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Five ways to remember what you learn

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Published: 29 January 2021

University of Sunderland student studying

There used to be a belief that by repeating information repeatedly you’ll remember it – sort of the brute force approach to study.

But although repetition is useful as a way of memorising facts and figures, it misses out a key element of university-level study – comprehension.

Comprehension is essentially the idea that you understand what you’re learning, rather than just being about listing information without understanding its meaning.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways you can retain the information you hear in class and make sure you come away from your time at the University of Sunderland in London as an expert in your field.

1) Spaced repetition

Yes, repetition should not be the only thing you’re doing when it comes to remembering what you learn.

But it does have its uses if done correctly. Take spaced repetition for example.

This is the practice of reviewing your material over a longer period, rather than trying to cram everything into the last minute.

Try taking notes on what you’ve learned straight away after class, write down any questions you have for your lecturer and ask them as soon as you can.

Then, over the space of a few weeks, go back through your notes, repeating the information to yourself. Try for about half an hour a day.

2) Teach someone else

One of the best ways to retain information is to teach it to another person.

Teaching forces you to put things in as simple a way as possible so your audience can understand you.

Also, if you can’t find anyone to teach, try just saying the information out loud – pretend that you have an interested and engaged listener.

3) Find out what you don’t know

It’s easy for us to focus on the things we know because it’s comfortable. We don’t have to admit that there’s something we can’t remember or understand.

But facing our memory gaps head-on is a powerful way of making sure we address those issues.

Find out what you can’t remember from the notes you take in class then write out a question which addresses the topic. Next, put down an answer to that question.

You can use anything you want to answer it – your notes, books, even Google. Just make sure you understand the question and know the answer.

4) Use pen and paper

Although digital technology has overtaken pen and paper notetaking in many lecture rooms, there is something to be said for the more traditional ways.

Writing out your notes can help you retain information better – perhaps due to the physical act that includes smelling the ink and seeing the text on the page.

But it’s also about being able to include notes in the margins, highlight things and even draw pictures as the information comes to you.

It also takes away a major factor many students face when studying – distraction. Without being online you take away the temptation to check your social media, watch videos or scroll through the news.

5) Sleep and exercise

Did you know that the right before we fall asleep and after exercising are the times when our brains take in the most information?

Exercise has been shown to stimulate a protein in our brain called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor.

This chemical prepares the brain for optimal learning and retention, as well as increasing our ability to think creatively.

Memory is an important part of studying, no matter what you’re learning. At University, lessons are built on the information we learned in the past until we have a wider understanding of our subjects.

Practice some of the techniques above and you’ll not only have an easier time in class, but you’ll also find you enjoy the process of learning even more.

Do you have memory tips that help you study? We'd love to hear about them. Share your thoughts with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

 

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