When you’re frantically scribbling a semester’s worth of information onto a page during an exam, memory becomes very, very important.
Of course the field of memory is a dedicated area of interest for scientists. What is going on in our hippocampus and how can we harness its amazing powers?
That is not a question to be answered in today’s article. I would struggle with that one…
But – I do have a few nifty ideas about how you can help your teen improve their information retention at home.
Here we go:
1. If it’s important – write it down
For most students there is a real benefit in writing stuff down. This is why writing study notes is such an important part of exam preparation.
There’s something about the process of writing something down – going through the motions of putting pen to paper – that helps information stick in our memories.
Your teen is unlikely to remember something simply by reading about it once.
A good rule of thumb is that if it’s important enough to know for the exam, write it down.
I would also say, that in this digital age where 3 year olds know how to use an iPad better than I do (seriously), your teen might never hand write anything anymore (and that’s a discussion for another day), and if that’s their preference and it works for them, then typing the important stuff can be just as good as hand writing.
2. Hard facts & flash cards
An oldy but such a goody.
When it comes to memorizing hard facts for subjects like History and English, elements of the periodic table, your teen doesn’t need anything better than good ol’ fashioned flash cards.
Nothing is as good a substitute really, because it’s very well to think you remember something when you’re reading over your notes, but this isn’t a true test of your memory.
But with flash cards – there’s no ‘oh yes I know that’. You either know the answer or you don’t.
They’re also a great tool to utilise throughout the semester. If you can help your teen make some now, they can practice memorizing the facts they need to know every week until their exams (and add to them as the term progresses), and as we all know, practice makes perfect!
3. Talking it over
If we wind back the clock a few years, we have Chris and I getting ready for our Biomed exams.
Chris is one of those annoying people who only has to read something or hear something once and he’s got it. I on the other hand, have to work at my memory retention a bit more. Hmph. There’s no way I’m going to remember something I wrote down a week ago. I need to further input.
Well there’s one thing in particular that I swear by when it comes memory retention – and that’s discussing your study notes with someone.
Even though it was about 5 years ago, I still have such distinct memories of us reading over our exam notes the nights before exams, and the reason is because it was so beneficial to my information retention.
When I came across a tricky question in the exam the next day, if it was about something Chris and I had discussed the night before, all I had to do was recall the conversation we had, and voila – I could remember the answer.
It’s similar to the power of writing important things down. If you discuss a topic or problem with someone, you are far more likely to remember what you talked about than if you just read that same information in a book somewhere.
There’s power in discussion, so put it to use. Whether you’re around the dinner table or in the car on the way to sports practice, you can have a chat with your teen about what they’ve been learning or what they had to do for homework. Effortless information retention practice.
And there you have it. Three incredible simple things you can help your teen with to improve their information retention and recall.
I appreciate that these tasks aren’t the product of rocket science, but effective study does really boil down to simple, practical, common sense-based methods.
Straight-A students don’t do anything that your teen isn’t perfectly capable of doing today. It’s just a matter of sitting down and putting in some time and effort.
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Image Credit: Liz Henry on Flickr