Improve memory

How to Improve Your Memory?

  • Memory aids
  • Grouping information
  • Repetition

How memory works? Why we forget?

Forgetting is normal and necessary. Because, your brain gets millions of information daily, and the brain has limited capacity. All information could not be stored. The mind decides what information is important or unimportant. You can increase your ability to remember significant information.

Types of memory

  •  Sensory memory.
  •  Short-term memory.
  •  Long-term memory.

Sensory memory

Sensory memory lasts in your mind a few seconds. We are constantly processing information gathered through our senses. Through selective attention, your mind decides what information is important and ignores the rest. By concentrating on significant information, you can transfer it to your short-term memory.

Short-term memory

Short-term memory lasts only about a minute. By reciting and rehearsing information, you can increase your retention of the information. However, short-term memory is limited. The average number of items you can keep in short-term memory is seven (It varies five to nine). To remember large amounts of information you must group it into common themes, memorise “groups” of information at once, or use other strategies to improve retention.


What is the easiest way to remember this number?
0193254786        or
0193 – 254 – 7860193 – 254 – 786

memory graph 1


Memory graph 2

Long-term memory

Information in long-term memory is integrated with existing information. If this integration is not successfully done, the information may get “lost” and will be harder to recall. Long-term memory is like a giant store full of file cabinets. You take the information you know, and you place it in existing “files. —If there is no existing file, and you do not create one by integrating like information, the information may be more difficult to recall.

The three Rs of memory

  •     Reception.
  •     Retention.
  •     Recollection.

Be attentive and observant. This will help you receive important information more easily. Engage all of your senses. Look, listen and take notes (Broaden your input.). Ask questions if you aren’t clear about anything. Do a superficial survey before reading the material.

Concentrate your mind and make a conscious effort to remember. Set goals for your performance and motivate yourself. Become an active reader by highlighting and marking your text. Review your notes often. For best retention repeat the fact within 20 minutes, then after one hour, once a day for a week, and again in a month. Recite your notes aloud when possible (By using both your visual and auditory senses). Do all your homework. Use memory Aids.

Organise your material before the test. Make a list of important topics. Before the test set up a block of time (two to three hours) to review the information thoroughly. Take breaks when studying. Visualise your diagrams and flashcards. Use practical tests to study. Do possible test questions and make up your own test or look at old tests.

Memory aids


Associate – relate the information you’re trying to remember to something you already know.

Visualise – drawing pictures and diagrams makes the information easier to recall.

Flashcards – Write key words or terms that you need to know on one side and the explanation or definition on the other side of the card. Review them as often as possible.

How to improve studying?

Prepare a good time-table. Choose a time when you feel alert. Remember, your studying time is not much significant. Effectiveness of studying is very important.

You should select an appropriate place with least distractions and reduce the materials on the table. Select suitable light source for you. Sit comfortably. Always keep the notes more than 25 cm away from eyes.

Concentrate your mind and read the note (At first simply, then deeply). —Self talk while you are reading is important. Underline the important information with a pencil. Write important short notes and diagrams on white papers (with adequate length and small width). Use several coloured pens.

It is important to take adequate breaks. Look at the distant objects for five minutes per every hour to reduce exhaustion of your eyes.

After finishing your work, check the short note with the textbook, whether  you have noted every important fact. Changing the studying subject often will help you to feel fresh. Keep the short notes separated by topics. Try to do fast questions about the topic as much as possible considering the time.

Take adequate meals and water.

Repeat your studies often (short notes and diagrams). Associate information with your previous knowledge every time. Paste important diagrams and formulas on the walls of your studying place.

You need to sleep adequately (at least 5-6 hours) because your brain needs rest. Recall the information which you have studied daily just before sleep. Information which you have studied goes to long-term memory while you are sleeping.

Finish your studies well before the examination. Discuss important information with others and teach others. Reduce your stress. Certain amount of stress is healthy and useful. Challenge your mind by playing games like chess, Sudoku. Do something you like (listening music, walking, etc.). Do not isolate yourself. When you recall old memories, you can trigger other memories too.
Be positive (Yes, I can).

Generally speaking, the more important it is for you to remember something, the more actively you need to engage with it, and you need to revisit it frequently.


(Photo courtesy IsaacMao)

About the author
Dr. Nalaka Priyantha is the founder and author of 'DRN Health'. He currently works at the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka as a senior medical officer. He is blogging about healthy living since 2012.
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