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How To Improve Your Memory

Discover your learning style and find out how to study more efficiently

January 19, 2018

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The trick to having better study habits and improving your memory is to study smarter, not harder. Everyone learns differently. Discover your personal learning style to design a study plan that’s perfect for you.

When you get a bad grade on a test, it’s easy to think: “I should have studied harder”. In fact, studying harder may not have been your problem. It might have been that your study habits aren't a good match for how you learn best. Many schools teach study skills as an elective, and some teachers give study skills help, too, but it’s important to realize that there’s no one good way to study. Everyone has a different learning style. 

 

 

How do you learn best?

Some people learn better when they listen to information while others can only remember things when they read them. You can discover how you learn best by taking a quick online quiz.

Maybe You're an Auditory Learner

When you understand and remember things best after you hear them, you’re an auditory learner.

 

You can tell you’re an auditory learner if you:

  • Are good at remembering song lyrics
  • Talk to yourself while you’re working through a difficult problem
  • Hum or talk to yourself without realizing it
  • Sometimes need to read something out loud in order to understand it

As an auditory learner, your brain stores information based on how it sounds, so it’s easier to understand spoken instructions than written ones. If you are an auditory learner, you could benefit from listening to an audiobook while you read it or reading out loud. If you love music, make up a song about what you're studying.

You Might Be a Visual Learner

If seeing what you’re learning helps you remember it, you’re probably a visual learner. Visual learners learn best by reading. They’re also good at picturing what you’re learning as you read it. You may have trouble understanding spoken directions in a noisy classroom. 

 

You can tell if you’re a visual learner if you:

  • Draw pictures to help you understand things
  • Like to read 
  • Can remember and describe things you saw a long time ago
  • Get distracted in noisy places

As a visual learner, your brain likes to see things, not just hear them, to learn something well. Color-code your notes, use flashcards, write down instructions, and draw pictures to help you understand things better as you learn them and remember them when you study. If you’re trying to remember a date, picture the event in your mind, then imagine the date written somewhere in the picture. When you're studying in a busy place,  some studying music and a pair of headphones may help you focus.

Are You a Tactile Learner?

Tactile learners learn best when they’re tinkering with things or moving around. If you’re a hands-on person who is always touching things in order to explore, you’re a tactile learner. A physical pat on the back or a hug can make your day. You may tap your foot, get restless, or even have trouble staying in your seat during class.

 

You can tell if you’re a tactile learner if you:

  • Doodle without realizing it while you’re listening in class
  • Take apart pens or constantly rearrange things on the desk in front of you
  • Talk with your hands

As a tactile learner, your brain is activated by touch. If you’re having trouble figuring something out like solving a complicated math problem in your head or spelling a word out loud, try writing on an invisible chalkboard or pretend to write with your finger on paper. Keep silly putty or thinking putty to fidget with when you have to sit still for a long time, or use a fidget spinner if it’s not too distracting to others around you. Write notes on file cards and arrange them in groups to help you understand the relationship among them while you study. You can even try jumping rope, bouncing a ball, or shooting baskets while you recite things you need to memorize.

Mnemonic Devices: the best study strategy for all types of learners

Mnemonic devices are shortcuts to help you remember things. Do you ever sing along to pop songs without even realizing it? When you hear a song played many times, it gets imprinted on your memory without you even realizing it. The lyrics, the beat, and the melody all get paired up and each one helps you recall the other. After you’ve heard a song many times, you can probably recognize it after the first few notes. Mnemonic devices work the same way. When you’re trying to remember something, you match the thing you need to remember with something that’s easy to remember and then repeat it many times. Eventually, it sticks and becomes part of the vast treasure house of things you know.

How many of these mnemonic devices do you know?

  • Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally: PEMDAS helps you remember the order of operations in compound math equations to remember which ones go first.
  • "Kelly’s Potato Chips Often Form Greasy Stains": KHPCOFGS helps you remember the classification of living things in order.
  • To remember the difference between latitude and longitude, LATitude has slats like a window blind and LONGitude is long and has an N in it to remember it runs north to south.
  • To remember the difference between horizontal and vertical, remember horizontal goes along the horizon while vertical is up and down like vertical blinds on a sliding door.
  • To remember whether it’s stalactites or stalagmites that hang from the ceiling, remember that stalactites has a C for ceiling while stalagmites has a G for ground.
  • In music, the spaces on a Treble Clef spell out FACE while the lines can be remembered by saying "Every Good Boy Does Fine" (E, G, B, D, F).
  • "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles" helps you remember the order of the planets. If you’re including Pluto, you can change your order to Nine Pies instead!
  • In spelling, remember the rhyme I before E, except after C, or when sounded as A, as in neighbor and weigh.
  • Remembering how to spell stationary: StationAry means standing still at A STATION, while stationEry is something you write on and put in an Envelope.
  • Do you know how you can tell if a word can be used as a preposition? Most prepositions can be fit into the sentence “the plane flew ___ the clouds.” Into, out of, over, under, through, between, beneath, or even because of or despite all give the sentence new meaning.
  • And for those advanced students, the difference between the verb Affect and the noun Effect is easy to remember when you know that A comes before E in the alphabet in the the same way that something has to happen and Affect things before you can see what the outcome or Effect will be.

If you’re studying right now and don’t see one here that can help you, make up one of your own. You can turn it into a song, a rhyme, or a single trigger word that can help.

Use Mnemonic Devices To Remember People's Names

If you ever have trouble remembering people’s names when you meet them, you can use a mnemonic strategy to help you get better at it. When you meet someone for the first time, say their name out loud once or twice in your first conversation. For example, “Hi, Kevin. My name is ___.” or “It was nice meeting you, Kevin!” It helps if you know anyone else with the first name — especially if it’s a celebrity. You can pair that person with someone you already know who has the same name. Finally, find something about the person, whether it’s where you met, something you talked about, or something in their appearance, that you can match to their name. Perhaps you met Kevin on the seventh floor. Kevin and Seven pair up nicely. Use cues like these whenever you need to remember something important, and you’ll be on your way to building a better memory for the rest of your life.

Have your say

What's your learning style? Have you discovered a study method that works well for you? Share it in the comments!