The best memory tip for studying for an exam? Retrieval practice!
Have you ever walked out of an exam thinking back on a difficult question that stumped you and then you remember the correct answer no more than 30 seconds later? Frustrating, huh? The right answer was somewhere in your brain, which means that you had studied the right stuff, but you just couldn’t get it out during the exam. Ahhh!!!
How can you avoid this in the future?
In many cases, this brain freeze occurs because you didn’t spend enough time engaged in retrieval practice, which is retrieving information from your memory after you have studied it. There is oodles and oodles (a technical term) of research that demonstrates that retrieval practice is more effective in enhancing memory than is reading. In other words, it is better to test yourself repeatedly about the material instead of just reading it over and over. Why is this the case? The simple answer is that every time you retrieve a memory from your brain, you strengthen the neural pathways that allows you access to that memory. So the more frequently you retrieve that memory, the easier it will be to retrieve it in the future.
In future posts I’ll talk about the most effective ways to engage in retrieval practice, and I will explain why using flashcards is not always the best approach.