Find out what kind of learner you are, and use this knowledge to guide how you study.
- Auditory learners learn best by hearing the material.
- Visual learners learn best by seeing the material.
- Tactile/kinesthetic learners learn best by doing something hands-on.
For example, auditory learners might consider recording lectures and listening to them again while driving or exercising. Visual learners might consider making flashcards and putting post-it notes around the house. Tactile learners might consider pairing information with dance moves or other familiar processes such as cooking a favorite meal or preparing for bedtime.
Use mnemonic devices. Mnemonics are memory techniques that help you remember information.
- Acronyms: PEMDAS is used to remember the order of operations in math (parentheses, exponents, multiply/divide, add/subtract)
*You can also turn the acronym into a memorable phrase: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. The sillier the phrase, the more likely you are to remember it.
- Associative Memory: Make the information memorable to YOU specifically. Perhaps you don't have an Aunt Sally, but you're a fan of Arlo Guthrie's music. Your phrase for the order of operations in math might be Pickle Eating Motorcycle Driver Accidentally Swerved.
- Context-dependent Memory: If you chew gum while you study, try chewing that same flavor of gum as you take the test. Can't chew gum? Try rubbing a penny or rolling a pencil between your fingers. Connecting the memory to the action as you form it will make it easier to recall that information anytime you are doing that same action later.
- Chunking: The average human brain can hold about 7 pieces of information in working memory at a time. If you try to simply memorize a list of 15 terms, you will likely struggle. However, if you chunk that list into 5 sets of 3 terms that somehow go together, you have a much better shot. We do this all the time with numbers. Quick, what is your social security number? Nine random numbers might be tough to remember, but three chunks are not. This works with spelling, too. Instead of trying to remember how to spell an entire word, focus on remembering how to spell pieces of words.
- Visualization: You can use mental pictures to remember items. For example, you might actually picture yourself riding a blood cell to learn the pathway blood takes through the atria and ventricles of the heart. You might picture presidents seated around a table in the order they held office and imagine yourself speaking to each one in turn.
Consider real-world application. Think about how you will need the information later (beyond the classroom). Will you be able to access resources and just need to understand how to quickly read them, or will you need fast, accurate, total recall in a high-pressure situation? Try to replicate the circumstances under which you will need to access that information as you study it.