Memorising multiple things thoroughly is considered to be one of the biggest challenges students face while studying. However, it is also one of the key things that help you study better especially for competitive exams like JEE and NEET. People generally believe that some people are just blessed with a good memory and some are not. That’s not entirely true. Memorising is not just for people who are born with a good memory. In fact anybody can train and improve their memorising skills.
A very common misconception about memorising is that theonly way to do it is through repetition. A lot of schools and colleges tend toinculcate the same idea. However, according to memory athletes repetition isneither the only way nor is it the correct way to memorise thoroughly. They believe that recalling on the other hand is the step in the right direction.
But how exactlydoes this process of memorisation work? This question has intrigued neuroscientists for centuries together. In short, this process ultimately boils down to three steps. These steps are encoding, storage and recall.
1) Encoding :
Encodingis the first step in the creation of memory. It is basically when you catchsight of a new piece of information and the human brain deliberately perceivesthe sound, imagery and other sensory details associated with that piece ofinformation. For example, let us consider your first music concert. The memory of that event is built but the visual system (what you see for example thecrowd, stage and the band, etc.), the auditory system (what you hear forexample the music blaring from the speakers, cheers from the crowd) and maybethe smell there.
2) Storage :
The pieces of information noticed by an individual are then stored in different parts of the human brain. The neurons send signals among each other about the perception of the piece of information. This process then leads to creation ofmemory. The memory stored can either be temporary or long lasting memory.
3) Recall :
Retrievingthe memory is nothing but recall.In order to do so, the brain visits the nervepath ways from when the memory was created. Recalling enables us to strengthen these connections. For example, flash cards help in recalling the information. Recalling however necessitates paying attention and learning and every individual is a unique way of doing so. Hence, figuring out one’s learningstyle is an important step in memorisation. People can be auditory, visual or experiential learners. Figuring this out will determine the appropriate memorisation technique for an individual.
Students preparing for JEE and NEET are required to process and retain a large amount of information across disciplines. Hence it is crucial to devise memori sation techniques for these students. These techniques will help them to cope with the pressure and perform well even under pressure.
1) Find the right setting
It is very important to pay close attention to which environment you choose to study in. For the majority of people, a quiet place with minimum distractions is a good setting to focus properly. On the contrary, some people thrive in settings thatare not exactly quiet and calm such as parks, cafes, etc. It is important to know what kind of asetting works for you. It is also crucial to ensure that the area you choose iswell lit and has enough ventilation. For example, studying in a basement islikely to impact your efficiency. Studies have shown that students tend to stayfocused in structured environments like boarding schools. Here, the setting isvoid of any distractions and hence it is easier to stay disciplined. All the material is also generally easily accessible. This increases the chances of the student doing well exponentially. Shivneri School, a boarding school near Pune and Mumbai offers effective guidancefor students who are preparing for JEE and NEET by imbibing discipline and efficiency.
2) Read to understand
Information that isorganised and makes sense to you is more likely to be remembered by you. If it’sa complex concept, it can be broken down in multiple short sentences to comprehend its meaning. Then each sentence can be read multiple times to understand the concept. If the concept is properly understood, it will beeasier to visualise it; which will ultimately make it easier to remember. Highlighting keywords will also help in understanding the information.
3) Make notes
Writing and rewriting information helps in making yourself more familiar with the concept that is being considered. Visual learners especially benefit from writing down information as they will be able to see the information right in front of them. Writing tends to help an individual encode the information better as there is adirect connection between our brain and our hand. While making notes, the useof keywords can be done. These keyword scan be colour coded to help the brain visualise better. Apart from colour coding, mind maps and tables are also effective in aiding the process of memorisation. Sectioning the notes by colour coding or in other ways will help in breaking everything down and to start compartmentalising the information being retained by the brain. Writing by hand has proven to be more effective in terms of memorisation. This is because the physical act of writing stimulates the reticular activating system (RAS). When RAS is stimulated the brain focuses more on what is being done atthe moment. This helps the brain remember that information better.
4) Connect the dots
Linking theinformation that you are attempting to memorise to something that you already know makes it easier for the brain to memorise. Isolated information is more difficult to remember than material that is connected to other concepts. You can make up a connection deliberately if one doesn’t exist already. This convection will help the brain visualise the concept more easily as it isassociated with something that has already been retained by the brain. For example, the melting point of copper is 1085 degrees Celsius and the last fourdigits of your phone number happen to be the same. Linking these two things by imagining throwing the phone in a furnace would help you remember the melting point of copper. It’s an unusual link but it is likely to work.
5) Rely on mnemonics
Mnemonics are intended to assist memory. They are a system such as a particular pattern of letters, words or ideas that will help in remembering that specific concept. For example, to remember the metric system, most of us learnt King Henry Died Mother Didn’t Cry Much in grade school . (here the first letter of each wordstands for Kilo, Hecto, Deca, Meter, Deci, Centi, Milli , respectively)
Following are a fewexamples for mnemonics:
Similar to the metricsystem example mentioned above, My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nothingcan help you remember all the planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter,Saturn, Uranus and Neptune respectively). These are also known as expressionmnemonics.
b) Rhyming Mnemonics
When the end of every line rhymes, it makes a pattern that is like a song which is simpler to retain for the brain. A common rhyming mnemonic for elementary students to help with spelling confusion was “ I before E, except after C or when sounding likeA, liken in neighbour and weigh.” This makes chunks of information easier to remember especially for auditory learners if the rhymes are said out loud multiple times.
c) Music mnemonics
Music can be a very helpful tool as it gives the information a particular structure and also requires repetition. It’s easier to remember a catchy song than it is toremember a bunch of words or letters . This is also why brands make use ofjingles in their advertisements. Children generally learn the alphabet by singingthe ABC song and it is highly unlikely to be forgotten as it’s catchy song plushas been repeated so many times.
6) Explain it to someone
Research has shownthat explaining a concept to someone is a great way to remember that piece of information as it makes you retrieve that information from your own memory. This also makes you repeat the information. Additionally, when you attempt to explain it to someone you tend to use simpler words and phrases to make them understand which in turn stores the information in simpler terms in your own brain making it simpler to remember that. Explaining the concept also makes you visualise which also aids the memory process.
7) Employ distributive practice
It is important fortwo things to happen for a concept to travel from temporary memory to long termmemory in your brain. These two things are the concept has to be worth remembering as in memorable and it has to be repeated. Using religion to engrave information in your memory helps. Repetition techniques can be in the form of flash cards. Spacing out the studying and repetition over multiple dayswill help. Gradually, you should start to increase the time in between each study session. This will help with recall and enable us to lock the conceptsinto place.
8) Keep your brain on its toes
You should mix oralternate skills or concepts that you wish to memorise. In simple terms, youcan spend some time memorising something related to verbal reasoning and then immediately switch to physics concepts and then to quantitative skills and then go back to verbal reasoning. This method seems hectic and confusing, but it keeps your brain active and is better than spending a lot of time on the same concept which becomes monotonous for the brain. This method is also called interleaving.
9) Test yourself
Questioning yourself will make your brain actively recall the information. Simply readingthe text will not help in retaining the information. Students sometimes tend tobelieve that they remember information just because it seems familiar when theyare reading it again. Instead of this, asking yourself questions will make yourbrain retrieve the information repeatedly and make it easier to remember it. This will also enable you to know where you need to put in more work andincrease your efficiency.
10) Let your brain rest
Last but not theleast , let your brain take a break. Let it breathe. Spend some time notthinking about what you memorised and revisit it after a while. You will get toknow what has actually been retained by your brain. This will help you knowwhat you’re struggling with. Also a tired brain or more likely to make errors that can be avoided otherwise.