How to Remember What You Learn: Difference between revisions

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Memorisation is a process that involves cognition and it occurs in the human brain. To complete the process of memorisation, the information that needs to be memorised must be repeated periodically.[1] To capture student’s interest, a massive amount of information and engaging materials are now available for their studies. [2] Yet students often complain about challenges of studying when they have to memorise, learn and master all of the information presented in the class. It is never ending and arbitrary stream of facts and students have to decide which ones to retain in memory. [3] The teachers’ assumption is that students know how to learn. In reality students practice ineffective learning and study technique.[2] They trust a specific study condition, which often does not offer an expected outcome.[2]

The use of internet technology and social media has changed how people receive, retain, and share information.[4] Searching for information in the internet may lead to offloading memory and forgetting. On the other hand, retrieving information from memory, even when unsuccessful, can help to strengthen memory and enhance learning of new information. [4]

This article offers a toolkit that can be utilised to accomplish a task of remembering. It may help to prevent students’ drowning in the material they need to learn and memorise.

Memory is the capacity to store and retrieve information. [5]

Diagram of how the filter theory of selective attention operates. From Wikimedia Commons

Broadbent Filtering Model[edit | edit source]

Broadbent Model of Attention is based on theory that humans cannot consciously attend to all of the sensory input at the same time.[6] Individuals can only process a limited amount of sensory information at any given time so only a fraction of the information they are exposed to makes it their conscious experience of the world. Human brain has ability to filter out most of the incoming sensory information. This is called selective attention, or the ability to focus on the task at hand.

Short-Term Memory[edit | edit source]

Short-term memory (STM) is the working memory that enables to store information for short periods of time, holding it for later processing. STM stores about four to seven pieces of information known as chunks. Chunking is a grouping of small chunks into larger chunks. This is a form of information compression to make it more memorable and to increase the capacity of working memory.

Memory Trace[edit | edit source]

  • An initial memory is called a memory trace
  • Memory trace is weak
  • It must be reinforced through intentional practice to retain information for a significant period of time

Myths Around Memory[edit | edit source]

  1. Text must be re-read to remember it: it is an illusion of knowledge because you only recognise the text while reading it
  2. Highlighting information in different colour pens helps you to remember it: there is no evidence supporting this type of activity
  3. Cramming for a test is a good way to remember things: it is an ineffective technique for remembering information for the long-term.
  4. Working through the night is a reasonable strategy when preparing for an assessment: getting a good night’s sleep is an essential part of encoding memories.

Memory storing occurs in two steps:

Step # 1: Holding information in the working memory (short-term memory)

Step #2: Moving information into long-term memory. It occurs in three stages:

Stage 1: Encoding: converting incoming information into new synaptic connections. The student’s ability to focus attention improves the likelihood of new information being encoded.

Effective Learning Rule # 1: Selective attention. Your ability to focus attention improves the likelihood of new information being encoded. Set up of the learning environment helps to pay attention to the information that matters.

Stage 2: Consolidating: memory traces are moved into higher capacity long-term storage.

Effective Learning Rule # 2: Emotional salience. If the information excites you, moves you, or reminds you of a special times you will more likely encode it.

Effective Learning Rule # 3: Relevance. If you have a mental model that you can attach the new information to, you’re more likely to encode it.

Effective Learning Rule # 4: Comprehensibility. If it makes sense to you, you’re more likely to encode it.

Stage 3: Retrieving: information is recouped from long-term storage

Effective Learning Rule # 5: Retrieval practice. The more frequently you actively recall information, especially in the early stages of memory formation, the better your memories of that information will be.

Facts About Forgetting[edit | edit source]

  • We lose about 70% of what we’ve just heard or read.
  • The last 30% of information fades more slowly.
  • We quickly forget most of what we pay attention to.
  • To improve learning, we need to interrupt the process of forgetting.

Forgetting Curve[edit | edit source]

Forgetting curve is a graph that shows the average rate at which information fades from memory which indicates the following:

  • Half life of new information is about a week, unless we spend time reviewing the material
  • Active retrieval is a simple way to keep the memory for longer periods of time

Memory Strength[edit | edit source]

Memory strength is the durability of the memory trace left in the brain. The stronger the memory, the longer the period of time that a person is able to recall it.

Information Recall[edit | edit source]

Recalling information acquired just a few hours earlier may be difficult or even impossible. The following are the factors associated with this phenomenon:

  • Memorising by re-reading the information 3-4 times: The illusion of knowledge
    • Does not play any role in helping you to remember what you’re reading
    • Allow to anticipate the words and the order in which they appear.
    • It creates feeling of familiarity with the text, but it is not a knowledge.
    • You will not be able to explain the concept in your own words.
    • Re-reading a piece of text called massed practice is the least productive remembering technique.
    • This is less cognitively demanding approach to remembering. It only makes you feel like you’re learning.
  • Memorising by using environmental cues that help to fill in the gaps in the knowledge: The illusion of explanatory depth.
    • Recalling information may be impossible without all the environmental cues used to remember (the physical setting, the patient you are using the equipment on, or the medical folder you just reviewed).
    • It creates a superficial explanation for knowledge (example: using mainstream resources instead of specialised resources to learn about pathology).

Strategies To Remember More[edit | edit source]

The stronger the memory, the longer we are able to recall it.

The following four strategies are the most effective strategies for improving the consolidation and retrieval of information and they include retrieval practice, distributed practice, interleaved practice, and elaboration.

Retrieval Practice[edit | edit source]

Retrieval, or active recall is the process of retrieving encoded chunks of information from long-term memory. It includes answering questions or explaining concepts without referring to the source and by using your own words to answer the question.

The following are the strategies to improve retrieval of information:

  • Recalling high-level concepts from memory through:
    • Focusing the retrieval practice on concepts the lecturer has talked about
    • Choosing a paragraph of text that’s linked to the lecture from earlier in the day
    • Repeating what was read in your own words
    • When satisfied that you can explain the concept without looking at the source, move onto the next paragraph

Distributed Practice[edit | edit source]

Distributed practice is also called spaced repetition, or distributed learning. It includes retrieving information at increasingly longer intervals. One rule of this practice is that you must practice retrieving information at the point where you are about to forget it.

The following strategies will help you to choose the information you want to remember:

  • Computer-assistance system like Aniki which is a free spaced repetition flashcard system. It uses an algorithm to surface the information you want to remember, at the point when the algorithm says you might be about to forget it.
  • Daily habit of reviewing information that you want to remember. This strategy is based on the evidence that 10–15 minutes of spaced repetition testing every day will help you remember.

Interleaved Practice[edit | edit source]

Interleaved practice is when you mix different, but related, concepts into your practice of actively recalling information. It helps you integrate existing information with new information, by using the brain’s ability to identify connections between chunks of information. Example: review of the knee anatomy, along with knee physiology and functional movements.

The following strategies will help you to recall information using interleaved practice:

  • choose 2-3 different areas of the same broad topic.
  • spend one “session” of about 30–45 minutes to work through each topic, explicitly looking for relationships between these subtopics.
  • consolidate your understanding by asking the following questions:
    • Where do they connect? What are the areas in each subtopic that seem most important, relative to the other subtopics? How do they influence each other?

Elaboration[edit | edit source]


  1. numbered list
  2. x

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