Whether you’re a university student currently studying, or a high school student in the middle of your term, studying and having to remember large contents of information is simply a fact of life. However, when you look into the science behind how our brains remember information, there are a few ways which you can cheat the system and encourage your brain to recall information easier! Check out our tips below!
There’s a difference between gaining knowledge and actually using it. Knowledge has no power unless it’s applied. - Jim Kwik
There is a horrifying statistic which states that if you learn something once, 80% of it is gone after 48 hours. This means that 2 days after every lecture, or subject at school, you’ve most likely already forgetting the content of that learning. No wonder we have so much to stress about during exam season! Because without constant revision and reflection, we’re likely to have forgetting most of our term or semester’s work!
However, for me (at least) it was quite reassuring to know that there is actually a science behind it all. The Curve of Forgetting was developed in 1885 by a guy called Hermann Ebbinghaus. As a result of his experiments, he developed a formula for how long items remain in our memory and therefore how often we should be revising or reviewing what we’ve been taught to prevent ourselves from forgetting this knowledge.
In modern times, because we’re more distracted than ever, our brains attention span is shortening at an alarming rate. Because of the use of devices, ours brains have been overstimulated for years which means that sitting down and studying or reviewing content can often seem like a painfully boring process. However, acknowledging The Curve of Forgetting encourages us to review our content more frequently for a reduced amount of time, preventing the need for long study sessions which merely leave us exhausted or easily distracted. This way, by simply looking over your work more frequently throughout the term or semester, you can reduce the amount of time you spend studying right before the exam enabling you to focus on eating, sleeping and looking after yourself well! No more all-nighters, binge-eating or waking up feeling exhausted!
How it works:
Normal knowledge retention looks a bit like this! You can clearly see how we manage to forgot things pretty quickly!
There are two great ways to help improve this. The first is frequent repetition, like I mentioned earlier. This means that you review the content more frequently, rather than just leaving it to the night before the test. For example, I would recommend looking over your notes from your classes at the end of each day, and again at the end of each week. Ideally, throughout the semester/term you’ll be building on top of each layer of knowledge and understanding how it all links together. However, reviewing your learnings at the end of each month or every 4-5 weeks is great!
Graph Sources: https://qz.com/1213768/the-forgetting-curve-explains-why-humans-struggle-to-memorize/
The second factor which can improve retention is the quality of memory representation. Simply put, this identifies how important the content which we are trying to remember is to us. This is why it’s easier to remember knowledge which you are actually interested in, and why you may struggle more in subjects you find boring or pointless. This is why when studying it’s really important to find the ways which your brain likes to learn and understand information. Identifying your learning style is a really great skill no matter how old you are. You may have noticed that you have a preference to how your teacher or lecturer communicates information with you, this is likely to align with your learning style.
V -- Visual Learners = learn best via images, maps, graphs, etc.
A -- Auditory Learners = learn predominately via listening and talking
R -- Reading and Writing Learners = earn via reading and note taking
K -- Kinesthetic Learners = learn by activity and trying things
To understand your learning style better, check out this quiz which also gives you tips for your learning style at the end.
Also, using real life example which are personal to you is a great way to remember key concepts and situations. The important thing is that you find a way to CONNECT with what you learn and draw connections between the different topics.
For this, I love using mind maps to identify how things link together and I also write on my own examples which I know I am more likely to remember under pressure. Another great idea is to use mnemonics! You may have heard of BEDMAS which is a common way they teach you to remember the order of operations in maths. Each letter in the word BEDMAS represents an operation.
At the bottom of this blog post, I’ve attached a printable to help you fight the curve of forgetting! Simply write the topic or content name you’re aiming to revise on the left hand side of the table and tick off the boxes each time you review your knowledge. The two R boxes at the end of the table are for review just before your exam or test at the end of the semester or term. On the second page of the document, I’ve attached a blank copy which enables you to write in your own timeline for reviewing the topic so it’s completely customisable.
I really hope this information and the attached printable is super useful for your studying! Let me know if you’re planning on using it and feel free to share your thoughts and feedback with me!
From our home to yours,
Hi there! Thanks for checking out the Live Lively blog. I am so excited to share my passion for productivity, personal growth and wellbeing!