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Sharpening your memory PDF Print E-mail


Understanding how your memory works will help you to have those “light bulb” moments every student needs

TRY as you might, you just can’t recall the date when World War II officially broke out. You rack your mind, take deep breaths, doodle meaningless shapes on the provided scrap paper, but - no light bulb moment!

Funny thing though: you can name all the players, including reserves, of your favourite sports team. You can also parrot effortlessly your boyfriend/girlfriend’s three cell phone numbers, current home number and previous two numbers.

Finally you give up trying and move on to the next exam question, hoping for better luck.

Every student has experienced these frustrating mental blockages, however by understanding how your memory works you will be able to sharpen your memory so that you remember the important ideas.

Firstly as a student your learning will involve two main types of memory work:-

General Memory

  • This first and more common type of memory centres on remembering an idea without using the exact words of the book or tutor.
  • General memory is called for in all subjects; however, the arts, social sciences and literature probably make the greatest use of this particular kind of remembering.
  • For example, when studying English Literature you will need to have a general understanding of the period in which the book or play is set in.
  • So when you are covering Shakespeare’s Hamlet, you’ll need to have a general appreciation that the play was set in medieval Denmark.

Verbatim Memorising

  • The other type of memory work involves remembering the identical words by which something is expressed.
  • This type of memorizing may be called for especially in law, science, engineering, mathematics, and foreign languages.
  • When studying History you’ll need to memorize 1 September 1939, as the start of World War II. This is the date Germany invaded Poland and historians agree marked the beginning of the Second World War.
  • It is important for you to know when to remember a general idea or when to fix in your mind the exact words, numbers, and symbols.

The following tips will sharpen your memory skills:

  1. Understand thoroughly what is to be remembered because when something is understood, it is almost completely learned.
  2. Spot and mark in your notebook parts that need to be memorised verbatim. This will include information like formulae, important historical dates, definitions etc.
  3. If verbatim memory is required, repeat the material at odd times, for example, while travelling to and from school.
  4. Develop an interest in the material that you are trying to learn as this makes memorizing it much easier. So for example, in Biology when you are covering the chapter on photosynthesis, watch documentaries and read books on plant life.
  5. Study first the items you want to remember longest.
  6. Learn complete units at one time as that is the way it will have to be recalled. So if you are revising Business Studies instead of just studying “Internal and external communication in an organisation”, it is better to go through the whole “Business structure, organisation and control” chapter.
  7. Use visualization whenever possible. Close your eyes and get a mental picture of the explanation and summary answer. Visualize it on the page, seeing the key words underlined.
  8. Represent the idea graphically by drafting your own pictures, diagrams and examples.
  9. Make a list of key words most useful in explaining the main ideas of the lesson.
  10. .Explain the idea to a friend without referring to your book or notes.
  11. Write out expected examination questions and your answers. Thereafter consult the text or your notes to improve your answers.

By practicing these memory skills you will be able to improve your learning.

Go ahead and start today!

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