How to remember what you study and ensure that you don’t forget a thing?
To be honest, I’m a quick learner. So when I was preparing for my entrance exams, I would study topics really quickly. I have a great reading speed, and I also make sense of things quickly and remember them. Sounds lucky right?
Because the quicker I studied something, the sooner I forgot it.
This is not just my life’s sad story. This fact is corroborated by science. Numerous research studies have discovered that when we study fast and try to rote learn facts and figures, our chances of remembering 100% of these things the next day is really less. In other words, I would study seven chapters in all my excitement, and the next day become devastated that I remembered only 10% of it.
What was I doing wrong? Well, I didn’t know the science of remembering, for one.
How does the brain memorize?
The science of remembering is something really simple actually. Our brain has two types of memories— short term memory and long term memory. Short term memory retains limited data for a limited period of time. Say, 8 units of data at a time. And our long term memory retains an unlimited amount of data for an unlimited amount of time.
Where would you want all your newly studied knowledge to go? Long term memory, right? Well, that’s what we’re talking about!
So when we receive new knowledge from our online classes, lectures, books and notes, this new information is immediately stored in our short term memory. From here, the new knowledge may or may not enter the long term memory. If we study the topic superficially and in a hurry, it is sure to linger in the short term memory for some time. But within a day or two, it will fade away from the short term memory storage. On the other hand, if we want to learn something new and retain that knowledge for a long time, or at least till the exam :P, then we need to study slowly and with full focus to move the information from the short term memory to the long term memory storage.
How can you remember what you study?
- Gather new information carefully and slowly
Your online course is teaching you about the biosphere and you are thinking about the cake mummy is baking at home. Also, he is speaking too slowly, so you increase the video speed to 2X. Before that cake gets ready to eat.
No! When gathering new knowledge, listen/read carefully. Pause the videos and internalise the knowledge slowly.
- Make sense out of new information
Biosphere is made of two components— biotic and abiotic. If the park outside your colony is a biosphere, what is biotic in it? And what is abiotic?
- Try to process the information in your head further.
Would the grass be biotic or abiotic? What about the stones? And what about the air in the park?
- Connect the new knowledge with previous knowledge.
Why is the ‘biotic’ term called so? Well, the biology we study is the science of living things. So biotic may mean living. And the opposite of certain words start with the prefix a-, so abiotic would mean non-living things. Eureka!
- Revise whatever you learn
Make sure that you don’t leave a certain topic at the eureka moment only. Your parents aren’t nagging you when they ask you “Is your revision done?” right before the exam. Trust us, they just know the art of remembering.
Summary of steps to remember what you study
I think the art of remembering must be a little clearer for you now. Let me finish this writeup by summarizing the points we’ve discussed:
- The quicker you learn, the sooner you forget.
- New knowledge is gathered from external sources and stored temporarily in short term memory. Our goal is to move it to long term memory before it fades away.
- To do that, we need to firstly make sure we process new knowledge well, by listening/watching/reading with full attention.
- Make sense out of the new knowledge
- Try to process the information in your head. Connect it to things to already know.
- Revise whatever you learn.
I think you are pretty clear about how to retain new knowledge now. Are you?
This is just half the journey. By doing the steps above, you have just moved your knowledge into long term memory storage. Find out how to retain it there for eternity with our article on revision tips.
But before you do that, make sure you practice and master the steps given above!