Now that the school year is ending, students are beginning the laborious process of studying for final exams. Testing up to this point has drawn from the students’ short-term memory (STM), but final exams will assess long-term memory (LTM). Short-term memory and long-term memory functions and abilities differ; therefore, students must prepare differently for each type of exam set. The goal for finals is deep learning. Memorization of facts probably worked great for those quizzes and tests conducted shortly after students were exposed to the new information, but now that several weeks and months have passed, students likely have forgotten the information. When students read and/or hear information from the classroom or textbooks, it gets stored in their short-term memory (STM) which is made up of the immediate memory (IM) and the working memory (WM). The new material is captured by the IM and must be moved to the WM in order for it to get transferred to the LTM in the final stage. So, just how does the WM move material over to the LTM? It must work. The main way it does this is by “rehearsing” or going over the material until it is deeply integrated and understood (not just memorized). Here are 3 tips to help prepare for final exams
Connect the unfamiliar with the familiar: By linking the new with something you know about, your brain creates connections and pathways that will aid in the long-term memory retrieval process. Additionally, the deliberate act of association serves to reinforce what you have put into short-term memory already. In other words, you are going over the information, but now expanding that information to link with what you do know. For example, I’m sure we have all been introduced to new people and needed to remember names. So, when you are introduced to someone named Irene, you think of your aunt named Irene and try to draw a connection between the two individuals (maybe they both have dark hair, are short, or etc.). The goal is to “make sense of new information” and understand it, don’t simply memorize it.
Teach the learned information to someone else (or if that is not possible, then to yourself).
Any time, you take static information and manipulate it, explain it, rehearse it, or teach it, you discover you have absorbed deep learning. You do not just know some facts about the subject, but can assimilate the meaning. Since it is not always possible to teach others, there are alternatives to assembling the information and putting it out there (it need not be in a verbal format). Michigan State University had these suggestions:
- Make your own study sheets, synopsis, diagrams, and so on.
- Ask yourself questions and then answer them.
Provide both visual and verbal cues for the memory (referred to as dual-coding)
First, let’s delve into the reason this is important. Long-term memory is separated and stored in pieces. For example, the visual portion of the memory is stored in the visual cortex of the brain and the audio part of the memory is stored in the auditory cortex. When memories need to be retrieved the brain must reproduce the event or episode. So, it can gather from the audio or visual when drawing upon a memory. By providing both a visual and auditory associative cue of the material learned, you will strengthen the retrieval of that memory. One way to do this according to MSU is “associate words with pictures.” Also, connecting the idea with a sound, tune, or jingle will help strengthen the memory.
As students prepare for the final exams, it will take different, strategic efforts to accomplish the goal successfully. Rehearsing the information is a key element in transferring new material from the IM to WM and finally to the LTM where it becomes knowledge.
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