Remember Things You Study Better

Do you find that when it comes to test time, you just can't remember what you studied? Studying is actually really complex, just like your brain, and science has shown us that there is a "right" and a "wrong" way to do it. You might be doing it the wrong way! With some wikiHow help, you too can remember the things you study. Whether you're improving your study habits, learning to use mnemonics, or employing various cognitive tools, you'll be nailing tests and dancing your way through classes before you know it.


Priming Your Brain

  1. Get plenty of sleep. The first thing you should do is make sure that you’re sleeping properly. When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain doesn’t work as well and all the studying in the world isn’t going to make a difference. You’ll have to put the parties and hanging out aside for awhile until you feel better about your studying.
    • New scientific studies have shown that when we sleep, our body goes through a sort of cleaning cycle where our brains get flushed of all the bad stuff that shouldn’t be there. When you don’t get enough sleep, this bad stuff builds up and makes your brain work a lot worse.
    • Some people need eight hours of sleep, but some people only need six while others may need nine or more. Everyone’s body is different, so experiment to see how you feel.
  2. Eat balanced meals. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is also important. Your body needs lots of different nutrients in order to work right and when you don’t have those nutrients, it can be hard to focus and absorb information. Eating balanced meals doesn’t just mean eating a lot of kale (although kale is really good for you). It mostly means making sure that you’re eating a lot of different foods in healthy proportions. You have to adjust for your particular lifestyle, but a good balance to start with is:
    • 30% vegetables. Lean towards dark greens like kale, chard, spinach, and broccoli, since these have more nutrients in them.
    • 20% fruits. Try to choose nutrient-rich fruits, like citrus fruits and kiwi, or fruits which are high in fiber, like apples, pears, and bananas.
    • 30% whole grains. Choose nutrient-rich grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal, and look for whole grain products whenever you do eat any grain.
    • 20% protein. Try to choose lean proteins when you eat meat (turkey, chicken, and fish) and complete proteins when you eat other protein-rich foods (you’ll need to mix foods like nuts, lentils, and beans to get a complete protein, or eat whole soybeans like soy nuts and edamame).
    • Limit your dairy intake. Most nutrients that you get from dairy products you can get just as easily from other sources. Dairy products tend to be very fatty, so when you do eat them, choose low-fat versions. You’ll want to be sure you get enough calcium, though, so eat calcium rich foods like kale, collard greens, and sardines.
  3. Drink plenty of water. You probably know that your body is made up mostly of water, so you’re probably not surprised to hear that getting enough water will be very important for helping you focus. Dehydration will give you problems focusing and if you can’t focus, then you’re going to have a really hard time remembering.
    • A good rule of thumb is that you’ll know you’ve had enough water when your urine comes out pale or occasionally clear. Eight 8 oz glasses a day is a good starting point, but different people need different amounts of water.
  4. Wear comfortable clothing. When you study, do what you can to wear clothes that are comfortable. This will let you focus all of your attention on your work, rather than breaking your focus to worry about heat, cold, or your pants pinching you in that spot you don’t want to talk about.
  5. Use caffeine carefully. Coffee, 5 Hour Energy, Red Bull….whatever your poison is, be careful when you pick it. Caffeine does help you study...but only if you drink it after studying.[1] If taken before you study, it can make you too jittery to focus properly. Caffeine also has lots of other downsides, so try not to rely on caffeine in general.
    • Negative side effects of caffeine include caffeine addiction, headaches, dehydration, fatigue, anxiety, and disruption of your sleep cycle.

Embracing Learning Styles

  1. Evaluate how you learn. There is a theory that different people learn better in different ways and that by exposing yourself more to the method that works best for you, you’ll have an easier time studying. Now, there are studies which show that learning styles might not work, but many people feel like this does make a difference in their learning. You should feel free to experiment because as long as it works for you, that’s all that matters.
    • You can find a number of tests online that can help you figure out your learning style. Any one of them is about as reliable as any other and they may give lots of different results. The best route is to pay attention to how you feel and what things feel like they work for you.
  2. Work with a visual learning style. Have you ever noticed that you learn better by looking at charts or graphs? When you think back to lectures in class, do you remember what the Powerpoint slides looked like better than the actual words your teacher said? These might be indications that you’re strongly drawn towards visual learning. Try to find ways to make the information you study into a visual representation, in order to help yourself remember it better.[2]
    • For example, try using different color highlighters and tabs to color code the important information in your textbook.
  3. Adapt to an auditory learning style. Have you ever noticed that you have an easier time remembering what your teacher said, rather than what information was written in your textbook? Do you feel like you absorb information better when you listen to music while you study (sometimes even being able to recall the information simply by “replaying” the song in your head)? These might be indications that you’re strongly drawn towards auditory learning. Try to find ways to make the information you study into an auditory representation, in order to help yourself remember it better.
    • Try recording your lectures and playing them back while you drive or before or after you study.
  4. Facilitate a physical learning style. Have you ever noticed that you’re happiest when working with your hands? Maybe you tap your foot or fidget with your hands while you’re in class. These might be signs of a kinesthetic learner, or someone who learns best when they’re physically moving. This learning style is more rare than the other two but important to work with if you have it. [3]
    • Try taking breaks to run around the block or get other brief exercise while you study. This may help you process the information better and keep you from getting too wound up.

Getting Engaged with School

  1. Find things to enjoy. You’ll have an easier time remembering the information you study if it’s something that you care about or can get excited about. Now, some stuff in school will be naturally interesting for you, but other stuff may seem really boring on the surface. When this happens, you’ll have to find a way to get yourself interested in the material. There are lots of different ways to go about this, but you can try:
    • Finding a reason why the information will be useful to you later in life. For example, the math you’re learning can help you calculate how much money you’ll need to save in order to retire. Be smart, and you might even be able to figure out how to retire early.
    • Make the information into a story. For example, if you’re studying history, find a way to adapt what you’re learning into your own episode of Game of Thrones. If you’re studying science, think of a way that the science could be used to make your superhero origin story.
  2. Actively listen. If you pay very close attention during the original lectures, not only will you have an easier time remembering the information but you’ll also be able to study more efficiently because your brain will have an easier time recalling the information. Really work to listen when you’re in class and keep yourself engaged with the conversation of learning by asking questions and really getting involved with the lessons. ;)
  3. Take notes. Another good way to “listen” to the lecture is to take notes. This will help keep you on track for paying attention, but it will also give you great material to study from later. Remember, when you take notes, the idea isn’t to write down everything that your teacher says. Instead, write down the important stuff. Write down the outline of the lecture and fill it in with facts, and explanations for the tough concepts that you know you’ll struggle with.
    • For example, if you were taking notes on each article, you’d probably break your notes down for each section of the article, and write one or two takeaways for each step.
  4. Do your own research. You can help yourself remember what you learn and also help yourself get more interested in what you’re studying by taking ownership of your education and looking for more information outside of what your teacher talks about. This can help you better understand the concepts but also give you a more solid framework on which you can build with the information covered in class. You might even find interesting things that you think are really cool!
    • For example, let’s say you’re studying chemistry and your teacher is talking about the discovery of all sorts of new compounds around the late 1800s and early 1900s. You might stop and think to yourself, “What did people do with all this new stuff?” If you did some research, you’d find out that all those new compounds were used to make new, brightly colored paints. These new colors were responsible for an artistic revolution which gave us painters like Van Gogh and Monet.
  5. Get some context. If you’re having a hard time following along with what your teacher is saying, try giving yourself a bit more context for the information. Sometimes, when you can more clearly visualize what’s being discussed, you’ll have an easier time understanding what’s happening and keep track of new information as it comes in.
    • For example, if you’re studying history but you find you just can’t keep track of everything that’s happening, try going to a museum or watching a documentary that deals with that subject. This will give you something to imagine as you learn and it might even explain some ideas in a different and better way than your teacher.

Using Memory Tricks and Tools

  1. Use a mind map. A mind map is a great way to help yourself remember information better. To make a mind map, break down the information that you need to learn into categories, and then into individual ideas. Write down all of these ideas on note cards and then pin or tape them to a large wall, with the ideas grouped by category. You can then connect similar ideas with string or color code the cards to convey even more information.
    • This means that (if you learn your mind map) when you go to take a test, all you have to do is bring up the map in your mind and you’ll have a much easier time “finding” the information you need.
  2. Create your own mnemonics. Mnemonics are songs, phrases, or words which act like a shorthand for much more complicated information. You can learn common ones for more standard information, or you can make up your own that are specific to what you’re trying to remember.
    • For example, the phrase “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge” is commonly used to remember the notes on a staff. Another example is the name “Pvt. Tim Hall”, which can be used to remember the list of the essential amino acids. [4]
  3. Study in groups. When you study, try studying with other people. This works really well for a lot of different reasons. Mainly, it can engage many different learning styles and most people will find that they understand information better when they have to explain it to someone else. Studying in groups also means that if one of you doesn’t understand something very well or if you were gone on an important day, there are other people there who can help you get back on track.
    • Talk to your classmates about studying in groups, but remember that it’s not really a time to be social. You shouldn’t choose study mates based on who you’re friends with. You should try to study with people that take the class seriously and put in as much effort as you do.
  4. Focus on one task at a time. When we break our focus, it can often take 20 minutes or more before we can properly regain our focus, according to studies.[5] Our brains also have a limit on how much attention can be paid at any given time, never mind our basic physical limits. This is why it’s best to sit down in a place with as few distractions as possible and just study until you’re done studying.
    • Avoid music or TV too. Focusing on one task means it’s also a good idea to skip on watching TV or listening to lyric-heavy music while you study. Studies have shown that these almost universally do more harm than good, because it takes too much brain power to both hear the music and intensely focus on your task.[6]
  5. Make connections. When you’re studying, try to make connections between the material you’re trying to learn and the material you already know. By making connections you’ll not only understand the material better (making it more useful to you in your everyday life), you’ll also have an easier time remembering it. You shouldn’t feel limited by subject matter either: if you see a connection between your favorite subject in history and your new assignment in math, then by all means make that connection solidly in your mind.
    • For example, you might notice that there are some weird words and sentence structures in English. This can be connected to the various cultures that have conquered in England (and the colonies) over the course of history.
  6. Start studying as soon as possible. The best, least complicated thing that you can do to help yourself remember what you study better is to just start studying as early as possible. The earlier you start studying, the more chances you have to go over the information repeatedly and really lock those facts away in your brain. Studying the night before really won’t do you any favors, maybe earning you two or three correct questions on a test. Studying for just a short time every other day for a month leading up to a test will probably earn you a perfect score, or at least that “A” you’re hoping for.


  • Chew gum while studying then when taking the test/quiz etc. Chew the same flavor of gum. Your brain then makes certain connections allowing you to remember the thing you learned while studying. It's a strange but very helpful way of producing good recall.
  • If it is a short sentence, you need to remember, write them out more than 6 times, also chew gum and write out flash card and look at them every 10 minutes and read them.
  • Do flashcards. They help you memorize when you see one side of a topic and the other side gives you the details or definition.
  • Writing down the information that you learn will help you to memorize things better that you do while listening or reading. The greater the number of times you write, the lower the chances of you forgetting what you have written down.
  • Review accentuated information just prior to an exam.
  • The more you practice, the easier it will be to memorize.
  • Try squeezing your hands,it will help improve circulation and blood gong to your brain.
  • The brain remembers things in pictures so instead of trying to memorize the words of what you're studying, memorize the actual paper or index cards. If your brain remembers what you see, not what's on the paper/card, then you can read the card in your head .
  • Repeat it over and over again out loud and in your head.
  • Try to make small scribbles that you can associate with difficult sentences and facts so you can remember it.
  • Listen to calming music that you enjoy during your study period. If your professor or teacher will allow it, listen to the exact same songs during the test. The familiar sounds will trigger the memories of your study session.

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Sources and Citations

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