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THE SJSU MA DIARIES

  • Katie Smirnova

Improving Your Memory Retention

One day I found myself reading a textbook, nearing the end of a chapter. When I finished, I asked myself; “what did I just read?”. It dawned on me that after an entire hour of reading, I couldn’t remember. My eyes were simply passing over the words. Maybe you’ve felt that your cram sessions have been a major waste of time. Here are some tips that personally help me get the most out of my studying time.


You have to ask yourself questions. Sometimes, we look at our study guides or notes and think “yeah, I remember covering this in class”, and move on. Take a moment to ask yourself, do you understand, or simply remember hearing it? Here’s the deal: your mind only truly remembers if it is forced to use the info it is given. Ask yourself to write out the meaning of the term you’re studying from memory, even if you think you have it down. This makes you actively retrieve what you just stored in your memory bank.


Do you hear the sound of thunder? Sounds like a brainstorm coming on. A common misconception about studying is that we should only quiz ourselves at the very end of our study sessions. What we should do is focus on linking ideas throughout our learning process. Do a brainstorm halfway through your study session. On a blank piece of paper, draw a web, and try to interconnect ideas.


Research has shown that if we are physically active during our learning process, we are able to recall more. If you’ve ever been in a language class, you might have observed your teacher asking you to get up and gesture as you speak. The same tactic works for any type of memorization process. If you have a study partner available to you in person, play a game of catch as you explain terms. If solo learning is more your style, pace back and forth or create a little dance (it could be YMCA, I won’t judge).


By retaining what you learn, you can put your mind at ease. Happy studying!