You and me both, Neville, you and me both.
Uni swamps us with information, and I think most of us could agree that a lot of the time, especially if you haven’t been paying a lot of attention, it seems like an unorganised mess. I mean, you zone out of a lecture for one minute and suddenly the class seems to have a handle on Deacetoxycephalosporin-C synthase. Meanwhile, you’re still trying to figure out what the heck the lecture is even about. So you walk out, your brain foggy with all those new words you don’t yet understand. What do you do with that information?
Memory works through the process of encoding, storage and retrieval. Learning how to store information so that it makes its way into your Long Term Memory (LTM) is how you’re going to get that H1…or at least a pass – let’s be real.
Storage techniques for Long Term Memory
1. Mind maps
An oldie but a goodie.
In order to store information for the long term, a technique that is common but largely underestimated is the mind map. The brain is excellent at remembering by association. But when one lecture is about plant cells and the next is about your liver, it’s difficult to connect the information you’re being given. Having topical mind maps is a fantastic way to solve this problem, because you can sort out your lecture material by topic. This will help your brain connect the dots and allow you to revise more efficiently.
2. Connect the new with the old
This uses the same principle of association as the mind map idea, but does it by connecting new information with previous knowledge. This will help you build on information already stored in your brain and learn by association, making new information more meaningful to you. The brain will be able to make more branches on established pathways rather than build entirely new ones.
Yeah, yeah. You probably know this one cause you’ve heard it a thousand times before…get it?
I agree, it’s boring. But it really does seem to work, and I can attest to it. Every night before bed my dad used to count to ten aloud in different languages, and to this day I can still do it. Get those flashcards out!
Is this easy to read? Or memorise?
What about this one?
Chunking is usually a way to store things in your Short Term Memory (STM). Your STM can hold around 7 pieces of information at one time, so storing them in ‘chunks’ is the best way to achieve this. However, chunking can also be helpful for your Long Term Memory. If you break something into chunks that can be stored in your STM, and somehow make that information meaningful to you (e.g. drawing a picture of ‘The Quick Brown Fox’), you can then potentially also store those little nuggets of information in your LTM.
5. Funny stories
This is a memory technique close to my heart. This one makes study fun, and not just in the way those cheesy kids shows tell you. You can go nuts here. Think big.
For example, you could create your own characters to help you remember topics, like Gentleman Gene for Genetics and Cellular Celine for Cell Biology. While studying Japanese, I would come across unfamiliar sounding words like 医者（いしゃ）, pronounced ‘i-shya’, meaning ‘doctor’. So instead of just memorising a bunch of sounds, you make it fun. Like “‘ishya’ foot sore? Better call the doctor!” Makes you look pretty weird, but it sure is efficient.
I hope these help you study for your exams or survive those nightmarish MSTs. Happy studying!