Have you ever struggled with remembering what you study? You studied for hours before the test, but you just can’t seem to recall anything once you see the question.
If this sounds like you, you’re in the right place. There are many students who’ve experienced the same thing as you, and don’t worry- there is a way to overcome it.
In this post, I’ll reveal 7 strategies that will help you truly remember what you study. Save this post so you can reference it later, and let’s get started!
Pay Attention The First Time
This is a given; if you want to effectively learn and remember information, you have to pay attention the first time you’re exposed to it!
Whether you’re listening to a lecture, watching a video recording, reading a textbook, or something else, pay attention to actively think through every sentence you’re hearing.
This also means taking notes, asking questions, making diagrams, drawing connections, etc; I’ll go into more detail on these strategies soon in the post, but know that paying attention is crucial!
If the source of information (the lecture, the textbook, etc) was reliable and informative, you should already have a basic understanding of everything you’re supposed to study.
However, if the source of information wasn’t very reliable and informative, you may be left confused. But don’t give up here! Once you are able to, find another source of information where you can pay attention and learn.
Take Notes That Work
While you are absorbing this new information for the first time, you should start practicing some supplemental strategies to make sure you can still remember what you’ve learned later. In essence, just listening isn’t enough.
Instead, try taking notes! Here’s where the nuances come in: simply writing down every highlighted term the textbook mentions is not effective note-taking. Your notes should help you remember information in your own way, and copying down short phrases from the textbook will not do that.
So follow these steps:
- Preview the content before you begin. Note important headings and concepts and outline your notes.
- Think before you write. Before copying down a fact, ask yourself: do I already know this? Is this relevant? Does this make sense to me? How can I reword it to make it more intuitive?
- Draw diagrams. Especially for subjects in science, diagrams can be extremely useful in understanding a process or element.
- Make connections. You should try to connect one word to another, one concept to another, one theme to another, and even something from your textbook to something in real life!
YOU’LL LOVE THIS POST: How To Take Notes You’ll Actually Use
Use Spaced Repetition
Spaced repetition is a learning strategy where you are repeatedly exposed to the same information in a spaced time interval. This schedule can vary for different people, but the idea is the same: repetition builds memory.
When practicing spaced repetition, follow these steps:
- Plan ahead
Always plan ahead and schedule a few study sessions or blocks of time to focus exclusively on what you’re re-learning. Here’s where you should take note of the time interval. The suggested schedule of reviewing after first exposure is: after 1 hour, after a day, after 2 days, after a week, after 2 weeks, after a month, then monthly or quarterly.
- Review in a set order
When reviewing material, don’t choose random concepts based on how you’re feeling. Make sure to follow a certain order (that you should plan out beforehand)! It could be chronological (in the order that you learned the information) or in order of difficulty (the more confusing it is, the earlier you can review).
- Make new connections
You should always gain something new in every repetition, and one way to ensure that this happens is to make new connections. This could mean connections within the chapter, connections with other chapters, or connections with real life!
Ask & Answer Questions
This is a review strategy called active recall, but it is also something you can practice while taking notes. And as the phrase suggests, this strategy involves proposing questions related to a specific topic, then answering them to the best of your ability.
While taking notes, you can quickly skim through a small section before writing anything down, then think of a question and revolve your notes around that question.
While reviewing, you can go through each question and answer them without looking at your notes. Afterward, you can refer to it and make changes if necessary.
This is a great reviewing strategy for any time, and you can create flashcards to help you study on the go. Active recall is a truly effective way to remember what you study, so try practicing it regularly!
RELATED POST: How To Transform The Way You Study In 7 Days
Teach Someone Else
You may have tried to explain a concept to someone before and realized midway that you just found a new way to understand and apply the concept. Or you may have realized that you were wrong in your understanding.
Either way, you’ve benefited from this exchange. Teaching someone else is different from teaching yourself; you often have to clarify points you understand easily and answer questions you’ve never thought about before.
Therefore, teaching someone else is a valuable experience. It helps you review the things you understand clearly, identify holes in your knowledge, and make new connections to remember the concept better.
So whenever you’re hosting a study session, don’t be afraid to offer to teach someone else something (or help them review a concept). You’re helping them, but you’re also helping yourself. It’s a win-win!
Something to remember is that reviewing isn’t a one-time thing. It needs to be a long-term, regular commitment. Even if you’re not practicing spaced repetition (which you should!), build review habits into your daily life.
A common misconception is that you have to spend at least an hour (on average, based on the size of the workload) to have an effective review session. In truth, just 15 minutes a day can make a difference.
Like I mentioned before, flashcards are a great way to practice active recall, and they don’t take that much time to go through! Therefore, these could be something you practice daily.
Of course, there are other review strategies you can practice weekly or even monthly, such as revising your notes and holding group study sessions. As long as you build a routine, your review will be effective.
Last but not least, remember to take breaks often when studying! Please do not study for days on end, because you (and your brain) will experience burnout, and all your extra efforts to remember what you’ve learned will go to waste.
During long study sessions, use a Pomodoro timer to schedule your focus and rest intervals. Allow yourself to truly detach from your studies during your break, and come back more energized than before.
Every few weeks (or however often you feel is truly necessary), take a few hours or a day off to relax and care for yourself. Acknowledge that you’ve worked hard, and resume your studies more motivated than ever!
Congrats, you’ve reached the end of this post! I hope these strategies were helpful for remembering what you study; leave a comment with what you like to do to remember what you study!
If you’re looking for more posts like this, here are a few I think you’d enjoy:
- Why Your Grades Actually Matter & How To Get A 4.0 GPA
- 60 Life-Changing Habits To Build This Semester
- How To Actually Stop Hating Studying & Become A Motivated Student