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The alternative study techniques that will make cramming for your next exam a piece of cake

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All students find themselves in situations of doom and gloom, left to memorise huge quantities of information in short periods of time. Copying notes from your textbook or reading through lecture slides may be your favourite way to spend time. But if you want to spice up your late night textbook date, with study techniques that are proven to be more effective, then read on.

The memory palace

This memory technique was adopted in ancient Roman and Greek times and has been used by a number of memory test champions who have used the technique to recall digits, names, and lists of words.  This technique would work best for memorising speeches, legal cases, names of scholars, or dates.

  1. Create a palace in your mind – with lots of different rooms. Base it on a place that exists in real life or that you’re familiar with. For a smaller memory palace, you could just use your house. For a larger memory palace, you could use your whole town. The larger the space, the more information you’ll be able to store in the mental space.
  2. Decide your route, and identify specific storage locations in your palace or along your route. When you use your memory palace, you will put information that you want to remember (e.g. dates, legal cases, or academics names) in specific locations.
  3. Then you can place things to be remembered in the palace. Once you have constructed your palace and have it firmly implanted in your mind, put a manageable amount of information in each place. So, for example, if you’re trying to remember all of the digits in Pi, you might want to place the first few digits on your door mat, and the next few in the key hole of your door.
  4. Don’t put too much information in one place and make sure that you place things along your route in the order in which you need to remember them (if applicable).
  5. Then in an exam, you’ll go to remember a fact – and remember that you left it in the oven!

Spaced repetition

The flashcard method

  1. Organise flashcards into a box and set up a schedule for when you’ll revise the cards in each of the box sections.
  2. Each time you answer a card correctly, put the card into a section that you will revisit less frequently in the. Each time you answer wrong, move the card into a section which you’ll need to visit more often.

Reading from a textbook over and over again is not only seriously boring and soul-destroying but it’s actually proven to be pretty ineffective. Neuroscience and psychology research has shown that reading from a textbook doesn’t correspond at all to how the brain actually works. Using these alternative study methods are more suited to what we know about the brain. So next time you’re preparing for a big exam, why don’t you give one of these a whirl.

Photo: Alberto G. / Flickr

Do you know about any great ways to retain information? Let us know in the comment section below!

Jessica SmithThe alternative study techniques that will make cramming for your next exam a piece of cake

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