First, a joke from the Indian Institute of Technology:
A college senior told me a secret once. If you want to top in the IIT, study two days before exam.
Because everyone else will study? – One day before the exam.
Now to the real science:
There are a few ways to approach this problem, and I would tell from my own experience as I had to go through a lot of exams in my life in IIT, and I was able to secure rank one in my class. Clearly in addition to understanding the subject, memorization was a significant part of my learning process.
Here is how I have seen topmost students at IITs doing this, and I admit, I am no different.
ONE: The number one thing about learning anything and everything is to fully understand it. To improve your understanding of any topic no matter what that topic is, is to first understand it from the basics, and beat the understanding to death by all angles. To achieve this, always begin with a simpler book on the subject. Lots of people pick up the most complex books on the subject and they think that they would read it and understand it better than others. But because those books are complex, often they don’t get to understand the subject.
TWO: The second thing one has to do is to be able to explain that subject to someone else. As soon as you start explaining it to someone else, you would figure out quickly what you don’t know, and what the gaps are. Then go back to the books, and repeat and refine the knowledge so that the gaps are filled up. As soon as you are able to explain something to someone even if you have to look at the book, consider that you have understood it yourself.
THREE: Practice doing the step 2 enough number of times. I claim that if I go through the same topic with two people, by the third attempt, I have not only cleaned it up, but also almost memorized it.
FOUR: When you find yourself on step 3, now all you want to do is to repeat the same thing to yourself, like a song. We play songs in our car stereo and listen to them over and over, and in the process, we memorize all the lyrics without putting efforts towards them. But basically what happens is that your brain retains a bit of anything and everything you go through in each attempt. With each repetition, your brain will have to struggle less to remember the same thing it already remembers, and will retain a bit more. A point comes when there is no more left to be memorized. This is how we remember the lyrics of a lot of songs in our minds.
- There are a few ways to do this.
- Write the same thing down a few times. You would realize that when you think you know it, and when you start writing it, you would find a delta. That is, you would begin forgetting things when you attempt writing them down. This is simply because when we think we know and remember something, we are only living in a false belief. I tried and tested this method, and often found that as soon as I started writing the thing, I would figure out that I had not actually memorized it and I had to check the book again.
- Write your notes in various colors. Humans are good at remembering things better when there are more colors. Think for example about two pictures of a mango and an apple. Now if I draw them on a white paper in black ink, and ask you a question ~ which fruits did I just show you? If they are black and white pictures, you would remember less. If they are colored you would remember better, because that is how you are used to see them. Same way, if you use multiple colors when you write notes, it would help you retain them better.
- Tell the theory or the subject to a friend. This is a great way to repeat the topic. First you are retaining it, and coming up with the best method of reciting it, but also you are helping a friend.
- You can record what you want to remember and listen to it over and over. These days, this is the method I follow when I have to memorize my speeches. I write down my speech, record it, and play it in my car over and over. This way in about 20 days, I memorize it completely. I had used this method to memorize a lot of English words, and the whole periodic table in my school years.
- Listen to those things from others. These days, a lot of study material is available on YouTube. Listen to it from many lecturers, and that would help you retain it better.
As some of you can see, I have inspired to understand, think, write, read, recite, listen, look, all I have tried to do is to increase the number of ways you perceive the subject. The more the ways, the more the memory.
The power of repetition cannot be forgotten. To inspire with a story ~ a doctor was treating a patient, who had lost the memory completely, so much so that the patient had forgotten a lot of things about himself, and things at his home. The doctor gave him a toothbrush and paste applied to it. The patient demonstrated to the doctor how to brush the teeth. Why had he not forgotten how to brush? Just because he had repeated it so many times in his life, that he did not have to think about it.
All the best memorizing your subject material.
Stay blessed and stay inspired!