Everyone is endowed with the capacity to make a productive study, everyone has got the brain. The methods people use to study make the difference between a genius and a dullard.
Just in a moment, I’ll show you the genius in you.
Here are ten things to do to make your brain a magnet of information.
1. Have a good night sleep to rest the brain – It is very important to give the brain the much needed relaxation by having good undisturbed night sleep before embarking on an intellectual task such as examination. It is a common behavior for people especially students to study hard on the eve of an exam. Some students are good at what I may call “fire-brigade” approach in preparing for exams, hence some students read very deep into the night at the expense of their good night sleep.
Others even go as far as reading Till Day Break (TDB), while some others read all through till they enter the exam hall. Worse still, there have been occasions where some continued the reading till the exams were half gone or even finished. Incredible! You may say, but all these are efforts people make to pass exams or should I say, to retain what they read till the stuff is used. Are you in any of these categories? The solution you need is here. The human brain needs at least six hours (6 hours) of night sleep to achieve good relaxation; denying your brain this rest runs down your memory.
2. Study in a quiet environment – This could also be termed “minimize distractions”. It is important to give the brain less work to do by consciously eliminating distractions and noise. Noise is one of the ‘bad clogs’ on the wheel of good understanding and good memory formation. Consider what happens when you are forcing yourself to read in a noisy environment with music blowing so loud and children running around playing and shouting on top of their voices; concentration becomes difficult and memory formation is poor. So, avoid this; choose a serene environment for a productive study.
A good way to achieve this is to study in the night. But keeping this study time from evening till anytime before 12.00 midnight helps to avoid stressing the brain excessively and having enough time to sleep for the following day’s activities.
3. Focus on a topic at a time – Can you remember the last time you were preparing for an exam? How many topics did you have to revise? It is easy for a boy to focus on the message in an e-mail box sent by his girl friend and get the message in a jiffy. But when it comes to reading high school course work and preparing for an exam within a short period of time, it becomes a different ball game.
What do you need to do? It is simple. Just take the topics one at a time. Remember that the best way to transfer ten raw eggs from a bag into a basket is by picking them one after another. It is more productive to map-out small time for each of the topics you have to study taking them one after another than jumping back and forth from one topic to another trying to grasp everything at once. This only leads to mixing up of information. Focusing at definite topics at a time allows your brain to form “particulate quota” of memory on what you read.
4. Have a good grip of the language – The problem of language has done much harm in information transfer systems. For instance, many of the written items we read are in English Language which is a borrowed language to most of us and the depth of one’s grasp of the information being passed across depends on the depth of one’s understanding of the language in the first place.
As you read through this article, you are only able to appreciate what is being passed across because you can understand simple English Language. So, it is better to get a good dictionary close when you are studying a piece of new information. Try and breakdown all the ambiguous terms and ensure that you understand the full meaning of sentences made in the article. Hence by the time you are reading the material again, you will have a better understanding and better memory formation in your brain. The more you are able to express a text in your own words and in your own dialect, the more the brain will be able to print the information into indelible memory.
5. Try to understand the “thought” of the writer – In every piece of writing, the author has some feelings; some concept or some ‘belief’ he wants to pass across to his readers. This can be called the thought formation he has about the topic. If you can understand the language in which the text is written very well, the next step in forming an indelible memory on what you read in the text is by trying to understand the feeling, concept, belief or simply the “thought” of the author in the text.
Ask yourself: “what is the whole essence of writing this topic?” “What does the author have in mind while writing this topic?” “What does he want people to understand from reading this text?” As you try to answer these questions, you are leading your mind and brain into having a better and deeper understanding of the subject matter and hence creating an indelible memory of same.
6. Try to write something down or underline some lines while reading – When I was younger, I have always wondered how possible it is for one to write out ‘points’ while reading. “What if all the paragraphs are important”. I used to ask “Would I copy all of them out as my notes?” this has been a problem to many students. Some make such notes and never go back to revise with the notes they have made, others even lose the notes soon after they are made; but very few retain these ‘precious notes’ and revise with them.
The later is what I recommend. But then, I discovered a simpler way of doing it – underlining the portions of interest. This not only reveals the points easily during revision but also retains cohesiveness between the interesting points and other information in the text. Also, the problem of loss of part or whole of the text is eliminated. So next time you are reading try making some simple, clean marks under or beside the paragraphs of interest. To encourage neatness, I use well sharpened pencil to make my marks.
7. Limit your study to the period of your maximum assimilation – It is not ‘How long’ you sat in the library reading that determines the result you get from reading but ‘How well’ you read in the time you spent there. I had a friend who would spend four hours reading without getting up from his seat. That was in our early years in high school. I used to be challenged by the resilience of that my friend. I tried to imitate him then but I could not. To my surprise, this my friend dropped behind us in class because he could not pass his exams. Wow! That taught me a big lesson. Whenever you start reading, your brain is at its best within the first 2 hours, thereafter, it begins to decrease in efficiency and this continues with time.
So by the time you seat at a place and read for 4 hours at a stretch, your brain would (as a necessity) need some relaxation for efficient memory formation process. You can achieve this by getting up and going out for a few minutes walk, charting for few minutes with a friend, watching some pictures or anything at all that makes you relax for a few minutes. Then, you continue the reading for another few hours. It is helpful to reduce the amount of time engaged in active reading before having an interlude as time progresses in any particular day. It is also important to avoid overstretching the brain anytime because those things read after the brain has become fatigued are hardly ever remembered again. Save your brain the stress of wasteful energy, put it to use when it is at its best and you will be surprised how wonderful it can work in creating indelible memory.
8. Create mental pictures – The brain combines a lot of things to form memory. The things we see form a very strong component of memory formation instruments. So when you present pictorial representation of what you read to your brain, it finds it easier to store it in easily retrievable form. As you read, try to create pictures or associate the information to some related objects. This helps to call up the information whenever you see or picture the objects in your brain. By so doing, you are creating indelible memories of what you read.
9. Form acronyms – Another useful tool in building a formidable memory base is by forming acronyms. These acronyms could be formed from the first letters in a word or group of letters in sentences or paragraphs. But it is important to advice here that these acronyms should be as simple as possible and should form familiar words, statements or poems (music).
If you cast your mind back, you will remember that most of the lessons you learnt in the early years of life in the Kindergarten school were in form of songs or poems. By simply reciting those songs now, you will remember the lessons. Surprisingly, the lessons have remained indelible since all these years and can be recalled any moment using the magic of acronyms and songs. Try it again today; it still works as ever before.
10. Revise what you read as many times as possible – Having taken much time to ‘load’ information into your brain, it will be very difficult to retain all these information without revision. The more familiar the information are to you, the more likely you are to remember them. Consider this illustration: by ringing a bell each time a farmer wants to feed his chicks, they learnt to cluster around him in anticipation of food each time the bell is rung even if there was no food for them. The human brain is much larger and much more developed than the chicks’ and would not fail to reproduce information that has been passed through it repeatedly several times by constant revision. I suggest that it is helpful to revise the highlighted lines or notes from the previous study before going into the new one, hence you consolidate on the old information and then move on to get more.
These well researched methods helped me through my life as a student till now and as you apply them, I believe you are on your way towards turning your brain into a magnet of information.
Dr Mbah E. O