Improve Your Memory: Part 3 – 5 hacks to boost recall

Remembering is a skill. The good news is it’s learnable. And it begins by learning how to improve your memory and boost recall.

Boost recall and improve your memory

Remembering is a skill. The good news is it’s learnable, improvable and it’s never too late to begin. And it begins by learning how to boost recall.

Learning is a combination of technique and focus. With the right focus and study technique you can learn anything, anytime, anywhere and in less time than you’d believe.

Think back to when you were a teenager. You could learn anything at a phenomenal speed. Especially if you found the subject interesting. In fact, the more interested you were in a subject the faster you learned. This was because you were focused.

The problem you were faced with time and time again was that you didn’t have the tools to learn efficiently. When you had to learn something you didn’t enjoy, learning was the equivalent of wading through a field of nettles.

The good news is that now science has determined a number of study techniques that work and can both double your capacity to learn while cutting your learning time by as much as 50%.

Learning can be broken down into three component parts:

Processing of information

Understanding what you have learned

Recall of study material when required

The following five study techniques will provide you with the tools to boost recall and improve your memory.

Practice Testing: Top Tip no 1

Practice testing is one of the most efficient ways to learn and retain information.

When you learn something new. Test yourself on it. It’s that simple.

For example:

You’ve learned a new recipe. It’s complicated and there’s a lot of ingredients.

The best way to know if you’ve retained the information is to sit down with a pen and paper and attempt to write out the recipe, with a full list of ingredients and all the instructions.

You can do this any number of times, for any subject matter.

Each time you test yourself, you boost recall and strengthen the memory and forge thicker connections in your brain.

Distributed Practice: Top Tip no 2

Distributed practice is another effective learning technique. It just means spreading your learning over a period of time.

For example:

You have an exam in thirty days. The natural instinct is to cram for the exam, crushing all your learning time into a few days or weeks. The only problem with this method is that you won’t retain the information for very long. Perhaps not even for the duration of the exam.

The best way to learn is to distribute your learning over a longer period. In this example you have thirty days. Ideally, you’d set aside an hour or two each day and use that time to prepare for the exam.

The reason distributed learning works so well is because you are constantly refreshing old material, linking it with new material and in the process strengthening the connections in your brain.

Repetition and linking are the keys to this technique.

Interleaved Practice: Top Tip no 3

Interleaved practice works well with distributed practice. As in the previous example, you have thirty days to prepare for an exam. But what if you had three exams on the same day? What would you do?

Once again the natural inclination is to cram, to do all the study in blocks. For example: AA BB CC etc.


The best approach is to set aside an hour a day for each subject. Three hours a day, for three subjects over a thirty day period.

For example ABC ABC ABC etc.

This combines interleaved practice with distributed practice, enhancing performance and improving retention.

Another advantage of interleaved practice is when you are studying two or three linked subjects, for example, math and physics: the crossover between the two subjects work to enhance your understanding of both areas, improving performance dramatically.

But even if the subjects aren’t linked, interleaving is still the best method of study.

Self Explanation: Top Tip no 4

The trick to Self Explanation is to continually ask questions.

For example:

You are learning about the sinking of the Titanic. In order to learn about the event what questions could you ask yourself?

A few basic questions might be:

How many lifeboats did the ship have?

How many passengers were on the ship?

How many passengers could each lifeboat hold?

What time did the event occur?

Why couldn’t the ship turn to avoid the iceberg?

How many survived the sinking of the Titanic?

And so on and so forth. As you read and absorb material, ask yourself what it means, go deeper into the material.

You might ask yourself other questions:

Why were some of the doors to the lower decks locked?

Why did it take so long for other ships to come to help?

Why were there not enough lifeboats?

What was it like to be a lower deck passenger?

What was it like to be member of the ships crew?

One thing all of these questions will do is help you remember in more detail the information you are reading. It also exposes gaps in your knowledge, giving you the opportunity to close the gap.

Elaboration Practice: Top Tip no 5

Elaboration practice is an extension of self explanation. The questions you ask are different. Where self explanation seeks simply to explain the material, elaboration seeks to create links between disparate ideas.

For example:

If we take the Titanic example again and seek to understand why so many people died, we would have to examine the link between the social classes and the prevailing attitude to new technology.

By elaborating on these two seemingly unconnected ideas you might find yourself asking questions that deepen the links between them, leaving you with a heightened understanding of the events leading up to the disaster and the personalities involved.

Elaborating on your current knowledge base does three things:

It links new material to old material

It strengthens the connections in your brain Gives you a deeper understanding of the subject.

Learn Faster – Putting It All Together

All of the techniques described work together to form an intensive and fool proof study plan.

Set up your study plan to ensure that your study sessions are both distributed and interleaved

Self explain the material you are studying during each study session

Elaborate on the material during each session

Test yourself at the end of every study session

As you practice each of these techniques and perfect how to blend them together into an optimum study method, you’ll find that learning becomes easier and less time consuming.

So there you have it, five tips to improve your memory and boost recall

Useful Resourses

Learn How to Study Using… Elaboration; The Learning Scientists

This is the second post in a series designed to help students learn how to study effectively. The purpose is to provide students with a resource that can help them take charge of their own learning. Today’s post is about using elaboration.

Learning Strategy 5: Self Explanation

This article covers the learning strategy of self explanation

Interleaving : An Effective Study Technique | 6med

An article covering the technique of interleaving.