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How to Use Signs and Symbols to Improve Memory

How to Use Signs and Symbols to Improve Memory

The eyes have it! Most people prefer to learn visually. In this article, we’ll show you how you can trade text for symbols to improve the effectiveness of your exam revision.

There is an ongoing debate among scientists, about the brain and vision. I don’t suppose it’s the only one! But it is the one that we are going to, ahem, look at!

Visual Learning is Worth a Look

Because, while they agree that most of the information reaching the brain, enters through the eyes, some say that as much as 90% of data reaching it is visual.

Meanwhile, roughly 50% of all the brain’s nerve fibres, are to and from the retina, helping to process vision in some way. In other words, more brainpower is dedicated to the process of vision than the other four senses put together.

It’s also reckoned that between 65 and 80% of the population, prefer to use only their visual system to learn. Now, while that’s not everyone, perhaps we can all agree that it’s worth considering how to capitalise on this, since research has demonstrated again and again, that using our visual system can help us learn more efficiently.


65 to 80% of people prefer to use only their visual system to learn. Click To Tweet


Active, Not Passive

First, remember that in order to learn something, we need to deliberately manipulate that information for ourselves. If we take a more passive approach, such as by simply reading and re-reading the text, or listening to a lecture, or watching a video, there’s a much greater chance of forgetting the information – and very quickly, too.

So it’s by creating revision notes, and being obliged to make conscious decisions about what to write and how to write it, that maximises the effectiveness of the time you spend learning.

By focusing on representing the information visually, you are giving your brain a very good opportunity to make a pattern of it and send it to your long-term memory. And of course, that’s what you want.

Visual Tricks for Your Revision Notes

So what visual tricks can we use when we create our revision notes?

Let’s start with signs and symbols.

Whenever you can, represent a word or a phrase with a meaningful squiggle.

For example:

Use signs in place of text


Your brain will recognise and decipher those signs and symbols instantly, allowing your notes to burn themselves much more easily into your memory, so that when you attempt to by see them in your mind’s eye, to recall them, they will pop out at you and help you to remember what that page of notes is all about.

And who wouldn’t find that useful?