Sunday, June 14, 2015

Student Tips: Sharpen your memory skills - B

Sharpen your ability to recall information – B.

This blog continues our focus on strategies for improving your memory. 

Another essential step involves understanding the close relationship between your memory and associations. Associations are connections or links among words, ideas, concepts, and images. They may be based on similarity, meaning, or familiarity with events. When you make more meaningful connections, you can more easily recognize associations and improve recall. Here’s a simple example: if the last four digits of a friends phone number (say, 1018) matched the digits of the month and day of your birthday (October 18, or 10/18), you could easily recall her number by simply connecting it to your birthday. Learning to get skilled at making associations is a helpful way to improve recall.

You can also use cues to effectively boost your memory. Cues are useful prompts that help when trying to recall items or chunks of information. This may vary with the type of information you are required to recall for a test. For example, Fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice, and essay tests require different memory strategies. Thus, knowing what type of test your teacher will administer will help you better devise a strategy for recalling the information.

You are likely already familiar with the use of Mnemonics as cues to help with studying. Mnemonics are simple but useful cues to make and remember the association. A mnemonic is a device, like a word or a rhyme that helps you remember things. A classic example used to illustrate this is the word HOMES as a cue to recall the names of the five Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. You can get the general idea from this, but there are numerous other ways to create cues. You could use a sentence to help remember the names of the lakes: Harry Owes Me Eleven Snacks for example. The use of sentences to serve as cues is called acrostics. 

Many students prefer to use visualization to help remember things. A simple example would be to remember food items by picturing them on the shelves of your refrigerator. An approach called the Loci method involves visualizing the items you want to remember in specific familiar locations such as your room. For example, by picturing presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Adams sitting on your bed, couch, and desk chair would likely boost your recall. When studying with friends, trying to come up with useful mnemonics can be fun and helpful.

The effect of practice and reviewing material on your memory cannot be overstated. Can you remember a telephone number that you called only once, more that a month ago? Probably not.  But the chances are that you know your best friend’s phone number by heart. That’s because you have had so much practice using it. The reality is that practice help improve your ability to remember information. That’s one reason why it’s so important to review material regularly when studying. You strengthen the associations you’ve used to code the stored information as you practice retrieving it. This makes recalling information easier.

Pacing your study reviews is also an important method for improving recall. That’s why having a regular time to study is such an advantage. Research has shown that you learn and remember information better if you study it over several sessions, instead of trying to learn it all in one setting. Spacing your study sessions is called distributed learning, and it has a direct influence on your memory. When you study and review material over several sessions, you strengthen the associations to information and learn the material more thoroughly, which will help you recall it with more ease and accuracy. This practice also helps build confidence prior to tests. 

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