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How to improve your memory for studying: Tips & Techniques for students

Is it really possible to improve your memory? If you’ve ever found yourself forgetting where you left your keys or blanking out information on important tests then you have probably wished that your memory was a bit better. Fortunately, there are plenty of things that you can do to help improve your memory.

For students, there is all the important information that you need to actually cement into your “long-term memory”? It will take some effort and even involve tweaking or dramatically changing your normal study routine, but there are a number of strategies you can utilize to get more out of your memory.

“We’ve externalized our memories with phones and computers. We write everything down, so we aren’t used to making stories and remembering things. Memory takes a little effort at first.”

Despite all the stimulation surrounding them, people have greater memory capability than they think, said Robert Bjork, a psychology professor at UCLA who specializes in memory and learning. They just have to work to access it. He said people do things to limit their memory retrieval and working power every day, such as looking something up online instead of trying to remember.

Before your next big exam, be sure to check out some of these tried and tested techniques for improving memory. These research-proven strategies can effectively improve memory, enhance recall, and increase retention of information.

1. Focus Your Attention

Attention is one of the major components of memory. In order for information to move from your short-term memory into your long-term memory, you need to actively attend to this information. Try to study in a place free of distractions such as television, music, and other diversions.

Getting rid of distractions might be a challenge, especially if you are surrounded by boisterous roommates or noisy children.

Set aside a short period of time to be alone.

Ask your roommates to give you some space or ask your partner to take the kids for an hour so you can focus on your work.

2. Avoid Cramming

Studying materials over a number of sessions gives you the time you need to adequately process information. Research has continuously shown that students who study regularly remember the material far better than those who do all of their studying in one marathon session.

3. Structure and Organize

Researchers have found that information is organized in memory in related clusters. You can take advantage of this by structuring and organizing the materials you’re studying. Try grouping similar concepts and terms together, or make an outline of your notes and textbook readings to help group related concepts.

4. Utilize Mnemonic Devices

Mnemonic devices are a technique often used by students to aid in recall. A mnemonic is simply a way to remember information. For example, you might associate a term you need to remember with a common item that you are very familiar with. The best mnemonics are those that utilize positive imagery, humor, or novelty.

Come up with a rhyme, song, or joke to help remember a specific segment of information.

5. Use Method of Loci

You, too, can train your brain to become a memory athlete—one of those prodigious memorizers who compete to remember the longest sequence of playing cards, or put the most names to faces in the least amount of time. To perform such cognitive feats, memory athletes rely on an ancient mnemonic strategy called method of loci (Latin for places) or memory palace, the term Joshua Foer used in his popular book on memory champions, Moonwalking with Einstein.

A study published in Neuron compares, for the first time, the brains of memory athletes to those of regular folks given six weeks of training in the method of loci system. The non-athletes not only achieved similar feats of memory, but they also exhibited the same brain changes seen in the memory athletes with much stronger functional connectivity across relevant networks.

Before and after training, the controls were given 72 words to memorize. The method of loci group more than doubled the number of words they remembered—from a mean of around 30, they increased by an average of 35 words. Many got all or close to 72 words. And the pattern of functional connectivity in their brains changed to look more like the memory athletes as well. Networks handling visuospatial and memory processing bulked up and were more tightly linked. The other two control groups didn’t see a significant change in either their memories or their brains. Even four months later, the loci group showed improved recall, while the others did not.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-waves/201703/how-train-your-brain-memory-champion

6. Elaborate and Rehearse

In order to recall information, you need to encode what you are studying into long-term memory. One of the most effective encoding techniques is known as “elaborative rehearsal”.

An example of this technique would be to read the definition of a key term, study the definition of that term, and then read a more detailed description of what that term means. After repeating this process a few times, you’ll probably notice that recalling the information is much easier.

7. Visualize Concepts

Many people benefit greatly from visualizing the information they study. Pay attention to the photographs, charts, and other graphics in your textbooks. If you don’t have visual cues to help, try creating your own. Draw charts or figures in the margins of your notes or use highlighters or pens in different colors to group related ideas in your written study materials.

Sometimes even just making flashcards of various terms you need to remember can help cement information in your mind.

Information from the textbook is best memorized if students build notions and representations about it in their head. For example, if we have a lesson on historical figures, the student may make a play about them, visit a museum, or research places where certain historical events took place.

8. Relate New Information to Things You Already Know

When you’re studying unfamiliar material, take the time to think about how this information relates to what you already know. By establishing relationships between new ideas and previously existing memories, you can dramatically increase the likelihood of recalling the recently learned information.

9. Read Out Loud

Research published in 2017 suggests that reading materials out loud significantly improves your memory of the material.3? Educators and psychologists have also discovered that having students actually teach new concepts to others enhances understanding and recall.

Use this approach in your own studies by teaching new concepts and information to a friend or study partner.

10. Pay Extra Attention to Difficult Information

Have you ever noticed how it’s sometimes easier to remember information at the beginning or end of a chapter? Researchers have found that the order of information can play a role in recall, which is known as the serial position effect.

While recalling middle information can be difficult, you can overcome this problem by spending extra time rehearsing this information. Another strategy is to try restructuring what you have learned so it will be easier to remember. When you come across an especially difficult concept, devote some extra time to memorizing the information.

11. Vary Your Study Routine

Another great way to increase your recall is to occasionally change your study routine. If you’re accustomed to studying in one specific location, try moving to a different spot during your next study session. If you study in the evening, try spending a few minutes each morning reviewing the information you studied the previous night.

By adding an element of novelty to your study sessions, you can increase the effectiveness of your efforts and significantly improve your long-term recall.

12. Get Healthy diet for brain

Simply put, the human body is like a machine, and the brain is one of its most complex mechanisms. So, in order to function properly, the body and the brain need fuel, in this case quality food, which means food rich in nutrients that maintain stable energy levels, improve concentration and provide all the necessary elements. Students should eat enough green vegetables, fruit, good fats, fish, meat, Olive oil, coconut oil, Cacao, Nuts, Fermented foods, Eggs.

-Fats

Research suggests that we should consume more “good” fats, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids, than “bad” fats like saturated and trans fats. Saturated and trans fats have been found to have a negative effect on memory, whilst increasing LDL cholesterol, which can cause plaque to form in the brain. This plaque is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In contrast, “good fats” are linked to improved memory and cognition, as well as the prevention of disorders such as depression and dementia.

-Proteins

Eating protein boosts the amino acid tyrosine in the brain, which leads to the production of norepinephrine and dopamine. These chemicals boost the brain’s alertness and energy. The brain cannot store amino acids – it needs us to consume protein in order to create them.

-Minerals

Your brain also relies on a range of minerals – like calcium, magnesium and sodium – in order to work effectively. Minerals perform a range of functions, such as maintaining nerve cells and fueling brain cells.

-Vitamins

Vitamins are essential for proper brain functioning. There are many different kinds of vitamins we need to consume, which is why eating a varied diet is so important. B vitamins can improve nerve functioning and help convert tryptophan into other neurotransmitters, which in turn improves mood and sleep. Vitamins C and E are believed to preserve cognitive functioning over time and help ward off dementia.

13. Get Some Sleep

Researchers have long known that sleep is important for memory and learning. Research has shown that taking a nap after you learn something new can actually help you learn faster and remember better.

In fact, one study published in 2014 found that sleeping after learning something new actually leads to physical changes in the brain. Sleep-deprived mice experienced less dendritic growth following a learning task than well-rested mice.

One study showed that people who slept for 8 hours after learning memorized things better than those who did not sleep at all. Simply put, sleep resets our brain in a manner of speaking, allowing it to rest and preventing brain cells from becoming overloaded.

Although many view afternoon naps as shirking one’s duties and procrastination, they actually significantly affect memory: a study showed that sleeping 45 to 60 minutes after learning something new strengthens memory up to five times. So, if they are practiced correctly and in moderation, daily naps can be used to improve learning.

14. Physical activity

Good exercise, especially outdoors, such as running or playing different sports, greatly improves the brain’s memory capacity. In order for our brain to work properly it needs oxygen, physical exercise increases our oxygen supply and blood flow to the brain.

The results of a 2017 study suggest that aerobic exercise can improve memory function in people with early Alzheimer’s disease.

15. Do brain training

In a similar way to muscles, the brain needs regular use to stay healthy. Mental workouts are just as essential to gray matter as other factors, and challenging the mind can help it grow and expand, which may improve memory.

A large trial from the journal PLoS One found that people who did just 15 minutes of brain training activities at least 5 days a week had improvements in brain function.

The participants’ working memory, short term memory, and problem solving skills all significantly improved when researchers compared them to a control group doing crossword puzzles.

The researchers used brain training activities from the website Lumosity. The challenges work on a person’s ability to recall details and quickly memorize patterns.

For kids- There are lots of matching games that can help kids work on visual memory, like the classic game Concentration (or Memory) (https://www.understood.org/en/articles/8-great-board-games-to-help-preschoolers-build-different-skills ). You can also do things like give kids a magazine page and ask them to circle all instances of the word the or the letter a. License plates can also be a lot of fun. Take turns reciting the letters and numbers on a license plate and then saying them backwards, too.

Some brain tricks work too. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/26/mental-athlete-memory-training/6904395/)

16. Meditate

Mindfulness meditation may help improve memory. The authors of a 2018 research paper (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6312586/ ) note that many studies show meditation improves brain function, reduces markers of brain degeneration, and improves both working memory and long term memory.

The researchers observed the brains of people who regularly practiced meditation and those who did not.

Their results indicated that making a habit of meditating may cause long term changes in the brain, including increasing brain plasticity, which helps keep it healthy.

17. Reduce sugar intake

Sugary foods can taste delicious and feel rewarding at first, but they may play a role in memory loss. Research from 2017  in animal models noted that a diet high in sugary drinks has a link to Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers also found that drinking too many sugary drinks, including fruit juice, may have a connection a lower total brain volume, which is an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Avoiding extra sugar may help combat this risk. While naturally sweet foods, such as fruits, are a good addition to a healthful diet, people can avoid drinks sweetened with sugar and foods with added, processed sugars.

18. Increase caffeine intake

Caffeine from sources such as coffee or green tea may be helpful for the memory.

The authors of a 2014 study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5909971/ ) found that consuming caffeine after a memory test boosted how well participants’ brain stored memories long term.

People who took 200 milligrams of caffeine scored better on recall tests after 24 hours than people who did not take caffeine.

Caffeine may also boost memory in the short term. A study in “Frontiers in Psychology” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5107567/) found that young adults who took caffeine in the morning had improved short term memory.

This insight might be useful for individuals who have to take tests or recall information during a time of day when they may otherwise be tired.

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