Studying – Memory and Association

A few weeks ago I was sitting with my younger cousins about to take the first portion of their semester exams.  The eldest of them was stressing the importance of the exam results, and the fact that they were unprepared, frantically – so much so that it was stressing out the others whom I was visiting that day.  It still boggles my mind as to how people don’t understand how everyone retains knowledge – aren’t they teaching these things in high school these days?

I’ve always seen human memory, as a function of conditioning and association – but when it comes to studying academic subjects both of these can be resolved simply by habits.  Firstly, conditioning – I told my cousins that day to setup a window of time such as an hour to study.  That’s it, one hour, well one hour to start anyway.  Within that hour you break it down into three sections. First a twenty-five minute burst of intense studying of the subject at hand, with absolutely zero distractions whatsoever.  This includes phones, television, noise etc.  After that twenty-five minute burst you take a ten minute rest.  Do nothing at all to do with studying – find something mindless and/or relaxing to do.  After those ten minutes are up then do another very intense twenty-five minute burst.  When I told them twenty-five minutes I meant and mean exactly that, not setting things up or looking for a tool that isn’t there etc.  When that one hour session is over, relax for a while – rest your mind.

That’s the conditioning structure to get accustomed to on a regular basis – the other key is what associations one would make during those study bursts.  For lists it’s sometimes a mnemonic device, perhaps it’s writing notes a few times, perhaps its fitting concepts together visually on paper or in one’s mind.  The bottom-line is that there is a method for each person to learn, memorize and apply any topic – you just need to find which methods work best for each type of item you’ll need to learn.  This works for any top

  1. Setup your materials and remove distractions
  2. Choose a one hour time frame to divide into three sections
  3. For the first twenty-five minutes study intensely
  4. For ten minutes afterwards relax and do nothing study related
  5. For the second twenty-five minute burst once again study intensely
  6. Take a long breather of a half hour or more to relax and determine if you need or can handle another one hour session

The keys are intensity within the twenty-five minutes and the associations made during the study bursts.  If the method is used correctly then there is plenty of time to relax and do whatever else one likes – work hard play hard.  I guess I came off as lecturing them, but a couple of them said they’d give it a try and had nothing to lose.  I’m seeing them in a few days and will find out how it went.

More to read: