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Learning strategies to help you remember information. - Life skills

Most education systems around the world do not specifically teach children and young people to actually learn. Often after a test or exam, the student generally forgets what they have learned. The people that ‘learn the best’ do not necessarily have some genetic advantage, but have mastered the ability to understand how learning works. There are a few strategies to help you better remember information. 

Keep on at yourself 

Retaining information just the once is unlikely to succeed in the long term. You need to keep testing yourself regularly and challenge your memory to retain important information and consistently learn new things. If you don’t, it will not expand your ability to learn. Mixing up the types of problems your brain tries to solve or learn, can be a really good way of helping cementing information in your brain. 

Develop good habits 

There is something psychologists call the ‘testing effect’. If you constantly test yourself, you can train your brain to not forget. It is said that the best strategy is to space out the times that you retest your memory, instead of cramming, in a short space of time. This means you can allow some ‘forgetting time’ between tests as the action of remembering takes more cognitive effort and makes your memory stronger. Nowadays, we are more and more dependent on our devices to remind us of things. When something is easy, it is known as ‘fluency’ and you are more likely to forget important information. If we constantly test our brains in different ways, we can train it to remember important things later. You can train your brain to answer questions in your mind by ‘rehearsing’ the answer. In time, you will be able to recall information on demand. 

Reflect on your learning 

At the point that you learn something new, try and concentrate on why you have learned it, how you have learned it, its importance and how it connects with things you already know. It has been found that performance is much higher in employees that spend 15 minutes reflecting on their work at the end of the day (Source: Harvard Business School). The technique of ‘reflection’ is a powerful tool but is not generally taught in schools. It is quite simple but very effective. Quite simply, you sit down and ask yourself a series of questions: 

  • What have I learned? 

  • How can I utilise the information in my daily life? 

  • How do I know I have learned something? 

Keep asking the questions until you are satisfied you have learned the information. 

Make a connection 

Have you ever noticed how textbooks build up concepts from basic through to much harder throughout the book? It is this gradual increase from basic concepts to difficult ones that help us to learn. The basis of how this works is ‘connections’. You learn the basics and then the new information, builds upon and connects, with the knowledge you already have. You can employ this technique throughout life – always look for ways to connect new information with something you already know. 

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