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Effectiveness of Popular Study Methods in Improving Memory and Retention

A fundamental aspect of human civilization is the ability to absorb external stimuli and process that information into memory. It is an active, cognitive trait humans share and can commonly be found within academic settings. From primary school to higher education, students embark on an arduous journey as they continuously shape their minds, occasionally recalling material that was previously introduced. However, many college students face a common challenge in recalling course material during assessments, which often stems from not utilizing diverse study methods. As research within this field continues to grow, certain study methods have been shown to support students with increasing their memory and retention. Various study methods cater to specific subjects, offering a diverse range of tools for effective learning. In fact, study methods have gained traction in recent years as they highlight the difference between passive recall and active recall.

Compared to earlier academic years in which students’ learning consisted of memorizing obscure facts and re-writing material from textbooks, a college education emphasizes the use of various study methods that prioritize active recall. College-level assessments rely on a student’s ability to not only remember important information, but also apply their knowledge in different contexts. Active recall study practices help a student understand information at a deeper level, as they actively access information from their long-term memory. Contrastingly, passive recall - as the name suggests - may help a student pass an exam, but studies have shown that the retention rate dramatically drops post-assessment as students are less likely to review past content. As such, numerous study methods foster effective learning as they encourage active recall. Some of which include the blurting method, mind mapping, and the Feynman technique.

The blurting method consists of an individual reading from a textbook, for example, then closing their textbook and attempting to write down any information they remember. Researchers claim that the blurting method is effective as it involves recall from long-term memory. The blurting method can improve student’s ability to retain and recall information at a quicker rate. The mind mapping technique can be applied for different subjects. This method involves creating a diagram with a central theme on a particular topic and can be branched out to different sub-topics or ideas. For instance, a mind map can be created when studying different developmental processes mentioned in a psychology class. A mind map can also be created in a neuroscience course when reviewing the structure of the brain. It is up to the student to create their central theme and is a great study method for visual learners. Another study method is the Feynman technique - a method that a student has possibly executed in the past. Named after Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman, the famous physicist concluded that the best form of learning is through teaching. When learning a subject like medicine, the Feynman technique would be enacted when the student attempts to explain a concept to themselves (as though they were teaching) and identify any missing information or whether they require further clarity at specific moments for the topic. Afterwards, the student will then reevaluate their teaching and can improve their ability to learn material at a deeper level.

Students studying in academic institutions often encounter subjects that feel quite complex and challenging to grasp. Study methods provide these individuals with a solid foundation to comprehend information effectively and enhance their ability to recall it when needed. However, it’s essential to acknowledge that certain study techniques can be quite demanding on the brain. Thus, it becomes crucial for students to take regular breaks and allow themselves time to rest and rejuvenate. Recent research increasingly supports the effectiveness of various study methods and continues to shine light on a powerful source for students.

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