Final exams create a whirlwind of activity as they send students into last-minute study groups and cramming frenzies. The problem, of course, is that each of your professors expects you to memorize a formidable list of facts and concepts and to be able to apply them under pressure. If you’re hoping to boost your memory in time for your tests, put these strategies to good use.
Engage Your Eyes
Reading a sentence over and over might not prove sufficient to commit the information to memory. Perhaps your brain needs more visual stimulation, which means creating a visual representation of the data. If you’re studying history, for instance, draw a timeline and fill in the dates and events or look at pictures of the events. For anatomy, try labeling anatomical figures. Find your learning style and embrace it!
Take Turns Teaching
Vocalizing information can also help boost your memory skills and engage the deepest regions of your brain. Consider getting together with a group of classmates and take turns teaching different sections of the material as though you’re sitting in class. Both the speaker and the listeners will benefit from expressing the information in their own words and hearing it in different ways.
If you don’t have a study buddy or group, use your phone or laptop to record yourself in the role of the teacher. Find a quiet corner on campus in which to record yourself reading back your notes or expressing concepts in fresh terms. When you play your recording afterward, you’ll hear the information anew.
Create Memory Clusters
Students often find it easier to absorb and process information when they organize data into clusters. For instance, chronological notes might not represent the best way to study history. Instead, group similar incidents and people together, then focus on one cluster at a time. Or instead of trying to learn all of the bones in the human body, concentrate on learning the long bones as a group and then teeth and so on. Break down information into smaller nuggets you can manage.
Develop a Better Diet
Late-night cram sessions often involve copious amounts of sugary (and caffeinated) beverages, fast food, and leftover pizza. Don’t fall into the empty-calorie trap, however, if you want to sharpen your memory. Reduce your meat intake and fill in the gaps with nuts, vegetables, fruits, and other foods that are high in memory-enhancing antioxidants.
In addition to improving your ability to recall information, a better diet will also keep your energy levels up while you’re preparing for finals. If you find yourself falling asleep with your can of Red Bull, it’s time to rethink your dependence on caffeine and sugar and to develop better college eating habits overall.
Set Up a Sentence or a Story
Mnemonic devices — memory techniques that use one kind of information to help you encode another kind — can work well in this regard. Create your strategy around your strengths. Learning about taxonomy for Biology class? Just remember that “King Philip came over from great Spain.” Wha?!!? Check it: Just that one sentence (an historical truth, no less) can help you remember the descending taxonomy of Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. Golden!
Developing a better memory can take time, but the above tips will sharpen your recall skills in a hurry.