Memory is a very important part of learning, and one which often worries dyslexic students. It is possible to improve your memory, but there is no magic wand; hard work is involved. However, developing memory techniques that suit you will be useful for life as well as university!
Ebbinghaus’ famous research on memory decay took place in the 1880s, but is still valid: 80% of what you learn today will be forgotten within 24 hours if you do not make a conscious effort to remember it. However, Ebbinghaus was researching the memorisation of nonsense material. It is easier to learn meaningful things.
It is also very important that you regularly review the knowledge that you are acquiring; this is how things move from short-term to long-term memory and become easier to recall at speed. Effective revision is an ongoing process, not a cramming session just before the exams. This strategy also helps you to acquire a knowledge base rather than simply to pass an exam and then forget the information.
Prior knowledge and understanding also affect learning. It is vital to understand new material before trying to remember it; a clear and correct memory trace cannot come from a poorly understood concept.
Remembering: an overview
You need to be focused and alert in order for your memory to work. If you are not concentrating when taking in new information, either in lectures or when reading, you cannot hope to remember properly. Equally, if you do not understand the new information, there is no point in trying to remember it. Work on the understanding first; fill in the gaps. Then record the information in a form other than written or printed text, such as a mind-map, audio file or flash cards.
Association is very important. Whenever possible try to see if you can associate or link new information in your brain with something you already know. Before you start learning a new topic:
Record anything you know about the subject.
Download lecture slides in advance for some prior knowledge.
Do a bit of background reading and research.
Look up any unfamiliar terminology and note it.
All these things will help your understanding, and consequently your memory. You will learn better if you are interested and engaged
Review should be an active attempt to hook the facts into your visual, auditory and kinaesthetic memory. This is why multisensory learning is so important. Review does not just mean repetition or reading through; you need to work on the material in different ways. Mind maps can be particularly useful as they present information in a visual form, which many dyslexic people find easier to remember. The first review should ideally take place immediately after the
learning session, or at any rate the same day. At the end of a learning session, your ability to recall the material actually rises; it peaks after about 10 minutes and then falls off dramatically. If you can do your review at that 10 minute point, you will reinforce the information at its strongest. However, even if you can’t review straight away, taking a few minutes to think over what you are trying to learn is what neuroscientists believe is necessary to begin to shift material from short- to long-term memory. Each additional review engraves the learning deeper and deeper in
your mind. Reviewing should also be quite quick. Rework and condense the material so that you can remind yourself quickly.
Split your personal study time into 50 minute chunks with 10 minute breaks in between. It is important that you consciously relax or do something physical or creative during the breaks. This helps to refresh your brain.
Stand up and move around and take deep breaths
Drink water: your brain needs water to function well
Do not break your concentration with phone calls, texting, surfing the web or visiting social network sites
Make sure you eat at regular intervals to maintain blood sugar and energy levels.
Break down your subject into topics.
Plan your revision timetable in detail – but not as an excuse not to get on with the revision.
Don’t spend all your time on the interesting things!
Allow some free time – all-night marathons are not the way to revise.
If you haven’t been reworking and condensing your notes throughout the year, start to do so now!
Revise everything more than once – overlearning is important for retention.
Share revision time with a friend sometimes.
Try explaining your topic to someone who does not know anything about it. If you can do this, it proves that you understand it.
Constantly be on the look-out for issues and themes.
Practise writing under timed conditions and be realistic about how much you can produce in the given time.