how to remember what you study

How to remember what you study: Best study trick ever

Katie Azevedogood habits, study skills, study tips

By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.

Have you ever studied something to the point that you really think you know it, but then the next day you forget it all? Like, everything? Yeah. Me too. It used to happen a lot: I would study all night and feel confident that I had learned the material…but the next morning I would hardly remember any of it. I felt like I was wasting so much time.

But I have a trick for how to remember what you study. It’s a game-changer.

The magic number is three.

You want to study whatever you’re studying three different ways. When you attempt to learn something new from three separate angles, you greatly increase your chances of learning, processing, storing and recovering the material.

Let’s look at some examples of how to use this strategy in various scenarios.

Let’s say you’re studying a vocabulary list. To better remember what you study, you would want to attack this material from three different angles, preferably a mixture of:

  1. audible (saying/hearing it aloud)
  2. silent (thinking it in your head)
  3. visual (writing it down)

So here is how that could look if you are studying vocabulary:

  • Write out flashcards (visual)
  • Test yourself using the flashcards (silent/thinking)
  • Have someone else quiz you (audible – you’re hearing them and yourself say the words aloud)

The method still works if you’re studying something other than vocabulary. Let’s say you have to study something from history, like World War II. So you could:

  • Read about the war in your text book or notes (silent/thinking)
  • Re-write your notes or make flashcards for any information that fits on flashcards (visual/audible)
  • Try teaching the material to someone else (audible) – which is actually 1 of 10 great ways to study in general

If the material you’re studying is from a book, like in English class, your three different approaches could be to:

  • Read the book (silent/thinking)
  • Listen to an audio recording of the book (Audible=Best.App.Ever. Or just the library!) (audible/visual)
  • Watch a movie of the book (visual)

If the material you’re studying is mostly scientific and is primarily conceptual, you could:

  • Read the material from your notes or textbook (silent/thinking)
  • Watch a YouTube video or other video that explains the material differently than your teacher does (visual/audible)
  • Write or draw out the concepts on a white board (visual)

You can really get creative here. Instead of making flashcards or rewriting your notes, write information out on a whiteboard or draw images to help you remember what you study. Maybe you can represent some of the information in a graph, chart or infographic. Get yourself an actual whiteboard at Staples and have at it. (If you are making flashcards, just be sure you know this flashcard strategy.)

Another way to attack the material from an audible perspective – and this can actually be fun – is to record yourself explaining the material or even reading from your textbook. Then you play this recording back and listen to yourself. Once you get over how weird your own voice sounds, you’ll be surprised to learn how effective it can be to listen to you explain something. You can just use any recording app on your smartphone, or if you’re a super techie, you can play around with one of my favorite audio platforms, Audacity. And it’s free! Just be careful that you don’t get sucked into it and use it as a procrastination toy. Because it really is kind of awesome.

The ways to study are as endless as the things you could be studying. But the trick for how to remember what you study is to attack it from three different angles. And try to work it so that those three different angles include a written, silent, and audible approach.

Another important step for how to remember what you study

Of course, there’s another key step to remember what you study: Keep coming back to it! You’ve got to keep revisiting the material essentially every day until your test. You can’t just study once on Monday and expect to remember everything for Friday’s test – even if you studied it three different ways on Monday. You must, must come back to the material a little bit each day in order for it to really sink in and shift from memorized to learned.

Here’s my ultimate 5-day study plan that helps you schedule out your study days leading up to your test.

Studying the same material from three different angles might seem time-intensive. But trust me – it’s far better than spending a whole night studying only to forget it in the morning. You can have fun with this one. Think outside the box. Get cool supplies. Play with the audio apps. Use these 22 study techniques. Make it a game. Mix it up. Go nuts. Just hit it three different ways, and come back to it every day.

Want to know another study tip about the power of 3? Check this out.

how to remember what you study

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