Tag Archives: memory

Study Less for Better Grades


There’s only so much you can eat at one time. Gorge yourself and you’ll end up tossing your proverbial cookies. Psychology research shows that your brain works similarly. Try to shove in too much new info at one sitting and you’ll get brain barf. Well, not barf exactly, but your noggin will not thank you for it. In fact, you’ll end up interfering with your ability to recall the first info you studied. Here’s how you can fix it, while studying less and remembering more!

  1. Set a timer (watch, cell phone, sun dial, online stopwatch, whatever) for thirty minutes and study. When the timer sounds, finish up the thought/idea you were studying, then …
  2. Take a five minute break and Continue reading Study Less for Better Grades

You study TOO MUCH…


…at least when it comes to reviewing info you want to recall, like your class notes on the Kreb Cycle or the Quadratic Formula. If you catch yourself going over the same notes again and again, trying to wedge it into your gray matter, there is a better way. Oodles (no, really, OOODLES) of good research to show that mnemonics (memory strategies) can increase your recall. That means less review for you (see this article for a run down of the research).

And using mnemonic techniques doesn’t require that you have thick glasses, a lack of fashion sense, and a passion for Star Trek: The Next Generation. In fact, the article linked above begins with an account of how mnemonics were used to beef up recall among Continue reading You study TOO MUCH…

High School Ain’t College

[hidepost]Previous high school experience tells students…

  • there’s always a second chance
  • someone will remind you of upcoming due dates
  • the teacher can’t give the whole class failing grades
  • the student will be told exactly what’s on the test
  • very few tests are cumulative, so short term memory is usually sufficient (if your smart and pay attention, good grades are easy)
  • paying adequate attention in class is usually good enough; outside studying is not required
  • tests are relatively easy and fair
  • tests are designed so that even the lower-achieving students can potentially pass
  • there are many grades during the semester, so a few screw-ups are okay
  • each question on the test will have been addressed many times, both in class and in the reading
  • most of the required knowledge comes from class and one or two texts, not mostly from many different texts
  • long, boring lectures are the exception
  • teachers will work hard to make sure students understand what is being taught
  • teachers know how to teach, most of the time
  • teachers care about student progress, most of the time
  • someone will help students identify which classes need to be taken and when
  • someone other than the student is responsible for the student’s learning

For these reasons, students fail to understand …

  • how difficult college can be
  • how little oversight there is
  • the implications of this lack of oversight
  • the implications of their new personal freedom and the necessity for self-control and good habits
  • the real nature of the problem (it’s no longer an issue of how smart you are, but of how how much you practice good habits)[/hidepost]

Flash Cards for Vocabulary Memorization

[hidepost]Flash Card Do’s

  • Do use flashcards in three different colors. Positive words–such as benign , sagacious, and staunch–could go on green, blue, or mauve 3×5 cards. Negative words–such as mendacious , stultify, and malevolent–might go on red, yellow, or puce 3×5 cards. Neutral words–like rebuttal , soporific, and nominal–could go on white, tan, or taupe cards. The colors don’t really matter as long as you are consistent. If you do choose to use mauve, puce, and taupe, I would diagnose you as excessively high-falutin’ and respectfully recommend a monster truck rally and two full episodes of Family Guy.
  • Do carry the cards around with you and review them whenever you have a chance; at the stoplight, before class, waiting on your girlfriend, in the line at the grocery store or the bank, waiting on your girlfriend, on long trips, walking across campus, or even while waiting on your girlfriend. Note to the fair sex; I mean no offense, but I’ve never had a boyfriend, and so I’ve never had to wait on one. I’m quite aware of the fact that the inferior must wait on the superior. Peons wait on princesses (princessi?) and not vice-versa.

Flash Card Don’ts

  • Don’t put too much on any one card. The purpose of using 3×5 cards is not to perfect your microfiche-ian penmanship. Go for the word on one side of the card and a short two or three word definition on the other side. For example, you might have the word “mephitic” on one side and the definition “stinky” on the other. The biggest mistake people make–besides posting their drunk pics on facebook–is putting too much information on a single flash card. One card equals one fact.
  • Don’t recall only the short definition!!! Before boiling it down to a short two or three word definition, you must look up the full definition of the word, making sure you completely understand it and can use it in a sentence. The short definition will act as a handle on the memory of the longer definition, but only if you learned the long definition first.
  • Don’t fail to review the flash cards on a regular basis. Make reviewing the cards a daily habit just like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, or waiting on your girlfriend (hand and foot … because she’s a princess).[/hidepost]

Group your vocabulary for better recall…


When learning vocabulary, get more bang for your buck by looking at synonyms at www.dictionary.com or sister site www.thesaurus.com. For example, when studying a word such as garrulous, you can also memorize verbose, prolix, loquacious, and voluble, all of which mean talkative, more or less.

As you go through them pay special attention to how they differ; prolix, for example, has the idea of tediously long-winded, while garrulous refers more to going on and on about relatively trivial matters. By grouping all these words together you establish a category and make all the words more memorable.

Memorizing Fast and Effectively


[hidepost]Helpful Software for Memory Tasks

In my classes on GRE and SAT Prep we talk about effective ways to commit all that vocabulary to memory. Reviewing every word every day is a waste of time. You want to study each item as little as possible and still be able to recall it at test time. In class we talked about a way to use different stacks of flashcards to minimize review and maximize recall. SuperMemo 2004 software does the same thing, but much more effectively.

Enter your facts in minimalist, flashcard style. Example; “Q. Lion?, A. Large African cat.” Supermemo 2004 will quiz you on that fact on a schedule designed to minimize reviews while ensuring that it isn’t forgotten. This is very powerful and useful software, and I would DEFINITELY shell out the $19 and use it. One warning; the website and the program are NOT pretty or terribly intuitive. It will take you some time to get used to how the app works, but it pays huge dividends. And it’s not just for vocabulary. You can commit anything to memory using SuperMemo.

Check it out at http://www.supermemo.com/.[/hidepost]

Foolproof Cheating

Wouldn’t it be spiffy if you could use a cheat sheet on your test? Even better; what if it was impossible to get caught. And to ice the proverbial pastry, what if it was completely legal and ethical. I’ll tell you a method to do just that.  [hidepost]It’s called mnemonics (nih MON iks).

I used this method all through grad school impressing prof and fellow struggling student alike. My friends, knowing of my uncanny ability to do barely passable work, were convinced I was cheating; especially when I made a perfect score on my human osteology exam with only thirty minutes of study. They had spent long nights cramming and scored poorly.

Find out more here![/hidepost]