Studying for exams? Learn techniques to help you remember everything
03. May 2023
“How am I supposed to memorise all of this material? Is it even realistic? Will my memory be up to it? I'm guaranteed to forget this!” All of us have felt this way at some point during the learning process. But, with a better understanding of how memory works and the different types of memory, the process of memorisation can become clearer and less daunting. This knowledge can not only help us in our studies but in our day-to-day lives.
It's difficult to conceive of the learning process without memory. It serves as a repository in which we store and retrieve information to facilitate learning and various activities. There are several types of memory that are closely interrelated, although their respective roles in the learning process are distinct. The fundamental types of memory include sensory, short-term, and long-term memory. Let's take a closer look at each type and learn how to effectively utilize them in the context of learning.
Sensory memory: this type of memory is responsible for temporarily processing information from our senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.It is the first stage in the learning process, during which our brains register stimuli from the outside world. This type of memory is very short-lived, lasting only a few seconds. It is crucial to quickly process the stimuli we receive because if we fail to do so, we risk losing them from our memory.
Our brain's immediate storage system
Short-term memory: also known as working memory, this type of memory enables us to temporarily store information that is currently in use or the focus of our attention. It has a limited capacity and quickly becomes depleted. During the learning process, short-term memory processes information acquired by sensory memory, allowing us to manipulate and work with it. With repeated processing and integration with existing knowledge stored in long-term memory, this information can be permanently stored.
Long-term memory: a type of memory that is responsible for storing information over extended periods, ranging from several minutes to a lifetime. It is a critical component of the learning process, retaining information learned through repetition, context, and emotional experiences. This consolidation process involves the transfer of information from short-term memory to long-term memory. Long-term memory has nearly limitless capacity and encompasses several types of memory, including declarative memory, procedural memory, emotional memory, etc.
Declarative memory - refers to the storage of facts and events
- Procedural memory - refers to the storage of skills and habits
- Emotional memory - refers to the retention of emotional memories
In addition to these types of memory, there is also a concept known as ‘working memory’. Working memory temporarily stores the information required for the task at hand. This dynamic process allows us to manipulate information in short-term memory and work with it to carry out cognitive tasks such as planning, decision-making, problem-solving, and creativity.
And how to most effectively use your memory for learning?
Making effective use of your memory during the learning process is critical to improving your ability to learn, remember, and use information. Understanding the various types of memory and their roles in the learning process is essential to achieving this goal. The following tips can help you maximise the potential of your memory when learning:
Maintain your attention
During the learning process, make sure you stay focused and minimise any distractions.
Creating associations between new information and existing knowledge can enhance memory retention. Use methods such as mnemonics and association to help connect new knowledge with what you already know.
Repeating information several times is essential for consolidating memories. You can repeat information aloud, take notes, or create questions related to the topic to reinforce the knowledge in your memory.
Alternating ways of learning can help with remembering. Try learning using different senses for example by switching between reading and writing. You could also make audio recordings and use colors or highlighters to visually highlight important information. This variety will help solidify the memory by creating more connections.
Sleep and relax
Sufficient rest and sleep are critical for cognitive function and memory consolidation. They restore the brain, giving it time to process new information, and prepare for the influx of more.