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Learning and Recall

Do you feel as if you're a million years behind in one or more of your classes? Do you have trouble recalling anything when you hear the word 'test"? You might do better if you tried a few simple learning techniques.

When you study, what position are you in? Research shows lying down is the poorest position for learning. Sitting up is much better. Standing while learning is better still. And walking while learning is best of all, provided you're in familiar territory and don't stumble over anything. And if you are firmly gripping something while in any of these positions, they you increase the level of learning for that position. So the best position would be to walk while gripping your book.

Another tip is to study in the place where you will have to recall the material. Studies show that environmental cues help trigger our memories.

It's so important, whenever possible, to sleep following your study. Unless you are very fatigued, you'll find it best to study at night and review in the morning. Sleep improves retention greatly because the brain has time to consolidate the material without added interference. So if you are studying for a lot of tests, it would be good for you to take a nap several times a day.

When you're studying a series of subjects, one right after another, make sure the subjects are dissimilar. If you finish studying Spanish, don't switch right to English.

Students who have recall problems on tests should check their diets-it's recommended they cut out all sugar and make sure they're getting enough vitamins. You won't believe the difference it makes in your grades.

We have two memory processes in our brain. Our short-term memory is designed to handle details we need for a brief time, but don't want to clutter our minds with forever. Facts we want to remember indefinitely are processed in the area of the brain set aside for long-term memory.

To send material to the long-term segment of the brain, repetition and drill are very important. If you review any given bit of information for as long as 60 minutes, even over the course of a few days, that material will register almost indefinitely.

If you had two hours to spend in studying a subject, should you do it in one sitting or should you break up the time into 10-, 15- or 20-minute segments? Breaking up the time will improve your learning efficiency.

There are a couple of additional tips that may help you. First, in serial learning, where you have a long list or a whole chapter to master, the first part will be easiest to remember and the last is the next easiest. So if you wan to remember everything equally well, spend a little extra time on the part just past the middle. The last little trick involves "chunking.? The average brain has the capacity for holding seven bits of information at any given instant for immediate recall. Knowing this fact, you can make things easier by dividing up a chapter into five parts and then divide each of those parts into five, and so on. You should be able to amass a greater amount of material in a far shorter time-and be able to recall it. -

Elden M. Chalmers, Campus Life, December, 1979