Organize Info in a Way Your Brain Can Retain

1. Use bullet points.

Memorizing paragraphs is not only really hard to do, but it’s also counter productive. You want to be focusing on the most important information you’ll need to know. So write succinctly. Use bullet points when you can. And turn those bullet points into charts and lists.

2. Make charts and lists.

It can be hard to memorize a big block of text because there’s too much detail on top of the really important stuff. So find the information that matters and pull it out of a reading. For example, take the paragraphs from your notes about various articles of the Constitution, like this one:

Article one is about the Legislative Branch, which in the US is called Congress. It’s bicameral, so the congress is divided into a legislature consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Article One grants Congress powers and then the ability to pass laws “necessary and proper” to carry out those powers. Article One also establishes how to pass bills.

And separate out the info:

Article Government Branch Who’s in the branch Power Other
1 Legislative Congress: Senate and House of Representatives Make laws 100 Senators (2 per state) + 435 members in the H.O.R.
2 Executive President/Vice President Carry out laws President is also Commander in Chief of military
3 Judicial Courts Interpret laws Judges also have the power to punish, sentence, and direct future action to resolve conflicts

A chart like this helps you break down the information by distilling a lot of sentences into one or two main ideas. If you turn the paragraph into a chart, you are putting the information into your own words, and into fewer words, both of which will help you remember it better!

Or, if charts don’t work:

3. Tell yourself a story, and write it down.

Basic idea: create logical connections between pieces of information so you only have to memorize a single story rather than a thousand disparate facts.

If you’re trying to memorize facts about the digestive system for bio class, it can be hard to focus when there are a billion terms to keep track of. So try to connect the info in a way that makes logical sense. It’s kind of the reverse process of #3. At times it works to separate out items, other times it’s helpful to combine them in a logical way.

Something like this:

Chewing physically–with teeth–breaks the food into pieces that are more easily digested, and saliva begins the process of further breaking it down into a form your body can absorb. Next, the food travels through your throat into the esophagus. With contractions, the esophagus squeezes food down to the stomach. The stomach then mixes and grinds it with acids and enzymes that continue the process of breaking down the food. When it leaves the stomach, food is the consistency of a liquid or paste. From there the food moves to the small intestine…

In this case, writing out the story above will help you remember the whys as well as the hows. Too often, especially in science and history, students try to remember dozens of scattered facts. It’s almost always easier to remember a single story that incorporates these facts.

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