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Revision and memory



If you have been looking at my todo list (which is really boring to be honest) you can see that since about Tuesday I have been mainly revising. I have mocks the start of next week (Monday 24th) - which aren't major but a good test of revision effectiveness. So I have started the arduous task of recollecting all the content I have learnt over the past year and half in the space of two weeks. This is now more of a test of memory and memory acquisition than knowledge of the subject and has got me thinking about the process of memory making and retrieving.

The interesting aspect of memory I realised was that it was always there just not at the foreground of my thought. I am not constantly thinking about my childhood but if someone asked I have many nostalgic memories which I can recount, some not completely accurate. It's as if the memory are compressed and stored away in a deep place of the brain waiting for a keyword (keythought?) to trigger its retrieval.

Beyond this, there are go to memories within a theme, for example in the childhood example I usually remember some amazing memories I got from growing up close to the wilderness in Zimbabwe. But after these first memories new ones hop on the back of these as small snippets remind you of other experiences. Eventually you can recount multiple situations and scenes from your childhood. In fact even reading that trigger word a lot can send you thinking down this path.

So how can I remember all of these memories I never really meant to store? And why were they stored?

I think the later is fairly easy to explain. Most of the time they are linked to a certain emotion or thought, one that at the time has big something that consumed me. However there are still memories that I have which seem to be a little less magnificent in emotion or thought. These I believe are repeated tasks that eventual ingrain themselves in your memory. You likely remember a lot of details about your school entrance or classrooms becuase you passed through them so often.

So this is the key, memories are stored when enough, I guess, signals are sent down the same pathway down your brain. This is either through large emotional or thought provoking moments, or through constant use. So this is the key to creating lasting memories during revision.

this part is pure speculation about how it is done, but the concept still works

But there is also the idea of keythoughts bringing forth more information than would normally be stored at once. This is the way I try and revise or store information but for me it takes a while to get there. The simple idea is when you store memories you are going to understand that the situation you are in relates to a certain category (these may change over time but those memories move with that, also they can occupy multiple categories). This way the brain can store a lot of information which doesn't need to be saved in a way to be accessed easily, it doesn't need to use up 'thought space' memory rather 'deep' memory, these memories can be accessed through a small 'thought space' memory or phrase and bang more storage power.

How to store a lot of information

So how do I use this when revising? I break every subject into sub topics, to help with efficiency of revision any topics that are used frequently elsewhere won't need revising as they will already be engrained. Now I have a keythought, this being the subject title or the basic principle of that subject. Everytime I revise anypart of this subtopic I keep that keythought in mind, normally by stating it before reading that part aloud. This way I can focus on completely understanding a small part of the topic and also completely memorising it then storing it into 'deep' memory knowing I can access it using the keythought.

The other part is to make sure that you trully understand the topic, make it trully click. This becomes a big memory as it falls into the thought method of storing information. If you finally understand a subtopic your brain is more likely to recall it as you will have strong emotions to back it: excitement, relief, enjoyment, wonder, etc. Preferably do this as you are learning the subject so that all you are doing now is cementing it fully in 'deep' memory with extra triggers. This is also why getting tests back is so important becuase the disappointed or anger of getting something wrong will help with remembering the correct answer, so always get the right answer if you get it wrong.

Now the important thing to note is that for the nitty gritty of the course content it is not a big thought or emotion provoking experience, it is EXTREMELY dull. So utilise the repetition method. After revising a subtopic keep repeating it intermittently between other revision session. If you forget a bit go back and revise it again. But always remember to start with the key thought. Work from teh basics of the topic up, act as if you are teaching a child or at least someone a few education levels bellow yours: start with the knowns and assumptions and then get the answer. This way you can always fall back on the deeply ingrained basics (you've been hearing and using them FOR YEARS) to get to the information you need.

Unfortunately this takes time, so I don't recommend going full revision constantly and understand that you will be tired out becuase you are pushing your brain (a big part of your body) to its maximum. Also stress is excellent in this case, it helps with memory acquisition. So if you feel stredded that you can't remember what you learnt at the beginning of the day remember you need that keythought, you may be tired, but also that you can use this stress to improve yourself.


  • Split the information into the smaller chunks possible
  • Find a keythought that is easily recountable (preferably something external like the topic title)
  • Have deep focus sessions to completely memorise sections using the keythought
  • Try and make the information click to develop strong memories
  • Start from basics and build up
  • Keep the information topped up as frequently as possible
  • Stress is your friend in this situation
  • Remember to take it easy you are putting in a lot of effort

Good luck anypony taking exams soon, revising for exams or generally in life. Stay healthy


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