Know your memory - brain inside a lighbulb sits inside a cartoon face in side profile

Revising for exams: Know your memory

Alex MacCreadie

Exams are all what you know and understand and memorising information is an important part of this. In order to memorise information, you need to spend time repeating it until it’s firmly stored in your brain. You cannot shortcut this process; the more times you go through the information, the more you will remember it.

Simply reading through the information will not be very effective compared to doing something with the information. There are many techniques you can use to help remember the information you need for your exams. Here are some ideas:

  • Focus your attention

When you are studying, try and avoid distractions such as other people, TV or social media. Your brain works best when it focusses on one thing at a time. Find a quiet place to study and try to stay away from distractions.

  • Spread out your study times

Your brain needs time to process and store the information you are learning. Cramming at the last minute will mean that you are more stressed when you are studying and not as likely to remember what you are learning. There is a lot of research that shows that spreading out your study over a longer period of time is more effective than cramming.

  • Use songs and mnemonics

Your memory works best when you connect new information to things you already know. If you can relate the thing you want to remember to something you do remember, it will be easier to recall. You could do this by attaching what you need to learn to a song you know or a mnemonic:

1: Get your groove on – pick a song with a catchy melody. Change the lyrics to relate to the points you want to remember. Start singing that song!

2: Mnemonics – This is a good technique for remembering items on a list or facts. First write out the list of the key points you need to remember and then, like an acrostic poem, use the first letter of each point to make another word or a phrase. Recite the word (or phrase) and practise recalling what each letter stands for. An example of this you already may know is: ROY G. BIV = colours of the rainbow (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.)

  • Rehearse your answers

One of the most effective study techniques is completing practice exam questions. This gives you the opportunity to test what you have learnt and work out what you need to focus on learning before the actual exam.

  • Use visual aids

Many people find that using visual aids such as mind maps and diagrams is a great way to remember complex ideas or chunks of information.

  • Sleep to remember

Sleep for memory. Your brain needs time to process and sleeping is an important part of learning. When we sleep, we move items from our short term memory to our long term memory and make it more likely that we will be able to recall the information when we need it in an exam.

know your memory

Getting the best out of your memory will help you do well in your exams. It means making effective use of study techniques to learn information and then recalling it. Give some of these techniques a go and you’ll be on your way to a great exam result.

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