How to Remember Everything

Encyclopedic Brain

To succeed in your studies and your reviews, one must reread and check the same course and the same lesson several times. This is the basic rule that is essential to all, whatever your form of learning is. You probably already know that it is advisable to repeat a course or a lesson one extra time during the day or the evening. Why? Because the memories of what you have heard are still all fresh: they are available in your short-term memory, and they only have to be refreshed one more time to make them move into the long-term memory. If you do not do it and learn your course only some days or weeks later (like on the eve of a test or an exam), you will most definitely forget it all. Thus, you may need to make more effort to get ready for the event, making the preparations much more difficult. Here are some tips for you to help with this sort of situations.

Start from the Basis of Your Courses

You can now find so many resources and courses on paper, video or audio all over the Internet that you may be tempted to put your poorly made notes directly into the trash can (in any case, the paper is recycled, right?). This would be a big mistake because most of the time, your courses and/or books have already been used as the learning materials during the year. Your memory has already fed on these basic terms. But the memory of it is all the more effective because it can connect new information to what we already have. So, even if your course is imperfect, it has already allowed you to forge some new memories. This is why we must start again from those often familiar notes that are the backbone of your memory. Revisiting them quickly returns you to the top of things such as the plan, the memories of anecdotes given by the teacher, the duties associated with them, and so on.

Enrich Your Arsenal with Other Resources (Videos and Prints)

Now, you have to look into the subject to find out even more useful information. You must complete and enrich your course and expertise. Quite often, you already have to get the courses you missed or were badly rated on. Start by asking for the notes from your classmates or other students in the same institution, and then eventually go online to a course sharing site. Then, even if your course is complete, it is necessary to enrich it: find documents, new exercises, maps, cards that allow you either to illustrate a course too abstract or to better understand certain passages.

Maps, Diagrams: Make Your Kitchen to Be the One You Will Like

Stickers Will Help

You now have a complete and attractive revision material, you have to move on to learning (normally relearning) to engulf all of this, sorting all those things you now have in your mind. This is the first of the three stages of memorization: encoding, which then allows the storage and retrieval of knowledge. Encoding means creating a mental representation of your knowledge. And the more personalized the encoding is, the more student-specific the indices, the better the memorization. Do not hesitate to reformulate your courses in your own way.  In the same way, the richer and diverse the encoding, the more deeply the memory trace will be left in the brain. As such, your visual memory will be more robust if it is taken up by the written text, if it is illustrated by a narrative, movement, etc.

Repeat By Splitting Into Sessions and Doses

To anchor knowledge in memory and to store it, it is necessary to repeat them, to review several times to counter the ignorance. But beware of indigestion! It is important to break down or distribute the learning episodes while taking into account our ability to focus. It is better to propose several revision episodes that will last for about 20 minutes and that are going to be spread over several days rather than spend a lot of time in one or two days. As with the meals, it is necessary to provide for light and balanced revision sessions. Indeed, attention and memorization consume a lot of energy and after a certain time of revision, it is better to take a break or move on to another type of exercise than to barely work without any efficiency.

Be Active, Do Not Be Afraid!

“Just Do It!”

Encode, store and retrieve! In other words, make sure you are able to restore what you are trying to learn. To reread these lessons is not enough, you have to control your learning, see if it comes back to you at some point or another. Thus, you gradually spot what you already know well, and what still remains to be learned, you refine the work. This involves being active and honest with oneself. Do not tell yourself that you have spent a lot of time just attending your courses, expecting things to just progress naturally. Avoid repeating your mistakes: always review the same things (the easiest, those you know well) just to be sure you know all material equally well. Making small mistakes causes you to waste your precious time and does not help you progress.

To Learn, One Has to Mentally Imagine What One Discovers

But how can you learn? It is not enough to just read or even learn by heart. Some students complain that they spend hours reading their notes without anything good actually happening. Others learn formulas and theorems, but  even then it is not enough to master the course and succeed in passing it successfully either. What is missing in both cases is evocation. In order to truly learn something, it is necessary to evoke it mentally, that is to say to represent to oneself what one is learning: the notion of mathematics or physics, the historical event with its characters, the heroes of a literary work, a principle of management, accounting, mechanics, a gesture to be accomplished in PT, a notion of law, etc. It is necessary to appropriate what one is learning little by little, just like a person consumes and digests some food: the data that has to be learned is like food that must be accommodated in your own way to be properly chewed, remedied, swallowed and digested. Only after that you will be able to understand and memorize everything.

Different Strategies for Evoking and Retaining Knowledge

In order to find out what strategy you have, you should reread your course slowly. Stop after each paragraph. Hide your notes or your book, and think back to what you have just read. In what form do you see things, what is your way of recalling it? For some, these are some images that represent the subject which is being studied: a picture seen in the book, a diagram, a mathematical formula. It can be a simple visual plane of the page that has just been read with the architecture of the course, the writing of certain words or images representing places or people not directly mentioned in the course but about which the subject makes us think… Perhaps, what you end up recalling is the teacher’s voice, some random sound, a music track, an account of a story, an anecdote quoted during the course. This time, the evocation is auditory. And if some people need to move, to mimic, to walk up and down to memorize something: it is a rather kinesthetic approach. They cannot concentrate in any other way, and the movement allows them to provoke their emotions.

How to Use Your Mental Strategy?

If you have identified how you are working, you must first reinforce your natural strategy to use it even better. For example, you feel that you are using more visual types of memorization. Use all the methods that will build on this: pay particular attention to the presentation of your notes, underline, highlight the chapter headings and paragraphs, so as to highlight the plan and the important elements. You can make and use some sheets of paper that capture the essential data of each chapter, making sure that they are clear and well structured. Similarly, for the materials that are suitable, make use of some diagrams and tables. Do not just keep some vague visual memory, but improve the accuracy of your evocations. Use visual mnemonics as a priority. When reading a difficult or new passage, always have a pencil in hand. Try to note what you want to remember, underline some new words, draw a drawing. Then, transfer that into a large table with arrows.

Complete Your Studies with Other Methods, Adapt to Different Materials

Obviously, if one has to start by using his or her dominant functioning, it is not enough: a visual type of memory must be supplemented by the learning of words, expressions. One must know how to say and explain verbally what one sees. Especially if he or she needs to be questioned orally, or if the subject requires a literary mode of expression: in languages, letters, human sciences and in all the subjects in which you must express yourself in words, visual evocations are not enough. Even in scientific disciplines, try to find the words to explain the reasoning steps, pay attention to the logical connectors (words like «therefore», «or», «we can infer that») and write them down in your cards. Do not be content with the patterns and formulas with which you are comfortable in a spontaneous manner: you will always be asked to write down your homework and exams. Similarly, an auditory memorization can begin by reciting or telling the lesson in your own words, but you must complete this first step by studying the diagrams, illustrations, notes by writing difficult words, mathematical formulas (to understand them, have it explained in words). You can use the Internet and multimedia to find background maps, diagrams, movies, etc. This is particularly true for more scientific disciplines, or geographic, management and accounting.

Recover and Sleep

It is necessary to preserve the good quality of sleep in general, but even more during the revisions. At night, our brain revisits the episodes of learning to consolidate them in an efficient way in our memory. Sleep plays a role in the process of memorization. However, one cannot say «I am learning while I am sleeping» because of course, learning occurs during the periods of awakening. And yet, sleep consolidates memories as it participates in the anchoring of knowledge into the long-term memory. Which is why sleeping is not a waste time! In addition to that, sleep allows the evacuation of toxins that develop during the day and slow down the work of the neurons. After sleeping well, we feel much better: our attention abilities are renewed, we are able to keep more information in our minds, etc. This is what we call a working memory, and it is essential for learning.

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