Most of us may know that studying should not be based on memory but understanding the facts.
However, it is inevitable to avoid memory work as it has benefits such as helping to train your brain to retain more information or building a foundation for higher thinking and problem solving.
Especially for subjects such as Biology, History and even Geography where there are an overwhelming amount of new terminology and concepts, memory work is paramount.
Memory work is a tedious process and it is a struggle especially for students with “goldfish memory”. However, there are some tips to supercharge your memory and I am going to share more about them below!
Eat “brain food”
Although the results of an improved diet are not significantly evident in your daily lives, diet is actually crucial in improving your memory work. As all of us know, one way to keep healthy and fit would be through eating clean and healthily. Similarly, we have to eat proper meals with nutrients to keep our brain healthy such that it can store and retain the information longer.
Firstly, food with antioxidants should be included in your diet as they contain molecules which prevents oxidation in the body which will react to harm cells. These antioxidants have anti-aging effects such as slowing down memory loss and others. Food which includes antioxidants normally are found in fruits and vegetable such as blueberries, tomatoes and apples. Instead of taking out Oreos or a bag of potato chips to munch on, switch to a healthier choice of these fruits to “take good care” of your brain!
Secondly, we should consume vitamins. In the market there are actually “brain vitamins” which act as a supplement for people to improve their memory work. These include vitamin C, vitamin B12 and vitamin E in tablet form. These vitamins are well-known for their ability in improving mental agility. However, these vitamins can be found in natural sources of food. For example, eating more leafy green vegetables, nuts, olives, whole-grains and brown rice can increase the amount of vitamin K in your bodies. Blackcurrants are high in vitamin C and vitamin B12 can be found easily in sardines, salmon and red meats. Hence, you are equipped with the knowledge so choose your meal choices wisely!
Thirdly, Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to improve memory work. This is actually one of the most popular remedy people opt to improve memory work. Since our bodies cannot produce these nutrients ourselves, it is essential to consume it either from natural sources of food like fatty fishes (salmon, sardines and more) or supplements such as the fish oil pills. (These pills can be purchased from shops such as GNC and pharmacies.) Omega-3 fatty acids are actually recommended for young adults whose brains are still developing as it will help to boost their memory.
All in all, the above are specific foods which contain the necessary nutrients to increase memory work. As mentioned, it is essential to include a healthy diet in your life to keep fit. Hence, not only should you eat all the mentioned food but ensure you have a balanced meal with 2 servings of fruits and vegetables each. Only this way will your mental and physical health will improve.
Only a few of your may have seen the curve above but it showcases the decline of memory work over time. As seen above, memory will be lost if there are no additional efforts to retain the information. Similarly, memory work done by students for studies will slowly be lost over time. To prevent such from happening, you should always review old concepts by re-memorising the content over and over again. The Ebbinghaus curve below actually shows that only with 5 repetitions that you can retain all of the information for a long term. The decline in the orange curve below depicts the loss of memory over time. The extent of the decline will reduce with each repetition which suggests that the best way to retain all of the information will be through repeated memory work.
Hence, you should definitely repeat your studying several times for each chapter to ensure that your facts are ingrained in your head for a stable foundation!
Here’s a tip! Repeat and re-memorise the content in a way which is most suitable for your learning.
For instance, audio learners can make up a song to help with your memorising or even memorise out loud. I would recommend separating the content you need to remember into groups of 2-4 phrases and read each group out loud. Next, repeat them for multiple times without referring and continue for the whole content you need to remember. Lastly, reinforce the memory work by repeating the whole content from the beginning to end without stopping.
Ensure you repeat this whole process about 5 times before your major examination!
Visual learners can try to picture images in your head while going through the content you have to memories. In addition, I would also suggest to kinesthetic learners to walk around while reading out loud to engage the brain in the memorising process. You can even write out or type out the words to memorise, be creative and find out what works for you!
Another tip would be to use mnemonics to aid in memory work. Mnemonics are memory devices which aim to help learners break down the large chunks of information into their characteristics, steps, stages or more. There are many types of mnemonics and are only limited to imagination of each student. However, I will still be sharing some common mnemonics to help you kick-start your learning!
- Expression or Word Mnemonics
This is one of the most popular ones. For example, to remember the 3 parts of the small intestine: Duodenum, Jejunum, Ileum= David Juggles iPhones
- Model Mnemonics
This involves representing the information for better understanding and recalling. For example, the Krebs cycle is depicted in a circular sequence where only the key features are presented.(fig 1) Another example would be a table to represent advantages and disadvantages of genetic engineering.
- Connection Mnemonics
It is to connection the information to something already known. For example, the spelling of principal is not principle because the principal is your “pal”.
Making your own notes/ mind-maps
Note-taking will help to compile the main essence of each chapter to become more concise and succinct than chunk of words in your text-books. This way, the main points will be easily highlighted for easier memory work. In addition, you will be reinforcing and reviewing old concepts. Hence, making your own notes will help you become an active learner who can organise, categorise and recall information for each chapter better to facilitate the learning and studying process. This way, you can better memorise your work as you are storing only the important and required information than the irrelevant ones.
Here is what is suggested to include in your notes to remember:
- Main points emphasised by teachers
- Key words and phrases/ terminologies
I would also recommend colour coding your notes to help make you a more efficient learner.
Messy and wordy notebooks with monotone texts make it hard to recall key points. In addition, colour will make the notes come “alive” and engage the brain as they become more attractive and interesting. This means the information will retain in the brain longer. I do suggest colour coding it, for instance, yellow highlighter for main points, blue highlighter for examples and pink highlighter for explanations. However, do not over-colour your notes and highlight everything in the passage. In the end, nothing is emphasised and the highlighting becomes ineffective.
Get sufficient rest
Sleep is important as it helps to recharge and re-energise ourselves after a long tiring day. Sleep is definitely crucial to regain the energy after a long day in school, especially for students who start school early in the morning. Only with sufficient rest will we be able to have optimal focus attention to memorise and remember information clearly the next day. In addition, the brain consolidates the memory during sleep. Sleep will help to cement the new information learnt in the day for a better recall in the future. Hence, it is not recommended to pull an all-nighter before the day of the exam as the ability to recall and learn new information the next day may drop up to 40%. In addition, I would recommend not over-cramping information into the brain in a single day as it would cause you an overload of information leading to ineffective memory work.
However, I do understand that a student’s day can get pretty active and it calls for a need to have power naps in between the day. My personal recommendation would be to take daily power naps of only 15-20 minutes, no less and no more. Any less would be insufficient and any more will allow your body to fall into a deeper sleep, causing higher level of fatigue after waking up. After a power nap, your brain would be freshened up and help you memorise your work better!
All in all, a healthy mind and body coupled with good studying habits will simplify the arduous task of memory work! Now that you have been equipped with these useful tips, you do not have to dread memory work anymore!