How to Cram
You’ve probably known people, either in high school or college, who seemed able to pass any class–even make A’s–with little or no study. It wasn’t necessarily your imagination, either. It’s a fact that people learn differently, and some people manage to absorb material without “study” in the traditional sense. That is, they might have other ways of learning the material rather than pulling out their notes and textbook and trying to memorize it.
Why Do Some Students Learn So Quickly?
So what is their secret? Why do these rare individuals manage to learn with so little effort and time? Usually, these people share the same rapid-learning strategy. It just might be that you can master this strategy too. It’s a method almost the opposite of rote memorization, the method that most other people use for studying.
Rote memorization is based on the idea that looking at material long enough and enough times will finally store the information inside the brain. The rapid learner’s strategy is different. He or she stores information by linking together ideas. They don’t rely on repetition; they rely on connections. Through these connections is created a web of understanding and knowledge that will succeed, even if they forget one part of it. More on memorization.
Let’s use a simple method for illustration. If you have a list of 12 items that you need to memorize, you can either go the traditional route of reading and re-reading it until you remember it–or you can try building connections. Assign each number from 1 to 12 a word that rhymes with it: “sun” for one, “shoe” for 2, “tree” for three and so on. Then assign each item that corresponds to that number a picture with the item on it that you just created. In other words, let’s say that your list is a list of types of extreme weather. If on your list, you have to remember that #2 is a tornado, you’ve already given 2 the rhyming word of “shoe.” By picturing in your head a tornado of shoes–a spinning vortex of nothing but Nikes and boots–you’ve made your connection. Now immediately, when you go to make your list when you come to “2,” you’ll think “shoe” and see that tornado. Then you’ll remember r that the answer is “tornado.” That’s what we mean by making connections–and it can be done instantly instead of spending a half hour remembering your list.
Memorization Tactics for Cramming
1) Analogy and Metaphor. Create a different metaphor for each idea. For instance, functions on a computer can be likened to pencil sharpeners, or calculus methods can be equated with the speedometer or odometer on your car.
2. Visceralization. The goal with this tactic is to take an abstract concept that you need to learn and urn it into something tangible. You don’t just imagine a picture, but you integrate sounds, feelings, smells, and textures. For instance, if you’re trying to master the Pythagorean Theorem (which allows you to figure out the measurements on an triangle that has one right angle), put yourself in a situation where a ladder and a wall form the right triangle. You would feel the ladder and the wall and see yourself doing the measurements with a tape measure.
3) The Kindergartener Method This one simply says that you have to explain the difficult concepts in your class to a kindergarten – Practice explaining it. This process of explanation forces a person to link ideas together until he himself has mastered them.
4) Mind-mapping. This has become a popular way of retaining information. Through this method, you start with a main idea and brainstorm the next logical connection. For each of those connections, you brainstorm the next logical connections, and so on. So imagine this: What if, instead of having 20 pages of notes, you had a diagram showing how one idea in your chapter is linked to the next and to the next, and so on? More on Mind Mapping
5) Storytelling. This is a creative way of linking one thing you’re learning with the next In your mind, create a story that involves these elements in their necessary order. Then practice telling the story.
These linking methods, once you master them, will have you spending less time studying, and more time truly committing the material to your memory.
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