Memory Boosting Tips and Strategies That have been Proven to Advance Learning

If you have been struggling to find a studying technique that is most suitable to you, look no further. Dr. Eileen Wood, a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, has come to the rescue to help you study using diverse but effective techniques this exam season.

The processes of learning and memory are interrelated. The way that you acquire or learn influences what you will be able to remember. In fact, memory is the outcome of learning. The more information that is consolidated and stored in long-term memory the more you have successfully learned and will have access to when you need it. The following techniques and tips have been scientifically proven to be effective ways to help you consolidate information.


Dr. Wood pointed out a common mistake students make while highlighting. We highlight everything as if doing so will permanently imprint the information into our brains. Unfortunately, for most of us this is not the case.

A way to successfully highlight that optimizes your brain’s memory capacity is to highlight information you do not know. This is a very simple way to consolidate more information. When Dr. Wood pointed out this simple adjustment to highlighting, I was curious to see if I too fell into the trap of highlighting material I already knew. I found that I did! I think you’ll notice when you start highlighting information in this manner, it allows you to become more conscious of the material you do and do not know. This strategy is great to keep in mind when reading course material for exams. 


Say No to Mass and Yes to Segmented Studying

The normal student studying technique is one we know all too well. That is, to cram all your course material into a few days before your final. This is called mass studying. Many studies have proven that this technique fails students. The reason is that mass studying does not allow for proper consolidation, which is the process of information being stored from short to long-term memory. Your long-term memory is the powerhouse where you want all information to be.   

The most beneficial way to study is called segmented studying (also called distributed practice). This is the process of breaking your studying into roughly 15 to 30 minutes of reading each day. According to research, this act will benefit you more than mass studying. Dr. Wood suggests reviewing notes right after your lecture, because it allows you to further consolidate the information while the concepts are still fresh in your mind.

Self Questioning

Self-monitoring is a very useful skill to acquire for reading comprehension. Self-monitoring involves applying questions to the material you’re reading. For example, do I understand what I'm reading? Or, why is this example important, and how does it relate to its paired theory or definition? Constantly asking questions as you read allows your brain to process more information, and to process the information more deeply, because more inner connections are being created on a neurological level.


Semantic Studying

This is a significant finding, thanks to social psychology, which states that we learn best by relating to ourselves. For example, when studying create examples that have occurred within your own life. So relate, relate, relate. The more you make information meaningful to you, the more you will remember.

Low Level Memory Techniques: Mnemonics

Mnemonics are memory aids that allow us to easily remember material that involves strictly memorization. They are low level memory strategies that are very helpful for reducing memory load. For example, applying rhymes or catch phrases to your material will allow for a more efficient acquisition of information. In addition, acronyms are a great and effective way to remember the name of those five important people you need to know for your test. Reduce your memory load this exam season to fit more information into your brain with the use of mnemonics.

Higher Order Techniques: Elaboration Strategies

Elaboration strategies are best used to understand and to remember information that is complex. For example, the illustration below displays how one would use a flow chart to understand why arteries are thick and veins are thin. It is one thing to remember this information but it is another to understand the purpose of this property. Thus, using elaboration skills like flow charts, mind maps and any other illustrations that explain the material will help you achieve a higher level of understanding. 


Method of Loci

One of the most interesting techniques Dr. Wood recommends is called the method of loci. This technique originated from plays in ancient Greece. It was a tool actors used to remember their lines. This memory method uses location to recall serial information from memory. For example, on your walk to school you could associate the bank to the left of you to the beginning of the auditory system, starting with the sound waves vibrating to the basal membrane. Then, as you continue your walk the rest of the path will cue the next part of the system. When the test day arrives you may be able to walk along the route in your mind to discover the answer of a multiple-choice question. It is important to use big ideas for this method, which you would need to know throughout your years at University.

I hope you find this guide to effectively study beneficial and productive within your life. Thank you again to Dr. Eileen Wood for providing us with the tools we need to succeed and, most importantly, learn to the best of our ability. Her campus is wishing you all the best this exam season!