Recalling facts and figures can seem daunting during a test, but using effective study techniques helps put those exam jitters to rest. The key is creating an ideal study environment that allows you to maximize your time and focus your attention. Effective studying also requires some trial and error to find the best memorization strategies for your learning style. Once you find out what works best, recalling facts becomes much easier, whether you're memorizing the periodic table, dates of historical events, or anything in between.
Allocate time for study to give yourself enough time to commit the information to memory. Review your notes and key texts during the time of day when you are alert and focused. For some students, that is first thing in the morning. Others have better concentration later in the day.
Choose a study spot with no distractions. Trying to memorize facts while eavesdropping on conversations or watching your favorite TV show isn't effective. Get rid of games, electronic devices or other distractions in your study area.
Study with a notebook and pen handy, making a note of concepts, themes and examples. Write down the main idea and key facts in short, bullet-point lists. For example, if you are reading a work of fiction, make a note of the text’s key themes and literary devices, such as use of symbolism and metaphor. Bullet points help to jog your memory without making you feel overwhelmed with facts. Read over your list shortly before the test.
Use visual representations of the information to help with fact recall. Draw a concept or bubble map with circles representing different information and arrows showing the connection. For example, to memorize the branches of government, draw separate bubbles for the legislative, executive and judicial branch with illustrations to show each one, such as the White House for the executive branch. Add bubbles around each branch with additional information about duties or people who fall under each branch. During the test, picture the visual representation to help you recall the related facts.
Create mnemonic devices to memorize a list of names or ideas. This memorization method uses the first letter of each word in the list to create a catchy phrase or sentence. In the branches of government example, the letters are "l" for legislative, "e" for executive and "j" for judicial. A sentence to remember those letters is, "Let's eat jelly." That silly sentence reminds you of the beginning letters for the facts, making them easier to recall. Reinforce the idea further by associate the silly phrase with the concept. In this example, picture a judge eating jelly to remember that the "j" stands for "judicial". For "executive", image the president eating.
Make flashcards to quiz yourself using index cards. Write a question on one side with the answer on the other. For memorizing historical events, write the date on one side and the event on the other. To practice processes or formulas, write the name on one side and the procedure on the other. Quiz yourself both ways. On the first round, look at the dates and recall the event. On the second pass, look at the name of the events and recall the dates.
Practice recalling the facts in your head during down time. Instead of zoning out when you walk across campus, quiz yourself on the information you're studying. Review facts while you eat lunch. Look at your visual representations and notes while you're waiting for class to start.
Study with a friend, or join a study group for the class. Shared study is a useful way of exchanging ideas, which builds confidence and leads to a broader understanding of the subject. Ask each other questions and continue going back to the same questions that either of you answered incorrectly the first time.
Take a break when you notice your focus slipping. A 10 minute break away from your desk to grab a snack, talk to a friend or take a quick walk helps refocus your energy when you sit back down to memorize the info. Look at the clock so you know when you need to return to studying so your break doesn't last too long.
Relax your body and mind before you take the test with deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and visualization of a positive outcome. When you get the test, write down key pieces of information in the margins or on the back. This becomes a reference for as you answer the questions.