Are you tired of those frustrating moments when you sit down to study, but your memory seems to have taken a coffee break? You’re not alone!
Whether you’re a student preparing for exams or simply trying to improve your ability to retain and recall any important information, I’ve got some superb news for you.
Improving your memory for studying doesn’t have to be a hollow dream. It is a skill you can develop and refine by following some strategies like spaced repetition, teaching others, self-quizzing, and so on.
Curious to know more, right?
Then, grab your study materials and let me share all the tested techniques, strategies, and many more to help you unlock the full potential of your memory.
Before learning about memory boosting methods, you need to understand what memory is and how it works.
Memory is a complex process of gaining, storing, retaining, and recovering information, involving manifold stages.
There are three main stages associated with memory. Each stage contributes to your ability to retain and retrieve information. Understanding these stages is essential to improve your memory for studying. Here are the stages—
Whenever you encounter information, the encoding occurs. It involves converting sensory inputs into a form that ultimately gets stored in memory.
Effective encoding is the base of the memory, and it’s influenced by factors like attention, relevance, and organization.
Through encoding, different information gets organized into a systematic array, which starts by giving attention to a particular matter. Later on, it gets stored in the memory as short or long-term memory.
Once information is encoded, it is stored in our memory system. But what does storage really do? Storage plays a vital role by creating a fixed record of the encoded information.
However, our memory system is divided into three main types—
This type of memory lasts no longer than three to four seconds. It is stored as long as our five senses (hearing, seeing, touch, smell, and taste) are getting stimulated by something.
There are three types of sensory memory, and they are Iconic (vision-associated), Echoic (sound and hearing-associated) and Haptic (touch-associated).
In Freudian psychology, short-term memory is described as the conscious mind. It is also known as active memory, which typically lasts between 18 to 30 seconds.
Long-term memory can last for days, weeks, months, years, and even for decades.
It is also called the preconscious and unconscious in Freudian psychology, which remains mostly out of our consciousness but can be recalled when required.
Sensory memory briefly retains information from our senses, short-term memory holds it temporarily and long-term memory is for more permanent storage.
The final phase is retrieval, where you access and bring stored information back into your conscious awareness. To be more specific, it’s a process of accessing your stored memories.
This phase helps you recall facts, solve problems, and apply knowledge in various situations.
How to Remember What You Study?
Studying effectively involves understanding the material and retaining it in your memory for future use. Here are some effective strategies that can assist you in remembering whatever you study—
1. Use Mental Associations
Using mental associations is an efficient way to improve your memory capacity. By creating solid connections between new info and what you already know, you can significantly improve your ability to remember and retrieve when needed.
Here’s how you can harness the power of mental associations to enhance your memory—
Keyword mnemonics is a powerful aid to improve your memory. You can create keywords or acronyms that represent a series of concepts according to your choice.
For example, to remember the orders of the planets of the sun, you can use the keyword “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles” (M, V, E, M, J, S, U, N).
Another example can be “PEMDAS”. It is a mnemonic for the order of operations in mathematics (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction).
In cognitive psychology, chunking is dividing a large information group into small and manageable sizes that ultimately generate a meaningful whole in the memory.
You see, smaller keywords or information are easier to remember. Chunking helps our brain to process and remember info and details more effectively.
For instance, think about a phone number. It is hard when you try to memorize it wholly at a time. But breaking a string of ten-digit phone numbers into three chunks (e.g., 123-456-7890) makes it easier to remember.
Have you ever noticed a song or rhyme is easier to memorize than straightforward information or facts? I bet you do.
Just like that, crafting rhymes or songs to remember a list of items can make the information more memorable for you.
For example, think of “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November” to recall the number of days in each month.
Memorization and learning become more effective when visualizing concept maps, illustrations, photos, and graphs. These things also make the information simple to understand and recall.
It is not only a great memory improvement technique but also a great method to boost your spatial memory.
So, try to create an image or concept map regarding the material you are studying in your own way. This will help you to make information more permanent in your memories.
Method of Loci or Memory Places
The method of loci is also known as memory places, memory journey, journey method, or mind place technique, a memory enhancement strategy that leverages spatial memory to remember lists of items or information.
Basically, you mentally associate each piece of information with a specific location in a familiar space, such as your home.
When you need to recall the information, you mentally navigate the memory places. This ancient method is very effective for retaining ordered and structured data.
For example, suppose you have a shopping list that includes apples, bread, milk, eggs, and oranges. Now, to remember this list, imagine your home. First, envision a giant apple blocking your front door.
Then, when you enter your living room, picture a huge loaf of bread on the coffee table.
Imagine your milk is spilling from the fridge and eggs are overflowing from the fridge to the counter.
Finally, visualize your dining room table as covered in rolling oranges.
Thus, when you’re at the store, mentally walk through your home to recall the items on your list.
2. Retrieval Practice
Retrieval practice is a process of recalling facts, definitions, concepts, or events from your unconscious mind or memory.
You should be doing this practice in short bursts and giving spaces between a single long session. This is because whenever you give space between sessions, you will forget some of the learning materials.
And to recall it, your brain has to struggle for a bit. This will increase your long-term memory retention and learning while helping you hold that information in your memory and strengthen your brain function.
3. Spread Your Study Sessions
Spreading your study sessions over time rather than cramming is more effective when it comes to remembering something. This process is called the “spacing effect.”
The spacing effect shows that information is retained better when revisited at intervals. So, you should create a study schedule, including regular review sessions, to improve your memorization power.
4. Teach others
Teaching someone else is a potent method for reinforcing your memory.
Look, when you explain a complex topic to a friend, family, group member or even an imaginary audience, you are recalling the concepts and breaking them down to make them more understandable.
What it does is this whole process helps you to internalize and remember the information and concept better rather than regular reviewing.
For instance, let’s suppose you are learning about photosynthesis.
Now, when you explain it to a friend step by step, you not only help them but also solidify your own knowledge by explaining concepts like sunlight, chlorophyll, and glucose production.
5. Quiz Yourself
Instead of passively reviewing your notes or studies, actively quiz yourself on the topic. This activity forces your brain to recall information and strengthens your memory.
In this case, flashcards, practice questions and self-testing are very effective tools, which I will talk about later in this article.
However, to make it more understandable, imagine you are studying vocabulary words in a foreign language, creating a flashcard with the words on one side and the translation on the other side.
Now, attempt to recall the translation before flipping the card.
This self-quizzing, or self-testing process, forces your brain to retrieve information from your memory and improves or strengthens neural pathways, ultimately improving overall memory.
6. Quick writing
Taking concise notes while reading or listening to lectures is very effective in terms of remembering your study lessons.
Writing key points of any facts or concepts in your own words helps you process and retain the material easily. Plus, you can summarize ideas on your own, which will enhance your comprehension.
7. Cross Check Answers
Whenever you study your notes or lessons, don’t just read through; rather actively engage with the content.
Work on different problems and cross-check your answers while studying. Why is that? Because it reinforces your retention and understanding of the subject matter.
Regularly review previously learned material. Here, you can apply the “spaced repetition” technique.
What is spaced repetition?
It’s a process of revisiting information at increasing intervals to ensure it’s stored in long-term memory. This technique can help you retain any information, whether it’s about science or commerce, for a really long time.
9. Physical Exercise
Spontaneous blood flow to the brain cells helps with retention.
According to a comprehensive analysis by Roig et al. in 2013, acute exercise can improve your short-term memory by approximately 48% and long-term memory by about 58%.
But how does it improve your brain function?
Exercise increases your molecular targets, such as the Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). This factor helps to increase synaptogenesis, which is the process of forming new synapses.
It increases the power of your brain to absorb more info and form long-lasting memories. More BDNF means more improved brain function and memory. So, besides your study, let’s not forget about doing regular exercises.
For example, after a jogging session, take a moment to review and memorize important information. Trust me, you’ll likely find it easier to remember after exercise due to increased brain function.
10. Get Enough Sleep
Adequate and restorative sleep is vital for memory consolidation. During deep sleep, your brain processes and stores information learned during the day.
Scientists have found that periods of sleep improve the power of recalling and memory retention by between 20% to 40%.
Moreover, slow wave sleep or non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, also known as phase 3 sleep, is monumental for improving recall and retention.
So, you better prioritize your sleeping schedule to optimize your memory. Get 7 to 8 hours daily.
Practical Tips and Habits
Effective memory improvement is not solely about memorization techniques; it also involves building good habits and managing your [precious time wisely to optimize your study efforts.
Here are some practical tips and habits that will help you increase your retention power—
Setting Study Goals
Our mind works better when we give it a purpose to do something. Establishing clear, specific and achievable study goals for each session can improve your focus and retention.
You must identify high-priority tasks and tackle them first. Thus, you save time and energy and let your brain focus on a more significant topic that you might remember for a long time.
Creating a Study Schedule
Develop a consistent study schedule, including designated times for learning, review, and breaks. Remember, a well-structured routine helps your brain adapt to a study pattern and remember things more efficiently.
Reflect on Your Progress
After study sessions or assignments, take a moment to reflect on what you have learned, what you found challenging, and how you can improve. This whole process assists you in reinforcing your memories.
Giving yourself feedback is a fantastic way to improve your retention capability.
You can provide yourself with constructive feedback. Then, Identify what your strengths and weaknesses are. And use this information to tailor your study strategies.
Incorporate mindfulness and medication to reduce stress and improve focus because studies have shown that stress hormones weaken your long-term memory.
According to Dr. Kerry Ressler, “Your brain is not just a single unit, but a group of different parts that perform different tasks.”
It means if one part is busy handling stress or other tasks, the others may not have much energy to focus on another task, like memorizing things.
That’s why you should try to keep your stress level minimal while studying your lessons.
Memory Enhancement Tools
Memory enhancement tools are resources, technologies, or aids that can help you improve your memory and cognitive abilities.
Aside from the memory improvement strategies, these tools can support your learning, studying, and information retention. Here are some common memory enhancement tools—
Mind mapping is a visual technique to create diagrams or charts that represent info hierarchically and interconnectedly.
You can use specialized software like MindMeister or XMind to create and edit digital mind maps while organizing ideas, concepts and relationships into a more digestible and memorable form.
Flash cards are special cards with information like fast facts, vocabulary, words, dates, quotes and much more on both sides. It is a memorization aid that consists of answers on one side and questions on the other side.
Flashcards are one of the basic tools used during self-testing or quizzing. And self -testing is an amazing strategy to improve your memory for studying.
How? I have already mentioned it in the “Quiz Yourself” section above.
However, flashcards are available in both physical and digital form. You can use digital applications like AnKi, Quizlet, or Cram to create a flashcard for learning and memorizing your desired information.
Notebooks and Planners
Physical or digital notebooks and planners are valuable for organizing information, setting reminders, and managing tasks and appointments. The more organized your information and task are, the more your brain tends to remember it.
Digital Memory Apps
Various mobile and computer applications, such as Cogmed, StudyBlue, memoryOS, etc, are designed to improve memory.
These apps can include features like note-taking, flashcards, quizzes, study guides, task management, and reminder systems.
You can use specialized software and apps like Khan Academy, Quizlet, Evernote, edX, Newsela, DragonBox, and Duolingo to aid memory and cognitive skills. These include brain-training games and exercises.
Collaborative learning with your mates can help reinforce memory through discussions, teaching others, and sharing diverse perspectives on a topic.
Simply put, when you study in a group, you have opportunities like discussing, debating on manifold topics and receiving valuable feedback.
Such an interaction with other members stimulates different parts of your brain and reinforces your memory through active recall.
Tutors and Mentors
Personalized instruction from your tutors or mentors can provide guidance and feedback that ultimately enhances your memory and comprehension.
Tutors or mentors, whether in a one-on-one setting or as part of a small group, can help you with your learning style and pace by tailoring your teaching.
This personalized attention ensures that the topics are not only understood but remembered.
Educational Games and Memory Exercises
There are various games and exercises which is designed to improve memory, concentration, and cognitive function.
These include games and brain-training apps like Escape Room-Mystery World, Word Research Puzzle, Flow Free, How to Loot- Pull the Pin, number games, Chest, Brain Dot, and so on.
Spaced Repetition Tools
Spaced repetition software like Anki automatically schedules the review of flashcards and other content at optimal intervals to facilitate long-term retention.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
These technologies can provide immersive learning experiences and improve your memory retention by engaging multiple senses, such as sight and sound.
For example, rather than just reading the lectures, if you see, hear, and interact with the content through VR, it will create a richer memory, and it will be remembered for a longer period of time. Because you never forget what you experience.
Here are some case studies of real-life students who improved their memory through various techniques and the outcomes they achieved—
Case Study 1: Stress Reduction & Better Sleep Resulting Improved Cognitive Performance
Alex is a graduate student who often struggles with memory issues because of his high stress and anxiety. So, he started using different techniques to reduce his stress and improve sleep quality. After a couple of weeks, he saw surprising results.
Let’s see what techniques helped him throughout his journey –
Techniques Used for Stress Management & Sleep Hygiene
- Stress Management: Alex started practicing stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and regular physical activity to reduce his stress level to a certain point.
- Sleep Hygiene: He improved his sleep quality by establishing a consistent sleep schedule.
- Outcomes: As he experienced reduced stress and anxiety, his memory and cognitive performance improved. He can concentrate better during his studies now, which leads him to a better academic result.
Case Study 2: Using Visual Learning and Spaced Repetition
Mark, a college student, was worried about retaining info from his lectures and textbook. Moreover, he was not good with historical dates and facts. Therefore, he took the help of memory enhancement tools to improve his retention power.
After a certain time, he started to get higher scores in his history courses.
Here is a comprehensive view of his memory improvement process—
- Mind Mapping: Mark began to create a mind map for each subject and used color and visual associations to organize complex tropics.
- Flash Cards: To reinforce his memory, he created digital flashcards with visual cues and questions on one side and wrote down answers on the other side.
- Spaced Repetition: Mark used the space repetition technique with interval increasing and actively recalled information from memory.
- Outcomes: His exam scores significantly increased. Plus, He found it easier to remember and understand subjects like biology and anatomy. His retention of historical dates and facts improved, and he could remember them for a long time without restudying it.
Final Thoughts on Ways to Increase Memory Power in Students
And there you have it! Boosting your memory for studying is all about finding the right mixture of strategies and tools that work best for you the best. As I have provided all the necessary tips and tricks, it’s your time to shine.
Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for your memory problems. So, you have to experiment with different techniques and identify what is most effective for you.
I strongly believe with all these strategies and tools in your backpack or toolkit; you will be well on your way to improving your memory.
- Perelman School of Medicine. “Impact of Sleep on Memory” https://www.med.upenn.edu/csi/the-impact-of-sleep-on-learning-and-memory.html
- College of Life Science. “How Exercise Affects Brain” https://lifesciences.byu.edu/how-exercise-affects-your-brain
- University of ST. Augustine. “Science-backed Memory Tips” https://www.usa.edu/blog/science-backed-memory-tips/
- Harvard Health Publishing. “Impact of Stress on Memory” https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/protect-your-brain-from-stress