Whether your subject combination is more focused on Science or Arts subjects, the concept of memorization is something no student in Singapore can escape from. Be it memorizing key formulas for Maths or the facts about the human body for Biology, the A level and O level syllabus ultimately demands the skill of memory one way or another. With the mountains of things to remember, it is not a surprise to find out that memorizing is one of the top things Singapore students struggle with but worry not! Zenith has compiled some tried and tested techniques for you to try out.
Practice active recall
Active recall is one of the top studying techniques that has often gone underutilized by many students. Many students spend hours passively reading and highlighting their previously made notes in hopes that they can absorb the mountain of information, but it has been scientifically proven that such passive studying reaps minimal rewards. A studying technique that has been proven more effective would be active recall, where you test yourself on the content you’ve learned to actively apply it in different contexts. One such way you can go about doing so would be to make flashcards after revising the content. This can be done both physically or digitally. A great digital platform students can tap into would be the app, “Anki”, which is an online flashcard application that allows you to create flashcards and consolidate them into a single application for easy referencing. Flashcards can help stimulate your brain by repeatedly asking it questions and retrieving answers, allowing you to engage in active recall.
The beauty of this is that you’ll be able to constantly re-visit and test yourself on these contents on the go, be it on your commute to school or while you wait in line for your food. Actively applying your knowledge regularly results in better understanding which would ultimately allow you to retain the information for far longer durations as opposed to just simply re-reading your notes. Here at Zenith, we champion the use of these techniques through constant timed practices where our students are given a chance to test their knowledge of the different concepts without referencing their notes.
Adopt the technique of spaced repetition
It comes as no surprise to all A Level or O Level students that there is always too much content to memorize! Especially for subjects like History or Biology where accurate and almost word-for-word definitions or facts are integral, it might seem impossible to commit everything to memory. Here’s where the technique of spaced repetition comes into play.
From a young age, we are taught to plan out our study schedules. However, a common mistake made by many students would be planning their revision day-by-day as opposed to topic-by-topic. For example, students would choose to delegate an entire Tuesday to finish up their Chemistry revision and Wednesday to finish Physics. Although this process may work for some students, a more effective way to go about planning your revision would be by adopting the technique of spaced repetition. As Google defines it, spaced repetition involves taking information that you need to memorize and repeating it across increasing intervals. For example, plan short and frequent review sessions for each topic and revisit the same topic after 2 days. Repeat the cycle but slowly increase the duration from 2 days to 5 days. (Fig 1.). Continue the process and remember to incorporate old material with new information each time. If this is done sufficiently, your brain will be able to commit this to memory much better. Think muscle memory! The more times you do it, the easier it gets.
Figure 1: An example of a spaced repetition schedule
Explore other note-taking methods
Instead of the traditional header and subpoints, try to inculcate different styles of note-taking to facilitate your memorization. Every student has their own unique style and methods of studying. Some might be more visual learners while some might be on the auditory side. Regardless, know what works for you. If you’re a visual learner, try to make summarized mindmaps to condense important information for each topic (Fig 2.).
Figure 2: An example of a mindmap
There is never a “right” way to study! Experiment with different methods to see what works best for you. For students who still prefer writing out notes, you can try to infuse the Cornell note-taking method (Fig 3.)! This is where you leave a margin at the side of your notes designated for any questions or points to aid in your understanding of the content. This has been proven to be more effective as opposed to bullet-pointed information because it allows you to constantly generate questions, which inadvertently helps in your understanding of the concepts at hand. With the questions jotted down, be sure to seek clarification from your tutors at Zenith to make sure that your doubts are clarified!
Figure 3: Format for Cornell note-taking
Another great and effective way for you to better commit the content to memory would be by attempting to teach it to someone else. The main point of this is to see if you’ll be able to not just regurgitate what you have learned but also to check if your understanding of the concept transcends beyond just the surface level. This can also flag out the gaps in your knowledge, highlighting what needs to be re-visited once again. You will be surprised as to how difficult it is to explain a foreign concept to someone who has zero knowledge about the subject at hand. This forces you to get down to the nitty-gritty of each concept and to simplify it without eroding the essence of what you need to remember. Another method you may choose to employ would be creating tests for these individuals you have taught. This results in you studying the information and predicting what can be tested. The concept of peer-tutoring is also practiced at the top secondary and JC tuition center in Singapore, Zenith. This is done through the exchanging of scripts done during timed practices and evaluating the work of your peers. This forces you to pinpoint what crucial elements are necessary in the making of a good answer and gives you the opportunity to learn from other students’ mistakes as well.
Whether you are reading this as a last-ditch effort to cram for your examination in a few days or if you are months away from your A level or O level exams, it is important to know that placing yourself under immense amounts of stress will do you more harm than good. Take it easy and try your best while utilizing the tips mentioned above to aid you in the process of memorizing. Remember to also practice what your subject tutors at Zenith have taught you and remember that you’re in good hands. The process will never be easy, but the results will most definitely be worth it so don’t give up!