This article is Part 3 in my series of Tips and Techniques about improving your memory to score A in your exams.
If you’re interested to learn all the tips and techniques to be an A+ student, you may buy this book which I highly recommend. It’s written by Scott – a university student who has successfully excelled in his studies and at the same time written a few books that teaches you how to Learn More by Studying Less.
All right – let’s get on to this article.
If you still find it difficult to remember much after studying, then read this article. It will teach you how to use other skills to help answer exam questions instead of just memorizing from the book.
I can’t seem to remember everything i studied, but i can remember a little bit. Can i still answer a question correctly?
The answer is yes, you can. Though you may not get 100% full marks for that Q, you may have a good chance of getting 80% if you apply these techniques correctly.
To answer a question when you only know half the answer, you need to apply a little bit of some other study skills. People say, “study smart, don’t study hard”. It’s easier said than done, right? Not really. You don’t need to be a genius to study smart.
Here are some tips & techniques :
1) Understanding skills
Pay full attention in class when the teacher is teaching. Understanding something when learning it the first time is crucial to remembering it in the longer term. If you can’t understand anything in class, ask. If there’s no time to ask questions in class, do it after class. Find time to ask the teacher personally, go to the staffroom, hound the teacher if you have to. For those who attend tuition classes, you can take the opportunity of asking your tuition teacher too.
When you are doing own revision, make sure you understand completely what you read when you are reading it for the first time. If you are slower than the average student and find that you can’t keep up with the speed of your class, then understand it at your own pace while reading at home.
Most important point here is, make sure you understand everything. Do not pretend to understand something when you don’t. It is harder to remember something that you don’t understand (hence do not make sense), compared to something that you do understand and can make sense of. The average memory responds better to logical threads than random gibberish inputs.
But i’m the shy type, i don’t know what to ask when i see the teacher’s face. How? –> Go to Tip#2.
2) Reading skills
OK, OK, for the shy type (whose mouth is filled with gold), you have another alternative –> Reading on your own. Sometimes, you may find the teacher’s explanation unclear. Or maybe she speaks too fast for your comfort. Well, if that’s the case and you are too shy to approach her after class, then you got some homework to do -> revise the lesson at home. (P.S.: However, this applies only for the more independent students who can understand by self-studying and who do not need to depend on anybody’s verbal explanation to understand anything).
Own notes : Take down as much info as you can in your notes, go through them at home, again and again. Look for references in other books if you need to. From the long messy notes and the information in books, make your own short notes in a way that you can understand just by a quick glance at it.
Speed reading / Skimming : Get used to reading fast and skimming at your notes repeatedly. It is not necessary to keep reading every tiresome detail inside the textbook. You only need to do that the first time, or until you have understood the concept. After that, you only need to remember the skeletal framework -> important points and keywords that link them together.
Keywords : After each quick revision, close your books and notes. Take a blank sheet of paper and write down all the keywords you just picked up – only the keywords. After that, try to connect all the keywords together in proper sentences and fill in the “meat”– the elaborations. Since you have already understood the concept from the beginning, the “meat” shouldn’t be too hard to write. Even if you couldn’t write them as perfect as your textbook, you would still have managed to get out all the important points. (To do this better –> Go to Tip#3 Presentation Skills)
Reading subtopics : This is one reading skill for the “little-lazy” type BUT who has already mastered both the Understanding Skill and Presentation Skill. You have already understood most concepts either in class or you have read them in the books very much earlier, so you fear that you may have forgotten some of them before your exam. This is a last minute method, where you don’t have time to make your own notes from textbooks anymore, no time to do flashcards, etc. What you do is, skim through all the main topics, subtopics, and sub-subtopics from the textbook or reference book. Basically, this means all the short little lines that are numbered, bolded, underlined or in italics. This is like the keyword method, only thing you don’t need to write out your own keywords; but instead by using the book’s subtitles as your keywords. However, you have to be in pure focus when you are going through each subtitle – reading one word or one line needs to jog your memory to the important details of the entire paragraph underneath it. If you can’t do that, then this method is not for you.
But what if I’m the lazy type? I can’t understand a thing in class but I don’t like to read either. Sorry, no cure for laziness here!! –> Go back to Tip#2.
3) Presentation skills
Why is presentation skills important? All you need is good understanding and memory skills and you can answer all the questions in the exams, right? Wrong.
Difficult as it is to believe, there are many brilliant students out there who has perfect understanding skills and excellent memory skills, however, when it comes to answering an essay or even a structural question, they are unable to write in a way that is coherent and actually answers what the question wants. You may know the answer but you are unable to explain it. You end up writing a one line answer or an incomprehensible or worse, irrelevant explanation. So there goes your full marks!
So how do you present an answer?
Observe : Notice how the facts or concepts in the textbooks or reference books are being explained. How are the sentences formed and what are the important words they used to make you understand while reading it? You should then have a clue as to how your own explanation should be like in an exam. You don’t have to memorise this, just read it to familiarise yourself with the kind of sentence structures used for the explanation. If the books’ explanations are too lengthy for you, shorten it, but do not change the essence of the content or twist the fact to suit your fancy.
Filling up a skeleton with meat : As taught in Tip#2, when you are reading, pick up the important keywords. These should stuck to your memory like glue and you should have no problem recalling them out during the exam. The point is, you need to practice how to connect the important keywords in a coherent and logical manner, filling in with relevant details to support your main points, not just throw out a bundle of keywords on your answer sheet! This is why understanding the entire concept is so important, because without proper understanding, it is virtually impossible to connect keywords and write a decent explanation in a way that others will understand. Logical memory flow plays an important role here.
With regular practise, you too can improve your presentation skills and hence improve your chances of writing better answers in an exam. Even if you only remember half of what you studied, you might be able to recall more when your mind is actively flowing with logical thoughts relating to the question. Even if you don’t, the half that you remembered would not sound so wierd if you can write it in a decent, logical and understandable manner. You might even get half the marks instead of a zero mark (if you decided to leave the answer totally blank.)
But what you are saying only applies to essay questions. How about objective (multiple choice) questions? (More on this in Part 4)
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