How to Improve Your Memory for Tests

It is often said that “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” However, when it comes to the brain, scientists are finding that just the opposite is true: the brain can adapt and change to new situations. The flexibility of the brain to change and adjust to changing situations holds true when it comes to improving memory.

Tip #1: Don’t Lose Exercise or Sleep

More than an old routine, exercise is necessary to help the mind retain information by preventing the body from facing illnesses such as diabetes (which drains memory). Also, sleep is vital to memory retention, since it is during the sleep cycle that the brain processes information and stores it in a safe place for future recall.

Tip #2: Understand the Material

Many students attempt to “cram” before an exam, to no avail. The best way to improve retention for tests and exams is to create examples and situations where you are required to apply the theoretical, textbook knowledge you have gained. Understanding the material involves getting the information, breaking it down a basic level, and using it to launch into more situations and examples. To apply information is the hallmark of understanding.

Tip #3: Mnemonic Devices

Mnemonic devices are learning techniques that improve memory, and can be both verbal and visual. A good example of a mnemonic device is “ROY G. BIV,” where each letter in this mnemonic “name” represents the starting letter of a color of the rainbow: “Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet.” A student memorizing the Hebrew word “ka’rat” (meaning “to cut”) could use a mnemonic sentence: “I cut a karat,” (jewelry) and connect the Hebrew verb with its meaning (“to cut”). Mnemonic devices can go a long way in retaining material more efficiently, as opposed to cramming.

Tip #4: Relax (Don’t Stress)

Cramming oftentimes is a result of stress and nervousness. Just relax. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and after a few minutes, breathing should return to normal. This small breathing exercise will allow the brain to calm down and work properly. If the student has studied the material diligently, he or she should remain calm so as to allow the brain to operate normally. Tensing up before an exam only restricts the brain’s informational output and leads to massive panic attack.

Tip #5: Eat Brain-Boosting Food

It is true that “You are what you eat.” In the same way that the body needs fuel, so does the brain. As with the body, the keep to both physical and mental fitness is to eat healthy foods. One healthy food to digest is omega-3s such as fish (salmon, trout, sardines) as well as walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and soybeans. Avoid foods loaded in saturated fat, such as red meats, whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, and ice cream. Digestion of foods high in saturated fat could increase chances of dementia and alzheimers. Next, eat more fruits and vegetables, foods high in antioxidants such as spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, apricots, mangos, and watermelon.

Tip #6: Exercise the Brain Muscle

As with anything else, if the brain is not exercised, memory loss will occur. Try to find intellectually-stimulating games and puzzles to engage the mind.  Sit and work on crossword puzzles to work the mind’s vocabulary. Read the newspaper to remain engaged with the community’s events while exercising the brain at the same time. These mental exercises and more may seem daunting at first, but research shows that such exercises done now will shield the mind from memory loss later.

Improving memory takes time, but with the above tips, you can be well on your way to a sharper memory in no time.

How to Become Teacher’s Pet

In a class of 100 to 200 students you may feel like just a number; however, there are some very specific things you can do to stand out from the crowd & touch that “Ahhh, my favorite student!” button in just about any teach. You may aptly call this article “What a Teacher Wants” because in it we’ll jump into the hearts and minds of he who is often seen as the enemy – your professor.

Now, in another life you might have learned how to kiss up to your school teachers. I want to take those seeds, add some Miracle Grow & help you harvest that coveted place in a college professor’s mind, which will be handy for more reasons than one.

First, as you probably have seen, teachers love it when they see kids excited to learn. They take guess from your behavior to help them determine this. Remember, actions speak louder than words, but that doesn’t mean that words don’t do any good. When you read before you go to class, prepare at least 3 good questions that show your teacher you’re interested in learning; and don’t cop out and take any study guide questions that show your teacher you’re not willing to look for the answers yourself. Come up with some of your own questions & always preface a question during or after class with what you already understand about the topic. This shows too that you’re willing to search.

Second, let’s get into some of those actions that speak louder than words. Being a little early & sitting up front shows your teacher that you take your learning seriously. Sitting up front also gives your professor a better look at you during class. For you, it keeps your attention on the lecture instead of on those. It’s a win/win. When you arrive early, pull out your notes from your reading & review them along with any questions you’ve prepared to ask the teacher during that period.

Third, as much as it pains me to say it (seeing as I had a hard time doing it myself) turn your assignments in earlier than expected. Some teachers will give you feedback if you do this, giving you the opportunity to tidy it up before its final due date. This is typically the case for papers, essays & project write-ups.

Fourth, you may not be a note taker, but scribbling down points the professor makes during lecture that help you understand the concept better is a healthy habit & preparation for teacher’s pet step 5.

Fifth, compliment & give positive feedback to a teacher this helps because teachers like to know that they’re making a difference. Begin by smiling and nodding your head when the teacher illuminates you in a helpful way. You may also take a moment after class (not too much, else you be perceived as insincere) occasionally to let them know that a certain method or way they said something really helped you understand the concept more fully.

So there you have it, five insights into a teacher’s mindset. Doing these will enliven both you and the educator. You’ll build a positive relationship with mutual respect which will give your professor a window into your mind & heart & be helpful if you stumble during the semester & need some special attention or considerations.

10 Essential Study Tips

Studying is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as “a state of contemplation,” “application of the mind to the obtaining of knowledge,” or “a careful examination or analysis of a phenomenon, development, or question.” Studying in college is necessary if a student desires to excel academically. Provided below are ten significant tips to transform mental labor into academic success.

Establish a Routine

To apply the mind constantly to a task requires setting up a routine by which the task or challenge will be accomplished. A good routine to establish that aids in college preparation is to set aside a specific time of the day to study. If a student is more productive in study in the morning than during the day, he or she should study at a time where the mind will be most productive.

Create the Right Environment

A student can choose to study at a particular time of day, but still fail to do so because of a distracting environment. If a student is to get any studying done, he or she cannot have his or her attention turned away from the books because of the latest movie or newest game show. Turn the television off or decide to go in a room where there is no television or stereo system. Getting rid of atmospheric noise will free the mind to think, optimizing study performance.

Set It Down

Often, when students are busy, it never fails that at least one activity in the day will be neglected or completely forgotten. Placing the necessary time(s) of study on a personal calendar or in a personal planner helps the student juggle the many tasks that he or she has throughout the day as well as accomplish the studying goal. What is not planned cannot be performed.

Take Good Care of Yourself

Study time will not be a productive endeavor if the student does not maximize his or her health condition. To this end, the student should drink plenty of liquids, primarily water, and eat healthy foods (fruits and vegetables). The student should get plenty of rest at night, a minimum of eight hours of sleep a day. To stimulate the mind, create an exercise routine by which the mind can rest from study and process the material learned. When the body feels great, the mind will respond favorably.

Reward Yourself

After the work comes the reward. The student should find a way to reward himself or herself for productive study. Little rewards celebrate the past labor and anticipate the future reward.

Creativity in Study

The student should design his or her own test questions, daily answering questions regarding the material studied previously. This keeps studying alive as a journey while also boosting retention of the material previously learned.

Avoid Interruption

The student should have all notes with him or her before a study session begins to prevent interruption.

Test Yourself

The student should test himself or herself after studying to provide some tangible way of measuring academic progress. Students can ask their parents to test them, or rework old assignments and examples provided in their course textbooks, etc.

Don’t Panic

A student can easily be confident in his or her abilities until the day of the exam, when the student becomes fearful and then panics. Panicking may seem like a normal reaction, but it only clouds the mind and prevents the brain from retrieving the information stored in it.

Ask for Help

The student should always be willing to talk to professors and other classmates if he or she continues to struggle in an academic area or concept. Asking up front optimizes the chances of success, rather than waiting until the week or night before an examination.

Studying is hard work, but the reward will more than make up for the labor. One success is always the steppingstone upon which another comes.

How to Memorize Any List of Words, Part 2

 (Continued from Part 1 of How to Memorize Any List of Words)

As you begin your homework you notice a sledge hammer above your head. It’s the kind that one finds at an amusement park. Whack a target and watch your toughness thermometer rise. It occurs to you that this hammer represents the malice you felt when called away from your lovely gigantic cupcake. Just as quickly as you recognize what it is you see it poof into a cloud of dust and blow away. You no longer needed to hold any malice if your homework was going to be this exciting.

The wonders of math stream from the textbook’s golden rays directly into your brain. You can almost taste the glorious concepts it’s so tangible. You never knew math could be so amazingly fun. Just you feel something vibrate against your leg. Your cell phone! Someone’s calling you, so you reach into your pocket to pull the phone out of your pocket and something doesn’t seem right. The phone seems to be slippery, hard to grab. With a ruffled brow you look down at your phone, but it was a stick of butter vibrating. It still is. So you hold the greasy receiver up to your ear and answer with, “Thanks for calling my cell…er stick of butter rather…how can I help you?” You are pleased to hear the gingerbread man’s high pitched candy man voice. He proceeds to tell you that he spoke with your mother and worked his gingerbread magic. “She says you better get started on this cupcake if it’s ever to look like a pilgrim.”

“Awesome!” you exclaim, “I’m on my way down.”

“No need,” he replies and you see his head pop up from above the edge of your deroofed room. He smiles that big gingerbread smile as he reaches in to your room, closing the math textbook and lays down his hand for you to climb upon.

The day passes and you find yourself reflecting on the singularity of it all. Lying there in bed all the images of the day pass through your head, the large orange package, the gingerbread deliveryman & the cupcake. You smile as you recall your fantasy unfolding like a classroom map. Eating a pilgrim out of that huge thing? Too fun! You gloat at the thought of how fun math was from the special textbook. You’re happy that your mallet of malice dissolved and you can’t help but chuckle that your cell phone turned out to be a stick of butter. All of today’s events blend together in a symbol of your gratitude – the setting sun – that warms you as you fall asleep.

Brilliant! I’m sure you will remember that list of words without much effort. The same thing can be done with lists of 20 or more. World record holder Dave Farrow says the key to memorization is to pick images that will trigger memory. Each brain has at least one of five natural triggers: action, exaggeration, oddity, personal and fantastical. Using what works best for you will give your memory the ability to take leaps and bounds. The odd associations and vivid pictures you create will speak to the right side of your brain, tap into your emotions and help you remember words and concepts better.

How to Memorize Any List of Words, Part 1

I want to teach you a fun way to remember groups of words such as grocery lists or sets of vocabulary words. The underlying principle here is that the mind works in pictures, so a really good way to remember a group of words is to associate them with a picture in your mind. And just so you know the more outrageous the better. 🙂

Take this list of 10 words: package, gingerbread man, cupcake, fantasy, pilgrim, textbook, malice, cell phone, butter stick, gratitude. Now, as I give you an image to associate with each word I want you to close your eyes and picture it before moving onto the next one. It may help to have another person read it to you. Ready? Alright, here we go.

Picture a large orange package that is sitting in your front yard. I’m talking a package so big that you wonder if there’s not another house in it. Just as you’re puzzling over how it got there and what’s in it you see a giant gingerbread man step out from behind the box. He smiles at you and waves. Wow! Weird! “Well?” he says, “aren’t you going to open it? This is all too strange to ask questions, so you take the rope he is extending to you and give it hard tug. Instantly, the sides of the large package fall to the ground revealing on large cupcake. Your favorite! The, as if a movie real opened up in the sky you see your childhood fantasy unfold before you. It’s of you eating away at a giant cupcake until it resembles the face of a pilgrim. Sure it’s odd, but what fantasy doesn’t have a tinge of oddity in it?

You smile with excitement, but just then the fantasy rolls up like a wall map in the classroom as you hear your mother call you to come do your homework. Sadly, you wave goodbye to the gingerbread man & his wonderfully intuitive present. Shoulders slumped you head upstairs to your bedroom to do your math assignment. When you open your door, to your surprise, the roof that once kept you dry on rainy nights was no longer there. In the space that opened your bedroom to the outside world floated a glowing math textbook. From its opened pages stream banner of golden light & somersaulting numbers, graphs and shapes. Perhaps you brought the wrong textbook home, but either way, homework tonight definitely won’t be dull, that’s for sure!

Continued in Part 2 of How to Memorize Any List of Words.

A Good Memory is the Foundation for Every Student

What if you could remember everything you studied? What if your memory were impervious to flaw and stronger than steel? Well, as a student you’d like that wouldn’t you? If behooves the prospective student to pay mind to how well their memory works. Filling that bucket in your head is only helpful if you make sure there are no holes through which the water of knowledge can flow out. Thankfully there are some time tested ways to plug any holes in that memory of yours & help you retain all that you soak up through study.

How, I’ve presented you with an analogy: The brain is like a bucket & the holes in the bucket are those things that keep up from remembering. So to begin with, let’s talk about some things that inhibit necessary components in the brain from helping us to remember. In a broad sense, anything that restricts blood flow to the brain can poke a hole in that bucket of your memory. This is because the brain uses the oxygen it gets from the blood throughout the day to perform thousands of functions. Some other things that inhibit brain functionality, according to Laureli Blyth psychotherapist & author of BrainPower, include smoking, drugs, stress, depression, strokes, unchallenging environments & traumatic physical accidents. Each of these events can block brain chemicals from being created, from properly taking in information from the world, from filling up the memory bucket & then retrieving those precious drops of information when they are needed.

Next, anything that we do to build new brain connections gives us a greater store of experience with which to attach those things we are learning in the classroom. Therefore, learning a new skill, participating in physical activity or even reading an engaging book can help you lay down new connections & prepare you for maximizing your studies. As a student, remember that your ability to remember inside the classroom is connected to your activities outside.

Another hole that many of us need to plug up is the hole of too little sleep. Dr Daniel Amen, author of the bestselling book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life & the new audio lectures on addiction called Unchain Your Brain, says that we sleep less on average than those of our recent past. We have dropped from about 8 hours of sleep on average to about 6 hours a night. Sleep is important. While we don’t understand everything that goes on during while we slumber, we do know that memory ability decreases as sleep does. This is partially due to the lower amount of oxygen the brain receives when it has less rest & partially due to the believed function of the sleeping brain to arrange & code the events of the day into deeper memory.

Let’s not forget food! The body has an amazing ability to take nutrients from the food we eat & make up to a degree when it doesn’t find it therein. However, when we don’t supply our brain with the necessary nutrients it runs deficient in the chemicals needed for memory to function properly. Your brain works better when you feed it a daily intake of vitamins, minerals & antioxidants. A diet rich in veggies, fruits, nuts, fish & seeds along with a good whole food-based vitamin & mineral supplement can do great things for your brain (consult your doctor before beginning any supplementation program). You can have a hair mineral analysis to determine what vitamins & minerals your body is lacking.

Lastly, exercise, like nothing else produces positive effects in the brain. It does so by increasing blood flow & thus oxygen to the brain. It also increases our sense of well being because of the natural feel-good chemicals it releases in the brain called endorphins.

To summarize: exercise, eat well, sleep close to 8 hours & don’t do drugs. Sounds an awfully like the same old health advice, right? Well, as it turns out, there’s a reason for that. Our bodies & minds are connected. What we do to one affects the other. These basic & broad strategies keep our bucket “holeless” so our studies can stick in our memory without leaking out. Do these things & enjoy learning outside of school work & your memory will thank you. For specific memory tricks see _________ or _________.

Learn How to Study on the Go

Life is full of distractions and sometimes, students are not able to study without them. At other times, students are naturally distracted and can even struggle with ADD (attention deficit disorder). Learning how to study on the go provides counsel on how to effectively study despite the numerous tasks that life brings.

Tip #1: Make the Task Definite

Before a student can manage a task, he or she must know the nature of the task. Sit down and set out in writing what the learning task is. It could be, for example, a biology exam on Darwinian evolution. In setting out the task, be sure to understand the expectations of the professor for the exam. Often, this may require going to the professor rather than just asking a classmate for help. Failure to properly understand the task will negatively affect the final exam and grade.

Tip #2: Divide and Conquer

Once the task has been established, break the task up into smaller tasks. For example, a student who has a comprehensive final exam on Darwinian evolution may start by reviewing the basic information regarding the life of Charles Darwin and his journey to the Galapagos Islands. The second week may consist of reviewing Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. Break the task into many pieces and do not attempt to juggle multiple smaller tasks at once.

Tip #3: Prepare an Effective Study Area

Effective labor mandates an effective environment. The student who needs to start studying Darwin and Darwinian evolution should not go to the coffee shop (for example) to review for the exam. The coffee shop may have too much loud noise and conversation. Instead, the best place to study would be the library, where the student is able to gather his or her thoughts and review the material without being distracted. With the contemporary pace of life, students must maximize their study opportunities and accomplish as much as they can in as little time as possible. Studying in the coffee shop may not be conducive to this goal.

Tip #4: Get Started, No Matter What

Even in the effective environment, the student must make an effort to get down to business and get the work done. The student should remind himself or herself that diligent study results in a good final exam grade as well as a satisfying, unforgettable intellectual experience.

Tip #5: Constantly Evaluate

One way to remain calm in the studying process and build confidence in the work is to constantly evaluate the progress of the effort itself. How far has the student progressed in his or her exam review in just two weeks? Has the student nailed down the life of Charles Darwin, his accomplishments and failures? If not, has he or she found a connection between Darwin’s life and his book? Has she discovered an area of Darwin’s evolutionary theory that is confusing? Failure to evaluate progress will only increase stress and frustration.

The tips provided above are useful in learning how to study on the go. Nevertheless, the greatest tip for learning how to study on the go is life itself. Students will not always have ideal situations in which to study; sometimes, a student might find himself or herself repeating the facts of Darwin’s life while sitting in the emergency room all night with a friend. Nevertheless, more important than location is the personal commitment and dedication to the task.