The key to approaching a new topic is to figure out what methods of retaining information work for you. For some, flashcards are the best option. For others, reciting facts out loud is the way to go. Methods vary with subjects too. For example, when it comes to subjects like math and physics, practice may be the best option, while for social studies, memorization may be the best. But there are always a few general tips that will improve your chances of memorizing your material no matter what topic you’re covering.
1. Don’t Get Distracted
No matter how many hours you spend sitting in front of a textbook, it won’t matter if you’re scrolling through social media rather than reading the content. Distractions are one of the biggest inhibitors when it comes to effective studying, because no one can resist reaching for their phone when they’re expecting a text from their best friend. Matt Richtel from the New York Times explained that as students become more reliant on technology to get them through their study session, it becomes harder for them to stay focused for a long period of time. However, there are several free programs out there that can block out distracting websites and applications on both your phone and computer for a couple of hours, which should give you plenty of time to study and take breaks in between. Some of these programs are The Web Blocker and Self Control. With the help of these apps and a calm, quiet environment to submerge yourself in, you’ll be sure to get some quality work done. Find more about Richtel’s research here.
2. Take Breaks
Studying doesn’t necessarily have to be a dreadful, dragged out period of time that makes you question whether all of this struggle is worth it. Actually, it has been proven that students who study in 20-50 minute increments with breaks in-between perform better than students who study in one long sitting. Spacing out the material you have to cover may be the most efficient way of studying, and the results given by Will Thalheimer, PhD say it all. Read more about his study and conclusions here.
3. Make the Information Meaningful
Reading long chunks of text and taking notes on countless pages of your notebook may seem effective, but it actually makes it very difficult to memorize the facts because nothing stands out to you. However, this can be easily fixed by creating associations with vocabulary words and formulas needed for future reference. Look for ways to create mnemonic devices such as PEMDAS, or look for words within the terms you need to know that will help you remember the definition. Highlight only the most important information to make it eye-catching for future reference, and draw quick sketches or charts to represent data. Rhyming can also greatly help in the likeliness of you memorizing terms, if you can find ways to incorporate it. Christopher Pappas, who holds an MEd in Learning Design, says that making certain details attention-worthy can greatly improve your chances of remembering it later on. Learn more about information processing here.
4. Don’t Pull All Nighters
All of us have stayed up late the night before a major exam, trying to jam a month’s work of information into our heads. However, this method usually results in student’s forgetting most of the material they reviewed by the time they wake up, if they even slept that night. Studies have continuously proven that sleep is just as crucial to learning as is actually studying. An article from Harvard University states that “ the amount and quality of sleep a person gets is directly related to how well they learn and remember information.” Not only does rest heavily affect your cognitive abilities, it also processes information and sorts it into your long-term memory. When you prepare for your next test, make sure to take a break from intense studying and give yourself time to rest and rejuvenate yourself for the next day.