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8 Scientifically-Proven Ways to Improve Your Memory for Finals

Let’s face it: we can all use all the help we can get when it comes to finals. From December 9th-22nd, we all exist in a sort of collective hell-at-McGill. Like our friends from High School Musical pointed out many years ago, we’re all in this together, and I strongly believe that we should forget the bell-curve during this dark period and unite together for a much-needed sense of social solidarity. That being said, I’ve decided to share a couple of tips and tricks for improving memory for you just in time for finals (so altruistic, I know). Without further ado, here are 8 easy ways to improve memory recall, so read them and stop weeping:

1.     Exercise.

While exercise is essential to great health in general, it’s also incredibly important for strengthening your mental capacity. Make sure your next trip to the gym includes aerobic activities that really get your blood and heart pumping. This will increase oxygen to the brain and simultaneously enhance neuroplasticity by boosting growth factors, decreasing stress hormones, and allowing new neuronal connections. Plus, it’ll give you a nice break from the library.

2.     Sleep.

Statistics show that 95% of adults need 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night in order to prevent sleep deprivation. I know I can’t study when I’m tired, but that’s not all that sleep is important for: memory consolidation occurs during the deepest stages of sleep. That means all those equations you memorized during your all-nighter aren’t going to enter your long-term memory nearly as well as if you had gotten your 8 hours straight afterwards. (As if you needed another reason to hit the hay…)

3.     Laugh.

Laughter engages various regions of the brain and quite literally gets your “creative juices flowing.” A little giggle can help you associate more freely and give you a more positive point of view on life and that textbook sitting in front of you.

4.     Eat and Drink Right.

Do consume: omega-3’s, fruits and vegetables, green tea,  and water. Keep out: foods high in calories and saturated fat. For all my thirsty friends out there, here’s something you’re sure to love: wine (in moderation) actually may boost memory and cognition. Red wine, especially, contains resveratrol, which boosts blood flow to the brain. Women should stick to one glass and men should limit it to two a day, though, because alcohol in excess actually leads to the destruction of brain cells. Studies have also found that people who ate or drank milk products 5-6 times a week perform better on memory tests than those who rarely consumed them. Get drinking!

5.     Clench your fists.

Researchers believe that if you clench a fist while trying to memorize something new, it will be easier to recall in the future by clenching that same fist while trying to access the memory. The movement will become associated with brain regions accessed when recalling the memory.

6.     Study right before bed.

Studying right before bed is helpful if you want to remember information the morning after because there are less new memories interfering with the consolidation of this information. So definitely go over your notes before you get a good night’s sleep before your 9 AM exam.

7.     Say it.

Psychologists believe that saying the things that you want to remember out loud helps tremendously with recall. Mouthing the information also works if you’re afraid of being beaten up in the silent zone at the library (I know I would be).

8.     Make associations.

Associating a memory with the environment you learned it in is one of the best ways to enhance the recall of that memory. If you took PSYC 100 you’ll remember this (or maybe you won’t because you hadn’t read this article yet) as “state-based learning” and the example of how studying drunk means you should take your exam drunk, as well. This means if you get stuck on an answer in an exam you should try to visualize the place you were studying the information for the greatest chance of recall.


The Her Campus McGill team is wishing all you collegiettes the best of luck on exams! Always remember that we’re all in this together, and that you (and your brain) are capable of so much more than you think.


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