4 Ways to Combat Our Natural Inclination to Forget
We are hardwired to forget, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause for your exam revision efforts; you just need to commit the information to long-term memory. In this article we arm you with four ways you can test yourself to get that information to stay in your head.
Written by Lysette Offley
I say, I say, I say, what’s the difference between long-term and short-term memory?
And why should you care?
Because if you want information to still be there in your head when you need it later on, you need to turn short-term memory into the longer sort.
We are hardwired to forget
Fortunately there are specific things that you can to do in order to achieve that, But if you don’t do them, because we’re hardwired to forget, you’ll lose that information as fast as you gain it.
And very quickly too. We are so good at forgetting that whatever it is you’re learning, you will have forgotten about 80% of it within 24 hours. No, really!
Our forgetfulness, means that most people will have forgotten nearly all of what they’ve learnt in a matter of hours, and continue forgetting over time.
Not at all useful if you’re revising for exams!
As I’ve said many times before, we’ve evolved to forget older information in favour of new information, which is more likely to keep us alive and well.
Physiologically, although our surroundings have changed enormously, we’re pretty much the same as we were 10,000 years ago when we lived in caves. You can imagine how useful it was to remember where dinner (the herd of deer) was yesterday afternoon, rather than where it was three months earlier.
Likewise, how much more useful is it for us to forget where our car keys were five years ago and instead, remember where they were this morning, or indeed five minutes ago?
So forgetting is useful.
Put it into long-term memory
But if you want to remember something long-term, you need to get it into your long-term memory and then keep it there. When you do that successfully you will remember pretty much all of that information forever.
The simplest, most reliable way to do this is to test yourself. That doesn’t just tell you if you still know it, the process also encourages your brain to strengthen the connections and keep it there.
So each time you test yourself:
- Read the test question you’ve created for yourself, and try to answer it.
- Only then turn over the page and check you’ve remembered it.
- If you didn’t remember everything, turn back to the test question and have another go.
- And repeat the process a few hours later.
Make sure you still know it the next day and then a week later, and according to the Learning Cycle.
Each time you test yourself in this way, check the feedback you’re getting from it. If you’re consistently not remembering everything, you can then hone your technique, including the way you write your revision notes.
You’ll soon know if your revision strategy works.