Not everyone can boast a good memory. Some students find it very hard to retain material. However, to have a good memory is an excellent tool for recalling essential facts and figures while at college. It can often make the difference between success or failure, a high grade or a lower one, though it does depend on individual technique for maximising memory efficiency because great memorization techniques do not just happen. They actually have to be worked on every single day beginning with your diet.
Tip 1 – Easy on the alcohol, smoking and junk food
Before you start to memorize anything, you need to prepare yourself and your memory for the task ahead. What you eat and drink every day can boost or hinder your memorization capacity. For example, some vitamins like tiamin, folic acid and B12 (found in bread, cereal fruits and vegetables) are essential for the working of the memory. If you do not have enough of them, because your staple is more junk food than a healthier diet, you could find that your retention is not as efficient. There is no firm evidence yet that taking supplements would actually make good any deficiency, but they could be better than nothing!
College tends to be a hotbed of alcohol and smoking but these two pursuits can really affect your memory. Alcohol interferes with short term memory, impairing the ability to remember new information, while smoking lowers the amount of oxygen going to the brain which would make it function less efficiently. Studies have shown that, compared with non-smokers, individuals smokers of one or more packs of cigarettes daily had difficulties remembering people’s faces and names in a test of visual and verbal memory (Turkington, 1996)
The simple tip for preparing your memory to perform at its best is to eat healthily, to drink less and to not smoke at all if you can help it. In that way, your capacity to memorize information would actually be enhanced.
Tip 2 – Get as much sleep as possible
We do not sleep just for the sake of it. Sleep has a very powerful and essential purpose. It actually repairs our body overnight for the next day which is why, when we have had enough sleep, we actually feel more refreshed in the morning. The autonomic system nervous system that controls our senses takes over during sleep and the brain revises and stores the memory we have had during the day. If we suffer from insomnia too often, we would have chronic fatigue which prevents the brain from doing its work. It also affects our concentration and ability to retain any information.
Tip 3 – Try to focus as much as you can
If you do not pay attention while you read, or in lectures or classses, you will miss out on important information. If you do not understand something, or there is anything you missed, don’t let it go too long before seeking an answer or correcting it, because the longer you do not have the correct information, the poorer your memory and the more confused you will be. Thus it is never a good idea to wait too long to have something explained. Make sure you understand what is coming at you at all times. That is the only way your memory will serve you well. If you daydream too much, miss important items or did not fully understand, your ‘helpful’ brain will try to fill in the gaps from your experience which makes your knowledge even more faulty in the end. You will focus best if you are relaxed at such learning moments and not be pre-occupied with anything extraneous, or stressful, to the task at hand.
Tip 4 – Some memorization techniques
a. Repetition: The easiest way to memorize is through repetition because it allows you to use your memory constantly, not just ad hoc. By saying it over and over again, especially if you respond well to auditory stimulus, the material will eventually stick for much longer in the memory. Repetition is very effective because you can interact with the material in whichever way you like, such as saying it aloud over and over, making flash cards to prompt you or simply re-reading the material you have. Each time you repeat it, you will feel differently about it as it embeds itself in your memory and you become more confident with recall.
b. Memorizing by Association: It is much easier to remember something by linking items together. If you are studying in your apartment, try to peg specific information to items that are around you. It means every time you think of your facts or figures, the items they are pegged with will loom large in your memory and help you to recall them.
c. Mnemonic Mind Tool: This method of memorization helps the brain to store complex information in simple terms. In one instance, you can use a word that is easily remembered but the letters actually stand for something else. For example, a very popular mnemonic is the word HOMES which acts as a memory trigger for the five great lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior). Or you can use rhymes that help specific information to be recalled (“Thirty days hath September, April June and November. All the rest have thirty one, except for February, which has 28 days clear, but 29 in each leap year!”).
d. Visualising: This is an excellent method of memorization by creating images of the subject matter in your mind’s eye, or imagination, where you can actually bring the material to life in all sorts of ways; feeling it, seeing its various properties in your head, even trying to taste it to imprint it on your memory. The more you can imagine whatever you have to memorize as something you can actually see and observe, as a significant object in your head, is the more it will sink in the memory.
e. Grouping: The brain tends to work from the general to the specific hence it is extremely effective with groupings. This technique involves making clear headings or categories for your material and adding subheadings too for greater clarification. Like a coompleted jigsaw puzzle, by putting matching topics together or linking similar material, they are easier to visualise and memorize.
In the end, your capacity to memorize effectively will depend on what type of personality you are: whether visual (react well to seeing things and forming images), auditory (react best to sounds) or kinaesthetic (a natural feeler of your material). You will find it most satisfying to use the method that appeals to your best sense the most in order to memorize your material and feel comfortable with it. That should help your memory to store it well.