Follow these five tips to master memory retention and maximise head space.
1. Keep that mind interested in the task at hand. Why do you remember all the words to Barbie Girl but not that tricky physics equation? Simply because one kept your attention, musically and repetitively, while the other caused your mind to wander. When sketching out your revision timetable consider distributing topics in short bursts throughout the day. This is known as distributed practice and helps to keep the mind interested and focused and has been proven to be more productive than heavy cramming on one area. Think of innovative ways to keep your head on task and fight the urge to procrastinate, such as regularly testing yourself, having study sessions with friends and family or changing which media you are using.
2. Mnemonics is the study and development of systems from improving and assisting the memory. This covers making up rhymes to remember the order of British monarchs or creating a colourful poster on photosynthesis. Stick up notes around your room or re-read the same passage every time you brush your teeth, then when a question comes up in the exam you can think, now what was that quote from Of Mice and Men again? Ah yes it was on the toaster and I read it every morning for a month!
3. Exercise increases your heart rate and circulates blood faster up to the brain. The oxygen the blood brings makes your brain healthier and more productive, allowing it to retain information for longer. Exercise also reduces stress and fatigue, helping you to feel refreshed and energised and get a better nights sleep.
4. Frequent testing helps bolster the memory capabilities by reaffirming information and making you more confident. Professor Dunlovsky, who published a paper on revision and memory methods in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, states that: "Testing itself when you get the correct answers appears to produce a more elaborative memory trace connected with your prior knowledge, so you're building on what you know".
5. So you read 25 pages, but what do you actually know? You will not be fooling anyone but yourself if you don’t support reading with memory practice. Your brain will relay the information taken in by your eyes but the key is to retain it and to tutor yourself on retrieving it at will. Put together flashcards with critical concepts and key facts, take notes until the ideas stick and compose summaries of the information you just read. Can’t do it? Then read those 25 pages again.
So remember, plan your time, get up and in the right environment after a good night’s sleep. Exercise, relax and treat yourself, all work and no play is an unhealthy combination. Stock up on practice exam papers, decorate your home with notes and keep that mind engaged and memory tutored. Best of luck and stay positive!
Teachers - are your students feeling the pressure? Find out more about our exam stress management workshops here