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Memory Spring Monthly

Memory Keys to Improve Test Taking

 
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Test taking is something we all do. Whether it’s for school or a certification or a license, we all take tests.  While some of us are really good at it, most of us don’t get the results that we want.  The key to performing well on tests is preparation.  
 
With good preparation our brain can store information in a way that it’s easily retrievable.  Poor preparation makes it virtually impossible to access key data when you need it. 
 
Here are some things that you can do to make information easier to store and recall: 
 
Avoid Cramming - Many times we cram before tests.  We spend countless hours reading and reviewing at the last minute. Then when we take the test we blank out or only remember a small portion of material. The problem is that our brain needs the data stored in our head in a recallable way. In most cases, when you reach the point where you have to cram, you have run out of time to structure the information the right way.  Consequently, you’re all night cramming session becomes a waste of time and energy. 
 
Structure and Organize Your Information – Going through the process of structuring and organizing your information helps you create a framework in your head.  Research has proven that information is organized in our memory in related clusters. While many teachers provide outlines for classes or key concepts, it always sticks better when you go through the process of developing your own outline.  A super charged version of outlining is Mind Mapping. 
 
A mind map is a diagram used to visually outline information. A mind map is often created around a single word or text, placed in the center, to which associated ideas, words and concepts are added. Major categories radiate from a central node, and lesser categories are sub-branches of larger branches. Categories can represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items related to a central key word or idea. Mind maps can be drawn by hand, either as "rough notes" during a lecture or meeting, for example, or as higher quality pictures when more time is available. Click here for mind map samples.
  
Preview before Reading  -  Previewing reading material is a simple process that prepares the mind for reading and establishes a framework for recall and reading comprehension.  While it takes a little bit of time upfront, you gain huge time savings in faster reading speed, better recall, and improved reading comprehension. Click here for effective steps to previewing.
 
Teach the Material – Finding a partner and teaching them the material is a great way to learn, process, and store information.  The process of teaching requires you to organize your materials and thoughts, present out load, and respond to questions.  It’s a perfect formula for developing understanding and recall.  
 
Use Mnemonics – A mnemonic is defined as any learning technique that aids information retention.  Common mnemonics include acronyms, acrostics, short poems (or phrases), and common memory techniques such as the link method. 
 
Acronyms – Acronyms are abbreviations formed from the first letters of the related words/items or phrases. Most of us remember the acronym for the Great Lakes – HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior). Once we get an acronym in our head it’s rare that it leaves us.  Watch out though, sometimes you can develop too many acronyms then everything can become a blur.
 
Acrostics – Webster’s defines an acrostic as a composition usually in verse in which sets of letters (as the initial or final letters of the lines) taken in order form a word or phrase or a regular sequence of letters of the alphabet. For instance if you want the remember the planets in order of distance from the sun you might use the acrostic “My Very Educated Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas.” That’s right, you have it … Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Of course, Pluto is no longer considered a planet, but this gives you the idea. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes easy develop your own verse. 
 
Sayings, Ode’s or Verses – Sometimes we can develop sayings or verse that can help us recall things. If it rhymes, it has even more connectedness for your brain, thus easier to recall. If it has a tune with it, it becomes even more memorable. I’m sure you know this saying:
 
30 days hath September, April, June, and November. 
All the rest have 31
Except February my dear son.
It has 28 and that is fine
But in Leap Year it has 29.
 
Link Method – The Link Method is a basic memory technique that was created by the ancient Greeks. The link system is the most basic memory system and the building block for all other systems.  It is called the link system because you link all of your list items together in a story or picture.  Key steps include: 1) Create a story including all of your items. 2) Make the story exaggerated and ridiculous.   3) Tell yourself the story 3 times. 
 
These are just a few of the many things that you can do to improve your recall for tests.  Apply them today and you’ll see a significant increase in your testing performance.
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