Often with the students I work with, I find that they spend so much time reading, taking notes and studying, but still struggle to remember course content leading up to their test or exam. I always teach them to adopt an active approach to studying. Active studying means that you are doing something with the course material, which allows you to develop a deeper understanding throughout the semester. You will see improved memory of course material if you use the following three strategies:

1.  Highlight only the key words or phrases when reading the textbook for the first time. By being selective while highlighting, you are already critically analyzing the material. You have to ask yourself, “is this relevant to the topic?” and if so, “what is the key point of this sentence or concept?” If you have completed this step, then you have already fully processed and understood everything that you have read and have eliminated the information that is not important for you to remember.

 2.  Paraphrase your notes.  This means write out your study notes in your own words whenever possible. Do not copy word for word (unless maybe it’s a definition). The rationale behind paraphrased notes is that it is easier for you to recall something written in your own words than the way someone else wrote it. Spending the time deciding how you will write a specific concept, definition, or fact in your own words will likely increase your memory of this material.

3.  Explain or teach the course material to someone else. This is a great alternative to reading your notes over and over again (which is also boring!). If you can explain or teach the material to someone else, this will mean that you have a great understanding of the material and are ready to take that test!

By Stefanie Haws,
Speech-Language Pathologist at Simone Friedman Speech-Language Services