Archive for the ‘memory’ Category

  1. Study at a DESK!You need to be comfortable, but you also need to be in a place that helps you stay alert and focused. Studying in a bed encourages sleep, not learning.
    2. Exercise helps.Studies have shown that mental function improves with exercise and results in better memory. Research also shows that listening to music while exercising boosts cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills.
    3. Your brain needs real food. Donuts and coffee don’t cut it. The neurotransmitters in your brain are made from amino acids, which are derived from the protein in your diet. So, you need to choose high-protein foods such as cheese, eggs, meats or nuts, rather than high-carbohydrate crackers, chips, cookies or juice.
    4. Drink lots of WATER! Did you know that dehydration can lead to fatigue and lack of ability to focus? Choose more water over coffee, and keep your water chilled for added alertness.
    5. Get to know your professors! Ask questions during, before or after class. Take advantage of office hours. Ask for clarification when you do not completely understand something. Ask for suggestion on supplemental materials. These things can make a difference between an “A” or a “B”!
    6. Buy the textbook. The textbook is not optional; I don’t care what anyone tells you. If you struggling with budget, see if an older addition of the text is available, or even a digital version. But, you MUST have a textbook in order to do what you need to do.
    7. Be realistic. If you know you will consistently sleep through an 8 am class, there is no reason to sign up for it. Make a schedule you can actually keep.
    8. Use all of the helps on campus. My campus has a writing lab, a walk-in math and science lab, peer tutoring, a speech lab, and many computer/printing centers throughout the campus. And, all of these services are FREE. Find out what your college offers and take advantage. A little bit of help can easily boost your grades.
    9. You must study if you want good grades. I know you may have cruised through high school, but college is different. Instructors expect you to do the majority of work outside of class, and classes move twice as fast. Multiply the number of credit hours you are taking by 1, 2 or 3, depending on the level of difficulty. That is how many hours you need to be studying a week for each class. No, I’m not kidding.
    10. Study Groups Help. One semester, I was in a particularly difficult medieval literature class, and I was pretty sure that class was going to jeopardize my 4.0 grade point average. I didn’t know anyone in the class, but I was able to form a study group by sending a group email to class members via Blackboard, and we ended up with 8-10 people in the group. I don’t think I would have made an “A” without that group. It is a great way to clarify your understanding, revise and add to your class notes, discuss topics is greater depth, and come closer to mastering the material.
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Have you learned the hard way that you can’t remember things if you haven’t dispersed your studying over several days? Students are often surprised to learn that 10 hours of studying the day before an exam is not equal to 10 hours of studying over 5 days! The formula I am regularly giving students is TIME + REPETITION = SUCCESS. Time is a vital part of the equation!

The Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting shows us that people forget things at a shocking pace if they don’t review the information at regular intervals. You may recall that Ebbinghaus discovered in his experiment on memory and retention, that a huge portion forgotten material is lost in the first 20 minutes! Even more shocking, without any review, the person has forgotten nearly half of what was originally learned after just one hour. 24 hours later, a whopping 2/3 of the learned information has been lost! You can combat this rapid memory decline by using your Cornell Notes in a very purposeful way. If you follow my suggestions for review, you will find that when it is time for a test, you will have already made tremendous progress towards being prepared. Just implement the 5-day study plan a week before the test to seal the deal!

In order to use Cornell notes to combat the forgetting curve, you will want to begin by setting your note taking paper up in the form of Cornell Notes by drawing a line about 1/3 of the way over from the left, and another line a couple of inches from the bottom. Then work your way through steps 1-5, as described in the graphic below. It is just that simple!

Use Cornell Notes to Change the Forgetting Curve!

Using the Cornell note taking method in this strategic way combats the dramatic drop in memory pinpointed in the Ebbinghaus curve. Since we know that most of the forgetting occurs in the first 20 minutes after a lecture, you will want to review your notes in those first 20 minutes. (However, this is not just glancing over your notes, this reading through them and processing them in a meaningful way.) According to the Curve of Forgetting data, that brief review bumps the curve to nearly an incredible 100% again. Your second review should occur within the first 24 hours, the third within the first week, and the fourth by 30 days. Periodic review during that 30 day time period is also recommended. Look at the graphic below to see an illustration of this concept. Each time review is conducted, the curve is boosted. You might also notice that the drop in the curve is less dramatic after each review, because the brain is beginning to move information to the long-term memory.

retention and review 

The regular reviews help make those new neuro-pathways smooth and easier to navigate. This means you have quicker and easier access to the memory, which also helps to combat test anxiety, blank mind syndrome, and other stress-related memory blocks.

Try it! It is an extremely effective way of studying and keeps you from having to use those grueling, stressful, and ineffective all-nighters before an exam.

curve of forgetting“The Curve of Forgetting” is something I speak to all of my students about early in the semester. It is a powerful piece of information and it’s application can make a huge difference in grades. This chart is a visual representation of what happens to a person’s memory when they listen to a lecture. As they listen, the curve steadily increases until it reaches 100% of whatever he or she will know, however well they will know it. As you can see, after the lecture the curve takes a rapid and steady decline when the student does nothing to try to retain it. By day 2, if the information has not been revisited in any way, 50-80% will be lost!  After 30 days, only 2-3% of the original information is still hanging on. This may coincide with an exam date, and the student has to relearn almost 100% of the information that could have simply been retained with a little effort.

The reason this happens has to do with the instability of our short-term memory. This part of our memory is limited to just five to nine items, so our brains are constantly tossing items out to prevent the short term memory from getting too full. Therefore, if you want to keep a memory, you need to convert it to a long term memory. How does that happen? Quite simply, through repetition. Long term memory is created when chemical messages in the brain create a “neural network.”  The more these connections are used, the stronger the network becomes.  The author of a book titled The Brain in Action equates it with being similar to creating a path in the woods. “The first time you create a path, it is rough and overgrown. The next time you use it, it’s easier to travel because you have previously walked over the weeds and moved the obstacles. Each time thereafter, it gets smoother and smoother. In a similar fashion, the neural networks get more efficient, and messages travel more swiftly” (2). In other words, the more time you give “memory making” the easier it will be for you to access that memory.

If we apply this understanding to the lecture represented in the graph, we know that we must immediately begin giving our brains a hint that we want to retain that information. As you can see from the yellow line on the graph, a brief review within the first 24 hours gives your memory a fantastic boost, almost up to that 100% again. A week later, it only takes 5 minutes to reactivate the information and bump up the curve. If you continue to repeat regular reviews, you have worn a smoother path and given your brain plenty of hints that the information should be kept.

If you don’t do this, you will spend about an hour relearning each hour worth of lecture material. Therefore, it is actually a great use of your time to spend a few minutes reviewing material regularly. Another advantage is that this method decreases test anxiety because the information is in the long term memory, rather than the unstable short term memory.

Do yourself a favor and try this for a couple of weeks and then, do me a favor in return…. let me know what you think!