We all rely on memory and the ability to recall memories every day. Academic study places extraordinary emphasis on memory recall. Here are five simple steps to improve your memory recall as you study.
- Break information into smaller chunks
A lot of what we read and hear in academic contexts is complex and potentially confusing, even overwhelming. A good way to make sense of a complex idea or process is to break it down into meaningful and manageable bits. This also assists in memorizing the information, just as credit card numbers and telephone numbers often come with hyphens or spaces to break down the full information into more memorable segments.
- Know your key concepts
While reading an academic book, or listening to a lecture, try to identify the main points and develop an outline of key concepts or stages in the argument being presented. Structured notetaking and analysis of new information helps clarify the key concepts and embed them in your short-term memory, ready for long-term deposit.
- Read aloud to yourself
Reading a draft essay or research paper aloud, or hearing a friend read it back to you, often helps identify errors and omissions. Reading books, articles and lecture notes aloud also aids memorization and recall. It’s how many actors learn their lines.
- Set realistic learning goals
Goal setting is an important aspect of planning and organising, but if you are too ambitious or optimistic you will end up with unrealistic goals and won’t complete what you set out to achieve. Set realistic goals, and divide these into a series of smaller tasks – such as reading a set number of pages, writing a certain number of words, or conducting a set number of hours of research. As you complete each task, you’ll gain a sense of achievement and be inspired to knock off the next task. And your concentration and memory recall will also likely improve.
- Review your learning before sleep
At the end of the day, before going to sleep, briefly review what you have learned through the day. Avoid rewarding yourself with hours of Netflix or social media browsing after a day of study. Reviewing your learning just before sleep helps your brain processes information stored in short-term memory and organise it for long-term access while you sleep.
Rod Benson is a PhD student at the University of Divinity, Melbourne, and Research Support Officer at Moore Theological College, Sydney.
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