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Tips for Success: Retaining Information By Tyler Nishikawa

30 Nov , 2014  

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If you’re like me then you probably have finals coming up in the next couple of weeks. Again if you are like me you are probably going through these next couple of weeks wondering when the days started to get shorter and cursing your earlier enthusiasm for so much responsibility.

Finals are a stressful time of the year, they let you know how you handle things such as: stress, time management and allocation of your responsibilities. You always feel like you can retain more information than is humanly possible, and you keep saying to yourself, ” OK, if I can finish this section in an hour I’ll have two hours for this class and get five hours of sleep. Then I can concentrate on this project and go to work. Argh! Do I really need this class anyway? I bet I’d make a great stripper, I can dance on a pole to stay in shape and they make great tips…”

Your experience may vary, but you catch my drift. Trying to stay on top of everything and still remember enough to get by can be rather difficult. That’s why I decided to research some ways to better retain the information that I am being presented. After some searching I realized there are way too many people giving bad tips on information retaining, but I did find five from the American Intercontinental University that I believe are the best of the best. Not only are they short and sweet but they are easy to incorporate into your studying session. These tips will not just work for schoolwork, you can use them in any situation where you really need to remember information.

Tip #1: Don’t Cram

Fun fact: former U.S. President Richard Nixon was nicknamed “Iron Butt” while he was a law student due to the amount of time he spent studying in the library. If you’re tempted to brew a pot of coffee and chase Nixon’s title, think again: waiting until the last minute to “cram” can be counterproductive. If you’re panicking about an imminent assignment, essay, or exam, you’re less likely to perform as well.

It’s better to plan regular study sessions in advance—not just when you’re going to study, but what you’re going to study. Committing to focus on a specific issue gets you mentally prepared to pay attention to what’s most relevant about that topic, and that topic only.

Tip #2: Take Breaks During Sessions

Your attention span and willpower are limited. Even if you are unusually diligent and disciplined, you have a breaking point. Once you pass it, your brain (and likely body) will become fatigued, and a fatigued brain isn’t going to retain an awful lot. Breaking your study session into periods with a timer, and taking a short break between them, could help you rest your mind for a few minutes. Pacing like this may prolong your ability to be effective over the long term while you study.

Ideas for good short-term study breaks include anything that involves getting up and away from your desk. Do some push-ups. Go outside and take some deep breaths. Clean the bathtub. Play with the cat or dog. Just make sure you use a timer to limit your breaks, too, so that “five minutes” of checking Facebook doesn’t become an hour.

Tip #3: Use Your Senses

People learn in different ways—what Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner called “multiple intelligences”. Some people are “visual” learners, others “auditory” or “linguistic” or “hands-on”.

Even if you know you learn best one way as opposed to another, you’re more likely to retain information if you interact with it in a number of ways. This is why people take notes during lectures, or have discussion groups after a presentation. Reading, writing, listening, speaking, and other forms of feedback help us phrase and re-phrase the materials we’re studying, coding them into our brains more strongly.

So don’t just read and re-read. Read, take notes, and read the notes out loud. Consider drawing a picture, or even coloring one in: students in nursing courses often have anatomy “coloring books” they use to help learn the bones, muscles, organs, and nerves. And online learning environments are increasingly finding creative ways to tap into multiple learning styles as they present course materials, with videos, games, and interactive tasks to complete.

Tip #4: Trick Yourself With Mnemonics

When you have short, sharp facts you need to memorize, using mnemonics, or memory aids, can help. Remember what “Roy G. Biv” or “My Very Elegant Mother Just Served Up Nine Planets” stands for?

Acronyms or rhymes can help you break information down into little chunks that are easier to retrieve than a long piece of information such as “the list of colors in the visible spectrum” or “the planets of the solar system, in orbit order from the sun”. Mnemonics use the power of association to help information stick in your head.

Tip #5: Teach Someone Else

Teaching what you’ve learned to someone else (or summarizing it for them) forces you to organize the way you go about learning it. You not only focus on really understanding the subject matter, you begin to approach it systematically. Most decent lesson plans will ask a teacher to:

Introduce the main idea of the subject (summarize it)
Define new words or terms
Give examples in real life
Give students two ways to practice the idea
Re-summarize the idea and take questions
Check to see what students have learned through a quiz, activity, or questioning
Re-teach anything that wasn’t learned the first time

I hope you guys found these tips to be as useful as I hoped you would. If not then that’s cool too I guess.

“5 Tips on How to Retain Information.” Online College Degree Programs & Courses. N.p., 1 Oct. 2012. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.omgeee.com/wp-content/uploads/Attachment-1-e1409027621993.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]Phenomz Journalist Tyler Nishikawa [/author_info] [/author]

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