With thousands of pages to read for multiple classes, finding a way to remember everything can be tricky. We’ve taken a look at the science behind memory and put together a list of 9 super simple ways to improve your memory.
1. Exercise regularly, especially before an exam
This may sound strange since there aren’t many people who can study and exercise at the same time, but exercise, even just taking a brisk walk, can greatly improve your memory.
Here’s how: Exercise increases the flow of oxygen within your bloodstream, which in turn increases the amount of oxygen reaching your brain. With that oxygen comes valuable nutrients that keep your brain functioning at a high level. Hitting a weekly exercise class with your friends is a great way to incorporate exercise into your routine. If you’re not the type to head to the campus rec centers, try walking to class rather than hopping on the bus; the walk will get your blood flowing and also release endorphins, which will boost your mood making your class time more enjoyable!
2. Create visual aids and give your brain another way to “see” what you’re studying
By representing the information that you are studying in a visual format, you are giving your brain a secondary way to connect with the information.
Drawing a diagram or creating a “Mind Map” can help you store and later retrieve the information you need to remember. The physical act of drawing a diagram will, in and of itself, help you commit it to memory, but it will also help by creating a new connection between your brain and the material.
This works especially well for the sciences, as there are often diagrams on exams. Bonus: it is also great for history! Creating a visual map or timeline of when things happened and how they connect to one another helps to make sense of all of those dates and names.
3. Read out loud to yourself (not recommended for quiet libraries)
Have you ever noticed that when you’re editing a paper it helps to read out loud? You’re able to hear things that you may have missed when you were reading normally. This also helps your memory. By reading out loud, your brain picks up on the things that you may have skimmed over without ever knowing it.
4. Take a shower and let your brain do the work for you
Apart from making the other students studying around you happy that you’re not the source of that weird smell, this sounds 100% crazy. But, science proves it: taking a shower gives your brain a much-needed break, which can allow you to come up with your best ideas or finally find a solution to a difficult problem.
While you shower, your brain wanders and the things that you’ve been thinking about subconsciously (like that physics problem you just can’t solve) come to the forefront. All of a sudden, that physics equation isn’t so difficult anymore.
5. Quiz yourself and practice by teaching others
Quizzing yourself on the material you’re studying is one of the oldest and most common tricks to help with memorization. It helps you to identify what you know well and what you need to work on more intently and decreases the amount of time required to retrieve the information making you more efficient. One of the simplest ways to do this is through flashcards.
Making them by hand adds a layer because you’re writing everything out. But be sure to keep quizzing yourself even after you feel you’ve learned a particular piece of information so that you keep everything fresh in your mind.
A great way to practice once you feel you know the material is to teach it to someone else. Not only do you need to know something backward and forward before you are able to teach it, but the fact that someone else is depending on your knowledge increases the stakes just enough without adding undue stress.
6. Watch a documentary and make outside connections
By increasing the number of connections between topics, you give your brain more ways to access that information. Using outside information gives you a trigger that can also increase connections.
Finding a documentary on the topic you are studying is a great way to do this. Documentaries give great background information that also helps create story-based memories. This brain hack is especially great for visual-spatial thinkers who benefit greatly from having a “big picture” to organize their thoughts into.
7. Allow yourself the time to take a study break
Short study breaks give your mind and body the time to relax during study sessions. Taking a five to ten-minute break to meditate, visit with friends, or dance around your room to your favorite jams can actually increase your productivity and creativity (this is one reason why Google and Facebook have such crazy office spaces). The stress relief you get from taking a short break gives your brain some much-needed processing time and helps keep exhaustion at bay.
8. Write it down…the old fashioned way
One of the great things about being a student in the 21st century is the amazing amount of access to technology. Information is literally at our fingertips. But the physical act of setting a pen or pencil to paper can actually help you commit information to memory.
It may be faster to take notes on your laptop in class, but turning those digital notes into the old fashioned variety is a great way to help internalize the information. Plus, it’s like having a built-in study method!
9. SLEEP…and yes, this does mean you should take naps.
You’ve heard it time and time again, getting a proper amount of sleep (between 7 and 8 hours) can massively benefit your life.
One of the most important ways that sleep impacts students is through memory. As you sleep, your brain processes the information stored in your short-term memory and sorts through what you’ve done that day. So, if you find yourself more than a little sleepy after a long intense lecture or study session, take a nap. Twenty minutes is just enough to recharge your batteries but if you’ve got a full 90 minutes, go for it and let your REM cycle help you remember what you just learned in class.