There are those people who sit down to exams and remember what they learnt (how envious I am of you) and then there are those who sit down to exams and no matter how they crammed or what they studied, all of it flies out the window and are up with the birds (that’s me!!!).
So I’m here to help you and me with some of the finest tips for remembering things. First how to remember them and second how to avoid sitting down at an exam and losing it all!
- Basics: summarise your key points of a lecture or a resource on a note card. Go through the cards on the weekends for study review. Better still, create a PowerPoint slide or use Quizlet to make flashcards and games – great for revision before exams!
- Get Creative: write notes in tiny writing so that you really have to concentrate to read them, surprisingly this actually makes your brain remember what you’re reading.
- Stories: put together a creative dialogue of people explaining a complex topic, e.g. a group of philosophers discussing epistemology with a leprechaun or a dragonfly explaining divergent and convergent evolution to a group of water beetles. The more bizarre and imaginative you get the more you’ll have a chance of remembering it!
- Mnemonics: they aren’t called memory devices for nothing! You can never go wrong with these. I literally passed my last exam using these alone! This is how it works: the stages of mitosis are interphase, prophase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase and cytokinesis. I made up a mnemonic for my exam such as ‘Italians Prefer Meatballs And Tomato Cake’. Makes no sense but gosh did I remember it. Remember, the more creative you get the more chance you’ll remember!
- Puzzles: get some blank pre-cut puzzles from a craft store and write out notes across the puzzle. Break it up and put it back together a few weeks later at exam time. As you read the notes while trying to fit the pieces together, your subconscious will be remembering them.
Now it’s all well and good to have all these methods of remembering facts but no good if at the exam you just forget it all because of stress or nervousness.
Ironically, I got the best marks in the exams that I didn’t care at all about. I had already passed the subject on the basis of my assessments so I wasn’t feeling pressured or stressed out. Convince yourself that the exam isn’t very important and that thousands of students have sat the same exam and passed, it’s no big deal. I guarantee these are the exams you’ll do best in!
Often the only thing I will remember is the mnemonics and they start disappearing the more time passes into the exam, so it’s important to write all your mnemonics down on spare paper as soon as you start the exam. Then later on you can go back and see which mnemonic matches what you need.