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Skills To Retain Information– A Revision Tool

We all possess unique ways to remember and store information. Whether it’s a few items of food which need to be picked up from the supermarket, someone’s name who you have just been introduced to or which road you actually parked the car on when it’s far from the venue you have just driven to!

Which one are you?

Auditory – Tactile – Visual – Semantic

Some of us have a strong auditory way to encode information. If we
hear it, we don’t forget it. Tactile memory encoders are sensitive to
how something ‘feels’ and ‘moves’. Visual encoders have no problems
remembering visually how scenarios look and semantic encoders can strongly associate meaning and relationships to words.

Have a short think about how you best store information you need to remember. Think about the last time you had to remember something and couldn’t write down.

These categories are in no way rigid, you may be a mixture of more then one. However you can see if you have a stronger inclination to either one of the four, which can help you find the most efficient way to memorise information when revising.

Which one are you?

An auditory encoder tends to have a very good vocabulary, easily remembers conversations, lectures, song lyrics and what was discussed verbally in meetings.
Can you remember lyrics to songs with ease? Can you recall almost word for word scenes from films or TV shows? If so this may be a skill you can use when revising for exams.
Make a note of what you need to remember and read it out aloud at least 3 times a day, or discuss it with someone. Or even better have a conversation with yourself about it! You can even sing it, using the tune of your favourite song.

Which one are you?

A tactile encoder has a good memory of how things ‘feel’ and often can associate ‘movement’ to information. Possibly easily attributing ‘smell’ to memories.
If you like dancing, enjoying aerobics or any form of exercise, try and find a way to incorporate this into associating new information with movement.
This maybe slightly more challenging with regards to remembering details within science.
However if this is more comfortable for you and it works, go for it!

Which one are you?

Do you easily remember details on posters, billboards, films and diagrams? Then you are most likely a visual encoder of information.

Visualising complex 3D shapes and how they fit together comes naturally to you if you have this skill. This can be utilised to retain information when studying and revising.
Think of your favourite film or music video, then try and incorporate what you need to remember into it.

Also a good technique is to imagine the topic which you need to remember playing out in a sequence like an animated story. You can practice with short segments of information and then build on it.

Remember there is nothing too wacky to use. Actually the more far fetched the visuals are in your mind, the easier it will be for you to remember them.

Which one are you?

If you can associate meaning to new information with information you already know, you’re maybe a semantically inclined encoder.

Those who strongly use this skill can assign personal meaning to new words or data, which aids in retrieving the information at a later stage.

We all do this to varying degrees; this often works best when we assign strong emotional meaning to information. If the colour of a chemical reaction needs to be remembered, we can think of something we like very much which is the same colour.

A good way to test if you learn information easier this way, is to practice daily adding new facts to something you already know.

Use strong or positive past memories. Or what feelings the information you need to remember initially evoke in you.

Have you ever wondered how rappers remember those long verses for entire concerts and tours?
Or maybe those long scenes in theatrical stage performances and operas?

Try creative ideas!

Rhythmic repetition

It is evident that the artists involved have great skills and tools at their disposal to retrieve the vast information they need.
‘Rhythmic repetition’ is one of those methods.
For an example, if you had to remember the sequence of how the blood flows through the heart.
‘Vena cava – right atrium – right ventricle – pulmonary artery – lungs – pulmonary vein – left atrium – left ventricle – aorta.’
You could imagine repeating this out loud in a rhythmic fashion, with each word punctuated like a ‘beat’ when speak it out.

If you have a smart phones, you can make a series of audio recordings of yourself talking about the information you need to revise.

Try creative ideas!

Audio and visual storytelling

Listen to these recordings as you travel, while you are preparing dinner or when you have a quiet time to yourself at home.
You can also visually place the information you need to remember with a film, commercial of music video scene you are very familiar with. A funny memorable one! 

‘Imagine the haemoglobin molecule as a taxi which can only collect 4 oxygen molecule (O2) passengers at a time. Each of the 4 seats in haemoglobin are a protein globular chain. Haemoglobin starts his journey at ‘alveoli station’ in the lungs which is busy with oxygen molecules trying to get home to the capillaries in the suburbs, which is in the limbs and organs of the body. Haemoglobin is happy to pick up the 4 oxygen molecules, they get on well and he has a strong ‘affinity’ for them as there are a lot about. When he leaves and goes through the body’s blood system and reaches the suburbs of the capillaries in the organs, he starts to lose his affinity for the O2 as they leave his taxi and enter the organs. This is because now there are lots of CO2 at the suburbs, and they want a ride back to the ‘alveoli station’. They want to be breathed out. When there are lots of CO2 around he starts to lose affinity/interest in O2; it gets kind of awkward! Now he is all friendly with the CO2 and heads to the lungs. He will lose interest in CO2 once he gets back to ‘alveoli station’ where there are a lot of O2 around. It’s awkward for haemoglobin. He’s a bit two faced, acting differently in front of CO2 when O2 is around and O2 when CO2 is around!’

An article on the Business Insider website in 2017 (Daniella Brandy, Business Insider Australia) explained how a former spy for MI6 remembered vital information without writing it down. This incorporated bits of some of the aforementioned examples given. The technique this spy used was an ‘image association technique’ called ‘“my family home”.

Try creative ideas!

Think like a spy

What he did was imagine his family home when he was growing up, and as he mentally walked in and through each room and floor, he would link/place the new information he needed to recall to items he was familiar with.
He would go through this circuit several times placing the ‘unknown information’ with what was already ‘known’ to him in his house.
Try it out and see what different and creative ways you can remember information without writing it down. Have fun!

If I were to make a mental image of the study area of most students whether at home or in a library somewhere, I’m sure there would be lots of books and a pretty big pile!
Open text books, print outs, notebooks, pens, calculators and just a heap of papers. Oh yes, and a smart phone half sticking out under this all somewhere.

What skills can I learn to help exams?

Time management – Practice past papers

There is nothing wrong with this, we all have our own unique way of studying and revising. All this information at hand can often give us a false sense of ‘learning’. We may feel like we are covering a lot and ‘making good progress’.
However, we all know the stark difference in an exam setting. That feeling of turning over the page at the start with none of the familiar textbooks and notes around us.
It’s just our brain and the exam paper! What can we do before an exam to prepare for the real exam setting so it is less daunting?

A good way to start is to practice answering past exam questions as if you were in an actual exam.

Find a clear table, make sure your textbooks and notes are not accessible and just sit with the past exam paper a pen, pencil and calculator if needed.

What skills can I learn to help exams?

Time management – Practice past papers

Have an extra blank A4 paper handy as well; treat this as a working out sheet. Make a note of the time, and start answering about 2 questions.
Note down quickly from time to time, anything that comes to your mind about what the question is asking on the spare A4 paper. It doesn’t matter if it may not seem relevant straight away, it may be useful to refer back to as you build your answer.

Make a note of how long it took to answer. Don’t worry if you feel your answer is insufficient, this is just an exercise to strengthen your memory skills. Look at what information you have missed out and then repeat this exercise.
Keep doing this until you become more confident in answering questions without referring to your notes. This will help strengthen your memory.

Talking about what you are studying, and hearing yourself regularly verbalise this information will also help you to remember.

Have a good in-depth chat with a family member or friend; a fellow student studying the same topic is also good. Make sure you don’t stray off the subject!

Imagine you are the one that is teaching, get them to ask questions. Break down into detail the mechanisms and all the parts as best as you can. Make it fun!


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