Suddenly realised that you’ve got mock exams in December and have a term’s worth of information to cram into your head? Don’t panic. We’ve got you covered.
(1) Make up mnemonics. Although you need a mnemonic to remember how to spell mnemonic, this handy device really helps information stick in your mind. The basic principle is that the first letters of a word, saying or poem allow you to remember a certain thing. So the phrase Richard of York gave battle in vain maps onto the colours of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, v So far so good. There are times, however, when mnemonics bear a striking resemblance to the Remembrall in Harry Potter. You’ll reach a letter and know you’ve forgotten something. You just won’t be able to remember what it is.
(2) Use your Memory Palace. Even on a good day, my brain is more of a garden shed than a palace. This trick is still worth practising, however. The ‘Memory Palace’ uses your spatial memory and harnesses the power of association. First, you pick a place you are very familiar with — your house, for instance. Then you map a route through the rooms, mentally positioning the things you’re trying to remember in various places around the house. If you’re trying to remember the order of Henry VIII’s wives, for example, Catherine of Aragon might be lurking by the front door, while Jane Seymour is making herself a sandwich in the kitchen. It might seem a long shot, but Memory Champions (yes, there is an official title) say that Memory Palaces are the key to their success.
(3) Sing songs. You will feel like a five-year-old, but nothing beats a good song when you’re trying to remember mountains of dull information. What were you even doing with your time if you weren’t singing The Circle Song in your GCSE Maths lessons? Combine some rhyming fact-filled lyrics with a catchy tune and you won’t look back. On the flip side, however, listening to music as you revise is a sure way to stop information going in. Tragic as it seems, Taylor Swift isn’t conducive to exam success.
(4) Move around and talk out loud. This isn’t one to try in the library. But moving around and reading your notes out loud helps imprint things on your brain— vigorous chanting is particularly effective. Hand gestures, even choreography (definitely not one for the library…) can also help. People might think you have finally lost it, but it’s a small price to pay for nailing your degree.
(5) Get some sleep. This is easily the most enjoyable of all the memory tricks. According to Norwegian scientists — you can always trust Scandinavians to say something nice — sleep does wonders for your mental recall. The neuropsychologist Ylva Ostby says that “A lot of memory consolidation goes on while we sleep. Memories are being laid down, rearranged and put into the right place.” Extrapolating outwards, this must mean that napping through lectures is an excellent way to absorb information. Ostby also says that drinking red wine can prevent memory decline. Who are we to argue with science?