“Oh no! I forgot.” This statement, a staple in my life and many other stressed out high school student’s, stems from the issues with the most powerful organ in our bodies: our brain. Memory is an interesting thing; it can be altered or even disappear as a defense mechanism. It is helpful while remembering good things but also hurtful while remembering things you don’t want to remember. All in all, it is needed throughout schooling and everyone can be helpful by improving their memory. So how do we accomplish this?
There are two types of memory: short-term and long-term. Throughout this article, I will focus on short-term memory because it is more applicable for most students. Across the internet, you will find many ways to improve your body and therefore increase your memory (exercise, meditate, etc). Here I have compiled a list of techniques to use in the short-term to improve your short-term memory -
1) Focus + Be attentive
This first technique is a bit self-explanatory but it is especially important while trying to put things into your brain. Our brains have a tendency to wander and this can hinder our ability to memorize anything at all. This can also apply to life when someone asks you to do something and your mind is in a completely different place. Being aware of what’s happening around you is helpful in general and is only a positive thing when it comes to memory.
2) Acronyms + Mnemonics
ROYGBIV, PEMDAS, and PMAT are all examples of acronyms that are drilled into our heads as school progresses. And for good reason too, I am not ever forgetting the order of operations! Acronyms are usually only used when the word that is formed from the first letter of each of the words is pronounable. If not, we tend to use mnemonics. For example, MVEMJSUNP is My Very Intelligent Mother Just Said You Nine Planets. This is a bit incorrect in that Intelligent has an I instead of an E (for Earth) and Pluto isn’t a planet anymore. However, I can still remember the order of the planets even though the mnemonic isn’t perfect. These require you to get creative and can make memorizing fun.
3) Spaced Repetition (Avoid Cramming)
Cramming is inefficient, ineffective, stressful, and not fun at all. Although sometimes it is necessary, it shouldn’t be the only way one approaches studying for an exam. Our brains need time to sit with the information and the stress of cramming makes it even worse. Studying for 15 minutes for four days is better than one hour for one day. You also have more time to utilize other strategies to memorize the information.
4) Active Recall
Taking practice tests is encouraged while preparing for any exam. Why? So you can practice recalling the information without any help, stimulating what you would see in an exam. Active recall can also be practiced with flashcards (whether those are physical or digital). This strategy is by far my favorite one because it is applicable in any context. Reading a textbook? Practice active recall. Listening to a lecture? Practice active recall. Making mistakes while recalling things is also helpful because you learn and can do better next time.
5) Reading it aloud or teaching the material
For all the auditory learners out there, these techniques are very beneficial while memorizing things. Teaching or simplifying the material can make the material easier for your brain to understand and make the connections necessary to make memorizing easier.
I hope these strategies help you!
Haas Hall Academy