Forgetting is a natural process with the greatest losses occurring within the
first 24 hours of learning. It is essential to review readings and lecture notes
within one or two days of initial exposure with brief additional reviews interspersed
in later weeks.
Which are you more likely to remember, the name of a co-worker or your boss?
We remember when we decide to remember, and when we have a reason/motivation.
1. Eliminate distraction while reading/studying.
2. Develop a strong motivation. Think of a reason why you want to learn this.
1. Decide whether you will emphasize concepts, memory devices, visualization,
2. Relate new materials to facts and concepts you already know.
1. To improve your long-term memory and to perform better on complex test questions,
focus on understanding the basic ideas rather than simply memorizing isolated
2. Explain concepts to family members and study partners. This “teaching” will
help you deepen your own understanding.
1. As you listen to a lecture or read, use “advanced organizers” obtained by
prior knowledge or scanning to organize the new information. Just as an office
worker needs a filing system, you need a mental filing system if you hope to
comprehend and retrieve what you have learned.
2. During review, organize your
notes by writing questions or headings in the left margin. Create study charts
to summarize your notes or text.
3. The human brain appears to be able to hold only seven chunks of information
in immediate memory, so breaking up material into categories will help you remember.
1. Study pictures, diagrams, and charts in your text, and develop your own.
2. Visualize information. For example, to remember the date of Lincoln’s birth,
visualize a log cabin with 1809 carved above the door.
It increases your level of attention. It creates a stronger neural trace of
memory by utilizing more senses.
1. Recite as you read, as you review your class notes, and as you study.
2. For material that you need to remember in some detail, reciting should take
up 60%-80% of your study time (relative to reading).
While longer study sessions are effective for writing or for creative projects,
most study is best done in short sessions with breaks, for example, study for
50 minutes and take a break for 10 minutes.
1. Review your lecture notes immediately
(that day or the next).
2. As you walk to your next class, recall the main points of the lecture you
1. Use word mnemonics-- such as HOMES to remember the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario,
Michigan, Erie, and Superior.
2. Use sentence mnemonics-- such as “Kings play cards on fairly good, soft velvet.” To
remember the biological classification system: kingdom, phylum, class, order,
family, genus, species, variety. 3. Use mnemonics for spelling and for keeping
a. A principal is a pal. Cyanates, I ate (harmless chemicals)
b. A principle is a rule. Cyanide, I died (poisonous chemicals).
4. To improve memory, add humor and an “off color” element to your memory device.
*Adapted from How to Study in College by Walter Pauk.
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