When it comes to learning and memory, the brain’s incredible ability to reshape itself holds true. You can use the natural power of neuroplasticity to boost your cognitive abilities, learn new information faster, and improve your memory at any age. These nine pointers will show you how.
In this article, I’ll share my top tips for improving memory retention and recall, so that revision time is as productive and rewarding as possible.
- Put it into Practice
After you’ve processed some new information, it’s critical to put what you’ve learned into practice with worksheets or practice exam questions. This not only allows you to see how much you have remembered, but it is also an excellent way to further knit the knowledge into your brain so that it sticks in your memory for exams.
A quick Google search will yield a plethora of example questions, but it is best to double-check that they are relevant to your course. You don’t want to be dealing with more difficult questions than necessary!
2. Don’t just read it
When we read, the words pass through our heads long enough to string sentences together, and then they exit again. We might retain a general picture to keep a story together, but not much more. It is extremely rare to read a text once and then be able to quote it back unless the text was extremely meaningful to you.
Doing something more with that information, even if it is as simple as writing it down, helps to move it from short-term to long-term memory for exams.
However, this does not imply copying it word for word, as this requires very little brain work and thus does not retain the information. Make it into bullet points, a table, a mind map, a list, or anything else that will help you remember it for exams.
3. Give your Brain a Workout
The more you exercise your brain, the better you will be at processing and remembering information. However, not all activities are created equal. The best brain exercises shake things up by challenging you to use and develop new brain pathways.
Four key elements of a good brain-boosting activity
- It’s challenging. The best brain-boosting activities necessitate your undivided attention. It’s not enough that you found the activity difficult at times. It must still be something that necessitates mental exertion. Learning to play a difficult new piece of music, for example, counts; playing a difficult piece you’ve already memorized does not.
- It’s a skill you can build on. Look for activities that allow you to start at a low level and work your way up as your skills improve — always pushing the envelope to keep your capabilities stretched. When a previously difficult level begins to feel comfortable, it is time to move on to the next level of performance.
- It teaches you something new. It doesn’t matter how intellectually demanding the activity is if it’s something you’re already good at. The activity should be unfamiliar and outside of your comfort zone. To strengthen the brain, you must continue to learn and develop new skills.
- It’s rewarding. The brain’s learning process is aided by rewards. The more interested and engaged you are in the activity, the more likely you are to continue doing it and reap the benefits. Choose activities that are challenging but also enjoyable and satisfying.
4. Be the Teacher
Nothing improves your understanding like attempting to explain it to someone else. For a moment, pretend you’re the teacher and try teaching a friend or family member. The dog, too! They are not required to take an exam.
To do so, consider the key points to cover in your lesson, how the topic builds from the fundamental principles to apply the content, and how to explain it to someone with no prior knowledge. It’s an excellent way to commit your knowledge to memory in preparation for exams.
5. Mental Exercises
While mental exercise is beneficial to brain health, it does not eliminate the need for physical activity. Physical activity keeps your mind sharp.
Exercise also enhances the effects of helpful brain chemicals and reduces stress hormones.
Brain-boosting exercise tips
- Physical activities that require hand-eye coordination or complex motor skills are especially good for brain development.
- Aerobic exercise greatly benefits the brain, so choose mental activities that will keep your heart rate up. Everything that is generally beneficial to your heart is also beneficial to your brain.
- You can overcome afternoon slumps and mental exhaustion by taking short breaks to exercise. Your brain can be reset by performing a few jumping jacks or a brief walk.
6. Set up a Dedicated Area
When studying, the ability to concentrate is crucial. Because the brain is not capable of multitasking, you cannot effectively revise if you are frequently interrupted.
You’ll require either a quiet workspace or some noise-canceling headphones. If necessary, request some privacy during your study time from your family and make the arrangement in advance. To avoid interruptions, you might need to revise at school or in a library.
Listening to music can be helpful, as long as that isn’t stealing your attention. It must be some uninteresting song without any lyrics. Online, there are many options for music that will help you focus or study. Although classical music is frequently advised, find what suits you.
7. Change things up
If you find that revision isn’t producing the desired results, consider;
- Try a different study technique
- Change studying location
- Use different notes (aside from your own)
- Change your schedule
Trying something new makes things more interesting and also indicates that you are giving your work more thought, both of which are advantages when studying.