How to Keep Information in Your Head
When you’ve worked hard to get information in your head, it makes sense to do what it takes to keep it there. The simplest, most reliable way to do this is to test yourself. It doesn’t just let you know if you still know it, the process encourages your brain to strengthen the connections that keep it there.
Written by Lysette Offley
Each time you test yourself:
- Read the test question you’ve devised and try to answer it.
- Then turn over the page and check you’ve covered everything on the other side
- If you remembered it all, put a tick on your Progress Chart. Then in your diary make a note to test this question at the next stage of the Learning Cycle, e.g. one week later.
- If you didn’t remember everything, turn back to the test question and have another go. And repeat the process a few hours later.
- If you succeed this time, put a tick on your Progress Chart and a note in your diary to test yourself within another 24 hours to make sure you still know it.
- However, if you don’t remember it this time, change your notes. Highlight the bits that escape you. Or circle them. Change your notes to make the difficult bits stand out. Or consider redrawing your notes completely into a form that your brain likes better.
So how do you know if you know it?
Don’t be tricked by your unconscious mind. It wants you to feel comfortable and will therefore lull you into a false sense of security, and have you believe you ‘know’ something before you really do. Don’t get fooled. You only know something when you can remember all the information on your page of notes.
If not – you don’t.
As you build up your revision notes, put them in your ring-binder, always with the question side facing you (so that you’ll have to turn the page over to see your revision notes). Add the title of that revision page to your Progress Chart.
Then for each page in your revision folder, to revisit that particular revision that you’ve done, all you need to do is answer the question.
Then, and only then, turn over the page and check that you answered with each point on the reverse. Now here’s the important part: If you discover anything you forgot to mention, leave it for several hours and try again.
Revise your revision notes
If you still can’t remember everything on the other side, change your notes. You might need to circle or highlight bits, as above – anything to make them stand out in your mind. You might even make such a pig’s-ear of remembering them that you decide to have another go at making those notes. You might have to rewrite the whole page in a different way and chuck out the original set of notes. That’s fine – and to be expected.
If it’s happening a lot though – have a look to see what you can learn from it. Can you see any patterns? What tends to work? What tends not to work?
Each time you test yourself in this way, check the feedback you’re getting. Do you need to make changes to the way you make your notes?
Be your own judge.
You’ll know when you’ve got a process that works.
Over to You…
Have you ever been certain that you know your study material, only to have a rude awakening when you’ve gone to test yourself – or worse, when you’ve sat down to take the exam?