There are all sorts of ways to improve your memory. In addition to proper diet, adequate exercise, reduced stress, and healthy lifestyle choices, there are strategies and memory tricks for improving recall. Most likely, you’ve already learned to use some of these practices. Keep in mind that short-term memory is not very effective in test situations. Our short-term memories have limited capacities and do not respond well under stress. Long-term memory is much more reliable in stressful situations and long-term memory has an unlimited capacity. However, there are many different techniques that are available to increase recall. Here are a few ideas:
Use pictures to improve memory.
It is easier to remember a picture rather than details from a book or a lecture. Visualization is one strategy that can be used to remember information read or spoken during a lecture. This strategy is especially useful when studying abstract or confusing subjects. To do this, create images in your mind that relate to, or have similarities to, the abstract concept.
Use acronyms to improve memory.
An acronym is a very common memory device. It uses an abbreviation that takes the first letter in each word to be remembered to form a new word.
Use acrostics to improve memory.
Although you probably never heard the term “acrostic,” you are familiar with its use. An acrostic is very similar to an acronym. However, instead of using the first letters to spell a single word, these letters are used to spell different words that form a sentence or memorable phrase. The classification scheme for living things might be a familiar acrostic: King Philip Came Over For Great Spaghetti is a difficult phrase to forget. Therefore, it remains a great tool for remembering: Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species.
Use chunking to improve memory.
Chunking is another memory trick that helps recall by limiting items to smaller “chunks.” For example, a phone number is often remembered (and recited) as three distinct chunks such as 202-931-8956. Memorizing these three discrete chunks is more effective than memorizing a series of 10 numbers (2029318956). What’s your social security number? Chances are you’ve chunked its recall into three or four separate number series.
Practice makes perfect.
It may not be as fun, but repeating is still a great memory aid. Remember the children’s game “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing….” As each new object is added, the old objects are repeated. People can often remember a large number of objects this way. When remembering a list of things, you might try a similar concept. Once you are able to remember 5 items on your list without looking, add a 6th, repeat the whole list from the start, add a 7th, and so on. It can be quite intimidating to see long lists, passages, or equations that you are expected to commit to memory. Break up the information into small bits that you can learn, one step at a time, and you may be surprised at how easy it can be.
A helpful links to improve memory:
Neuroscience for Kids