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Five Memory Tricks the Pros Use

Boy studying and memorizing school work

Canada recently announced it’s first ever  memory champion. Memory might seem an awfully limited field to become a champion in,  but memory studies–and studies of neuroscience and cognition–have all been uncovering some interesting, important, and relevant information about how the brain learns and remembers; information that is useful to brains of all ages.

While remembering the exact order of five shuffled decks of cards or a list of 100 random words might not be a particularly useful skill to the average student, the techniques that the pros use can help even the most forgetful student improve recall for important tests.

According to the experts, memory skills aren’t something that people are born with–like  any other skill they need to be practiced to become perfect.

Here are some of the take-away tips to beat the “Why Can’t I Remember?” Blues:

Tip 1: Visualize it

Create a mental picture for everything that is being studied. Create mental scenarios and imagine yourself moving around in them–a virtual “memory palace” where everything has a place. To recall something, go back into the mental room, locate the “object” and look at it visually.

Tip 2: Study in different spots

Memory uses cues from the external environment

Where studying and learning happens is an important part of the study process, as background sights and sounds can cue recall.   Studying a particularly challenging bit? Move to a new location to help this bit stand out in your mind.

Tip 3:  Move around

The same research also shows that movement can help a memory. Act out a scene with pantomime. Use hand gestures, or choreograph some footwork as you review. There are no rules that say that you cannot shuffle your feet at your desk while writing an exam!

This is also the same reason that creating studying notes is so effective.

Tip 4: Say it out loud

When reading over your notes, read out loud. Then again with eyes off the page. Keep reciting out loud. This is probably one of the oldest and best memory tricks—it existed even before writing did, when stories only existed orally.

Tip 5. Give yourself time to forget

First, give yourself time to memorize something, then wait a few days or a week, and try to remember.  Then, take note of what parts you forgot.  Pay attention to what was forgotten—that’s the stuff that you need to review again… by changing locations, walking around, writing it down, and reading it out loud.

Memory Bonus*

The process of committing something to memory—reading it over and over, writing it down, reciting it out loud, and thinking about it actually helps improve comprehension and understanding. And, understanding is better than memorization any day.

No tricks required.

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