It’s been a long time since I had to study for an exam. But can science improve the way we study? A recent study suggests that by using certain memory hacks, we can remember more.

We have all at some time had to study for an important exam. So it is fair to say that we’ve also spent precious time revising. But which methods are useful and which ones are a waste of time? One study suggests there are five study strategies that vastly improve the amount of information we can retain. These memory hacks are the key to a pass or a fail.

However, they can also help us remember anything important. If you want to improve your memory, why not try one of our science-backed memory hacks?

These five memory hacks are:

  1. Reading effectively
  2. Highlighting more efficiently
  3. The best way to take notes
  4. Outlining the key points
  5. Keeping testing yourself

Here are our five science-backed memory hacks in more detail:

1. Reading text

When we revise a topic we read it, obviously. But research has shown that this is too passive. As a result, we don’t tend to retain what we’ve read. A better way to study is to read a passage, have a break, then go back to it. By returning to the content at regular intervals, our brains have a chance to layer this information in a more meaningful way.

How to read effectively

This is one of our memory hacks that work really well with another strategy. If you don’t understand the subject before you start reading, try and use other content or text to get a basic understanding before you read.

Then, once you feel confident about your subject matter, read the textbook you’ve been given. If you have more of an understanding before you start reading, the chances are you’ll retain more information later.

2. Highlighting text

When we read, undoubtedly, we highlight the most important part of the content. This allows us to focus on the crux of the subject, and not get bogged down with too much information.

However, our recent study showed that if you highlight too much content, it has the same effect as highlighting none. This is because you’ve made the mistake of not highlighting efficiently.

Use highlighting text more efficiently

The best way to use highlighting text is to read your passage through once. Get a good understanding of what you are actually reading. Then, once you’ve grasped the topic a little better, start highlighting only the key points. If you force yourself to recognise what is important, your brain can process this information in an active way.

3. Taking notes

Note-taking is a good way of studying. However, too many and not the right notes are just as useless as not taking any at all. You have to be discerning about what notes you take and what you leave out. This is one of those memory hacks that seems obvious, but you’d be surprised the number of people that don’t follow it.

The best way to take notes

There is an urge to copy everything and get all the information down. But our study shows this is totally ineffective. Instead, what you should be doing is keeping it simple. Use fewer words, ideally, create summaries of short, concise points in small paragraphs.

In addition, try and write these notes down using pen and paper. This action of writing helps to cement the information in your mind.

4. Outlining key points

The fourth of our memory hacks is all about the big picture. When we study it is too easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content we have to get through. But research suggests that if we look at the bigger picture, we can remember more.

See the bigger picture, not the small details

So, instead of trying to remember every single little point, look at the outline of your course. See and focus on the main points. Understand the connections between each level. How the subject flows from one chapter to the next. Then, when you make your notes, group these main points together.

5. Using flashcards

Flashcards are cards with a question on one side and the answer on the reverse. They are a proven way of recalling important information. This is because they employ the method of spaced repetition. Spaced repetition is where we study content then go back to it and repeat the process.

Keep testing yourself with flashcards

Psychologists call this ‘retrieval practice’, where we self-test until the content is fixed. The problem is that most people believe they can retain more of the subject than they actually can.

Even worse, studies show that the more confident we are in remembering, the worse we perform. So, instead of thinking that you have successfully retained the information on the flashcard, keep testing yourself.

These five science-backed memory hacks show that smart revising is possible. Not only do they save time, but they allow us to retain more of what is important. And that can’t be bad!

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