By Amanda Bertsch
This post is part of our new series Study Spot. Check back bimonthly for study tips and college advice. This special post is for finals.
At some point, everyone has to memorize something, whether it’s dates for a history test or formulas for physics. Luckily, there are several proven methods to speed memorization and make studying less of a chore.
- Start early: Unsurprisingly, studying takes some time. Set aside time to study at least a week or two before any major test; even if you haven’t covered all the information yet, you can study the early stuff first. Don’t be that person that crams everything the night before, because that person doesn’t tend to do well on difficult tests.
- Write it: Handwritten notes have been proved to help you retain information. What this means for memorization is that rewriting information multiple times will help you memorize it much faster. This method is especially helpful for subjects with exact wordings, like poems or formulas.
- Say it: Speaking information also helps retention. Try reciting notes or passages out loud, adding enunciation and gestures. This method also doubles as practice for public speaking!
- Study late and early: You’re more likely to remember information that you review right before you go to bed or immediately after you get up in the morning. Just be sure to avoid online studying before going to bed because the light of the screen will make it more difficult to sleep later.
- Teach it: Teaching something to someone else helps you remember and understand that information better. However, there’s not always someone willing to listen to three hours of Japanese characters or European history. Try teaching to an empty room or a pet for a similar effect.
- Memory Castle: Anyone who watches BBC Sherlock will be familiar with the concept of a “mind palace” where information is organized. A similar method involves associating concepts with specific areas of your home. Walk into the kitchen, for instance, and associate the stove with the boiling point of water. Or simply recite a passage and dedicate a specific section to each room, then walk to that room whenever you recite that piece. This is especially useful with information that has to be remembered in a specific order.
- Story time: Any kind of history is just a real-life story. Instead of reciting dates and names over and over, tell the information in a story format. Don’t forget to mention all the dates, but telling it as if you were telling a story to a friend will help you associate causes with effects.
- Take breaks: Cramming for four hours straight won’t help as much as you think it will. Instead, break up studying and take frequent breaks to relax, do other work, or go outside.
- Do what you can, where you can: We all have busy schedules, but once you start studying information you can take it with you on the road. Recite a poem in the shower, quiz yourself on dates on the van ride to a sporting event, or reread notes on the way to school if someone else is driving. There’s a lot of wasted time in the day, so take advantage of some of that time to reduce stress later.
- Think sideways: Instead of just repeating information the same way over and over, look for other ways to think about the information. Form a mnemonic (a play on letters or words to help remember information), recite information backwards, or analyze how historical events tie in to what’s happening today. By breaking patterns, you’ll force your brain to process the information again and thus aid memorization.
By following these tips, you can make your studying more productive, efficient, and stress-free. Get started early, and good luck on all your finals!