14 Proven Study Techniques to Learn More Quickly and Remember More

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You’re not stupid—you just haven’t explored the effective study techniques that help you learn much quicker and remember the material long after the exams are over!

Write By Hands to Boost Memory


While writing by hand is a bit old-school, it’s a surprisingly powerful tool for learning. There’s a unique connection between the hand and brain that helps encode information more deeply. Next time you’re in a lecture, try jotting down your notes by hand. 

  • Pro tip: As you write, speak the information out loud and try to visualize the concepts, both techniques actively involves your brain in the learning process and help you remember every word!

Try Out the Interleaving Study Method


Exploring multiple subjects or skills simultaneously can profoundly impact your learning efficiency. This method, known as interleaving, challenges the traditional approach of concentrating on one task at a time. 

By alternating between related skills or concepts within the same study session, you engage your brain in a more dynamic and robust process.

Why Your Brain Loves Learning Shifts!


The strength of interleaving lies in its ability to prevent any single task from becoming too routine or automatic. This constant shift ensures that your brain always has to stay alert and make adjustments, enhancing your ability to distinguish between different elements of your learning. 

It’s a bit like cross-training in sports—working out different muscles to improve overall fitness rather than just focusing on one group.

Create Fun Meaningful Groups!


Here’s a fun trick to boost your memory: create meaningful groups. Let’s say you need to remember the names of some plants—garlic, rose, hawthorn, and mustard. By taking the first letters of each (GRHM), you can link them to the image of a GRAHAM cracker. 

Now, all you need to do is picture that tasty snack, and the plant names will come flooding back. It’s a simple, yet creative way to lock in those hard-to-remember details!

Create Memorable Visual Images


Creating memorable visual images can be a powerful tool for remembering key information. By connecting directly to your brain’s visuospatial centers, images can simplify complex concepts into easy-to-recall visuals. 

Visualizing for Vivid Memories


For a more immersive experience, involve multiple senses in your visualization process. For instance, if you need to remember that Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana, envision a character named Louise carrying a red baton. 

As you visualize her, try to imagine the sounds of the parade, the texture of the baton, and perhaps even the scent of the surroundings. This multi-sensory approach makes the memory more vivid and also more durable.

Talk to Yourself (Awkward But Works Wonders!)


Talking to yourself might raise a few eyebrows, but it’s a fantastic memory booster. 

Instead of just highlighting text or reading it over and over, try explaining the material out loud to yourself (or even your friends). This active engagement helps cement the information in your memory, making it much easier to recall later.

Explore the Memory Palace Technique


The memory palace technique is an imaginative and effective mnemonic that involves visualizing a familiar place (such as your home) and using it to store mental images of the information you need to remember. 

Creative Visuals for Effective Learning


To put this into practice, visualize each item on your list—like groceries—placed in specific locations throughout your home. For instance, imagine an egg cracking and dripping from your dining table or oranges arranged on your sofa. 

This method might require some practice to get accustomed to, but it becomes quicker and more effective with use. 

Listen to Songs and Jingles to Remember Information


Songs and jingles can also be a fun and effective way to memorize information, from equations to lists! The rhythm and melody engage your brain’s right hemisphere, facilitating memorization in surprisingly pleasant way. 

If you’re trying to remember something specific, like the quadratic formula, search online to see if there are already songs available. If not, consider creating your own tune. This method makes recalling information easier and more enjoyable.

Engage All Five Senses for Deeper Learning


Incorporating as many of the five senses as possible into your study sessions can dramatically improve your ability to retain information. 

For example, when studying for an anatomy exam, physically handling models, feeling their textures, and verbally naming the parts can activate multiple brain areas, enhancing your memory. This multisensory approach ensures a more holistic learning experience, making the information more relatable and easier to recall.

Use Visual Metaphors and Analogies for Clarity


Visual metaphors or analogies are incredibly useful for understanding and remembering academic concepts, particularly in subjects like math and science. By relating new information to known visuals, these metaphors create strong cognitive connections. 

For example, picturing Syria as a bowl of cereal and Jordan as a Nike Air Jordan sneaker provides a unique visual hook that can make geographical learning extremely memorable and engaging!

Change Your Study Methods


Varying your study methods can significantly enhance how efficiently you learn and retain information. A technique supported by research from Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests that practicing a task in slightly different ways each time can accelerate your learning more effectively than repetitive practice of the same method. 

Establish a Baseline for Better Performance


Start by running through your task (such as a presentation) in a standard manner multiple times to establish a baseline. Then, allow some time (at least six hours) for your brain to process and consolidate the memories from your initial practice. 

Now, Adjust Your Pace


Following this, re-engage with the task under slightly altered conditions or by adjusting your approach. For instance, try going faster or slower than usual, which compels you to adapt and integrate new information with what you already know. 

Master Tasks Piece by Piece


Another effective strategy is to break the task into smaller parts and focus on mastering each segment before reintegrating them. Additionally, altering the physical conditions of your practice, like using different equipment or settings, prepares you better for any unexpected changes during the actual performance. 

These strategies leverage the brain’s natural memory modification processes (reconsolidation), allowing you to enhance your learning by continually updating and improving your knowledge base.

The More You Test Yourself, the Better

man thinking
Illustration. Image credit: Shutterstock

Self-testing is a highly effective tool for enhancing the learning process, as demonstrated by a study featured in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. This study emphasizes the efficiency of self-testing in speeding up learning without requiring significant time investments. 

Practice Testing


Practice testing has shown positive effects even when the time dedicated to it is moderate and equivalent to the time spent on revising the material. 

An added advantage of self-testing is its simplicity in implementation—it requires minimal training, making it accessible for any student to start right away.

Self-Testing Techniques


Students can easily engage in self-testing by using methods such as cued recall. For instance, they might create flashcards—a method supported by both free and low-cost software—or utilize the Cornell note-taking system. 

This system involves leaving a blank column when taking notes in class, which is later filled with key terms or questions to aid in self-testing during review sessions. 

Structured Testing for Enhanced Learning


More structured forms of practice testing, such as multiple-choice, short-answer, and fill-in-the-blank tests, are also often available through practice problems at the end of textbook chapters or via electronic supplements provided with textbooks.

Don’t Feel Guilty to Take Breaks!


When you’re working hard on a project for your class, it’s tempting to push through without stopping, but taking breaks can significantly enhance your learning and retention. 

After running through your project a couple of times and making necessary revisions, it’s really beneficial to step away for a few hours or even a day!

Why Distributed Practice Works Wonders


This method, known as “distributed practice,” has been shown to be highly effective according to a study in Psychological Science. The concept behind this is called study-phase retrieval theory, which suggests that the more successfully you retrieve a memory, the harder it becomes to forget. 

So, if you review your material repeatedly without breaks, it stays in your short-term memory, and you miss the chance to really anchor it into your long-term memory.

Contextual Variability


Breaks also help by adding contextual variability—this means when you learn something, the context in which you learn it also gets encoded into your memory. 

Just like how an old perfume might trigger memories of where you were and even how you felt!) when you put it on in the past, learning in different contexts can enhance your ability to retrieve information later. 

Get Moving to Get Smarter!


Exercise is good for both your body and brain. Studies have shown that physical activity can significantly enhance memory and learning. Research indicates that exercise (including both cardio and resistance training) helps generate neurons in brain areas associated with memory. 

Regular physical activity can thus improve both memory and overall cognitive functions, making it a valuable addition to your learning strategies.

Sleep Your Way to Better Memory


Getting enough sleep is a game-changer not just for your health, but also for your memory. A 2016 study published in Psychological Science found that people who studied right before sleeping, and then quickly reviewed the material the next morning, spent less time studying overall and also boosted their long-term retention by an impressive 50 percent! 

How Sleep Reinforces Learning


This phenomenon is linked to what’s known as sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Research suggests that during sleep, our brains actively reprocess and reinforce what we’ve learned throughout the day.

So, after a day of studying, getting a good night’s sleep can do more than just rest your body—it helps ‘file away’ your new knowledge effectively. And if you really want to max out the benefits, consider revising a bit the next morning.

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Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.