everything and you're in a rush to cram, think again. Repeating information that means nothing to you will do less good than actually taking the time to understand what's on the page.
2. Only study what you don't know. If you understand something, don't waste time memorizing it. This doesn't mean ignore it, though! Instead, use it as platform to learn the areas you don't understand. By doing this, you're building up and reinforcing the information you know and remembering it better while helping teach yourself new things. You'll find it a lot more effective than simply repeating sentences from a text book.
3. Customize your memory. Sometimes you can't get around needing to know minute details. If you have to memorize, customize it to you. Whether you develop a song about all the parts of the brain or create a mnemonic device for Spanish verbs, these techniques work best the more outrageous and customized they are to you. Have you ever struggled to remember the tools to remember something? Skip to making a joke, something silly or make it weird. You're the only one using it so who cares?
Connecting the study material to other senses can add multiple layers to your bridges. Studying with a distinct scent
or color for each subject, eating a specific snack
during each study session or even wearing specific clothes builds more depth to the memory in your brain. If eating only pumpkin seeds while studying biology helps, come test time you may find yourself remembering pumpkin seeds and the proper name for cell division.
5. Discuss. Socializing can really hinder your efforts if you get off track but talking about what you've learned and trying to explain it out loud helps you identify what you actually know. Having a study partner or a small group can help identify what you need to work on in your next solo study session. It will also give you a different point of reference on the material to a stronger mental bridge.
6. Take a break. Studying is only as useful as the length of your focus and once you find it slipping, take a break. Better yet, plan them into your study sessions. Many people find having multiple breaks per hour planned into their work motivates them and gives them a sharper focus.
Use scented hand sanitizer or lotion while studying. Association to specific subjects or areas of trouble will help you remember them on the test. And you can wear them when you go into the exam without having to explain why you have an essential oil diffuser or candle burning on your desk.
Listen to music. This one may be harder to sway with your professor when actually taking the exam but recalling a song or album you heard while studying can trigger the exact memory you need to answer that next question. Songs are also easier to pull from your memory than scents so it's not necessary to actively be listening when taking the test.
Try some natural supplements. College food isn't always the healthiest but a good diet will help boost your brain. Nutrients like Omega-3s or ginkgo can help build up your memory and keep you focused while you binge on pizza and energy drinks. Speaking of food, snack on something healthy while you cram. Eating something like cheese crackers or dried fruit while you study and then eating it again just before the exam is a great way to reactivate those neuro bridges!
We hope this helps you out this and every semester. If you have other study tips, share them with us on our Facebook
pages! Tune in next week for more great health tips.