We’ve discussed the importance of zeroing in on the main concepts you learn in class and of transferring them from short-term to long-term memory. But how can you work to strengthen your overall memory? Some people have stronger memories than others, but memorizing new information takes work for anyone. Below are some strategies that can aid memory:
- Incorporate visuals: Visual aids like note cards, concept maps, and highlighted text are ways of making information stand out. Because they are shorter and more concise, they have the advantage of making the information to be memorized seem more manageable and less daunting (than an entire textbook chapter, for example). Some students write key terms on note cards and hang them around their desk or mirror so that they routinely see them and study them without even trying.
- Create mnemonics: Memory devices known as mnemonics can help students retain information while only needing to remember a unique phrase or letter pattern that stands out. For example, the mnemonic “ROYGBIV” could help students remember the order of the colors of a rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).
- Get quality sleep: Although some people require more or less sleep than the recommended amount, most people should aim for six–eight hours every night. School puts a lot of demands on the brain, and, like tired muscles after a long workout, your brain needs to rest after being exercised and taking in all sorts of new information during the day. A good night’s rest can helps you remember more and feel prepared for learning the next day.
- Connect new information to old information: Take stock of what you already know—information that’s already stored in long-term memory—and use it as a foundation for learning newer information. It’s easier to remember new information if you can connect it to old information or to a familiar frame of reference. For example, if you are taking a sociology class and are learning about different types of social groups, you may be able to think of examples from your own experience that relate to the different types.
Memory also relies on effective studying behaviors, like choosing where you study, how you study, and with whom you study. The following video provides specific studying strategies that can improve your memory.