Student Life

Counseling Center

Improving Memory

Make an effort to remember.

Just reading or listening is not enough to commit information to memory.  You have to concentrate and plan to memorize. 

Study repeatedly to boost your long term recall.  

Study to the point of over learning.  To give yourself more opportunities for separate study sessions, take advantage of  the built in breaks from life's mundane routines--waiting for or riding on public transportation, waiting for class to start,  etc.  To remember the name of someone to whom you were just introduced, say the name to yourself; wait a few seconds and then repeat it; repeat it again after a longer interval.  Look for a defining facial feature and then link it to the person's name--the more outlandish the better.

Rehearse.  

Actively practice the material you are trying to learn. 

Make the material meaningful.   

Meaningful material is remembered much more easily than is meaningless material. The more meaningful the material to you, the more relationships you can see, the more principles you understand, the more you will remember.  Relate the material to what you already know.  Put it into your own words and form as many associations as possible to increase retrieval.

Use mnemonic or memory devices 

for immediate recall of unfamiliar list items.  Associate items with meaningful words or concepts.  Make up a story that incorporates visual images of the list items.   Chunk information into acronyms or poems, although they should be used with caution. It is far better to see meaningful relationships between parts of the material, because often the mnemonic device is remembered long after the material it stands for is forgotten. Sometimes a mnemonic device can malfunction and lead to a wrong answer.

Mentally recreate the situation or state in which the original learning took place in order to refresh your memory.

  Activate retrieval cues by jogging your memory.  Allow one thought to cue the next. 

Use many senses in learning - visual, auditory, etc.   

For example, you may see material in different ways such as by reading the text and reading your notes. You may say it to yourself and remember how it felt to say it. You may hear yourself saying it, hear it in lecture, or hear it from other students. You may feel yourself write it or even experience a different kinesthetic feeling by typing or writing it in different forms or on charts. Occasionally, the sense of smell may reinforce memory.

Recall events while they are fresh. 

 If you want to remember a dream, write it down immediately upon awaking.  If you are an eyewitness to an important event, record your memories before they get contaminated by others' recollections. 

Practice the material in the form in which you are to be tested. 

For instance, giving a principle or law orally does not guarantee your ability to write it or to apply it. On the other hand, writing a poem or selection does not guarantee your ability to deliver it well orally. It is more effective to actually do some chemistry problems than to read about how to do them.  If you must recall information on a test, do not be overconfident by your ability to recognize the information.

Test yourself.  

See what you remember and what you do not.  Test your recall by outlining sections on a blank page.  Define concepts; take practice tests; use study guides that accompany the tests.  When reviewing material, relating parts to the whole is the best way of remembering. Any charts or organization you can make will help. 

Minimize interference.  

Study before sleeping.  Do not study closely related material in close proximity, such as Spanish and French. 

Don't panic during a test if you cannot remember. 

 If you can remember any part of the material or even related material, the rest may come back to you.  Also, try to visualize how the missing information looked on your study sheet.  Seeing the material may help you recollect it.