How to Memorize Notes for a Test

Four Parts:Taking Good NotesReviewing Your NotesKeeping Your Brain FocusedBeing Physically Prepared for the Test

Memorizing your notes is usually a necessary part of preparing for a test in your educational career. Simply sitting down and reading your notes over and over again, however, isn't enough to truly learn the material. There are several note-taking techniques and study methods that will help you stay focused and absorb the necessary information. This way, you can effectively memorize the material for your test.

Part 1
Taking Good Notes

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    Keep all your notes in one place. If your notes are scattered around on different pieces of paper, you won't even be able to find them to memorize for the test. Instead, have one notebook per class and write down all of your notes in there. That way when you're ready to study, everything will be neatly organized and you can start studying right away.[1]
    • Also put the date at the top of the page when you start taking notes. This will keep you in chronological order, which can help you conceptualize the moment you were taking these notes and aid in studying.
    • If you keep notes on your computer, date each document or notebook. Consider making separate folders on your computer for each class, and keep assignments, your notes, and any study aids together in each folder.
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    Think before you write your notes. Don't simply write the instructor's words mechanically. This will not help you remember your notes. Instead, take a few seconds before writing to think about what the instructor just said. Consider the main idea behind her words. Then start writing. That way, you'll actually absorb the information instead of just absentmindedly writing words.[2]
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    Develop your own style of abbreviation. Writing out whole words and complete sentences is a waste of time. You'll be paying attention to spelling out everything the instructor said rather than absorbing the information. By abbreviating words and phrases, you'll be able to take down a greater amount of information in a clearer, more manageable way.[3]
    • For example, if your teacher says "In 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' we have a literary example of a man whose guilt overcomes him," just write "Tell-Tale Heart = guilt." That is really all the useful information that the teacher's sentence contained.
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    Write different ideas in different colored ink. The visual stimulation of different colors on the page will keep your brain focused when you study. You can designate different colors for different ideas or concepts. For example, blue might be new vocabulary words, red could be important formulas, and green could be things your teacher said to pay attention to. With this color key in mind, your notes will appear more organized and coherent when you go back to study. You'll immediately know the topic that you're looking at before you even read any words.[4]
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    Write down what the instructor puts on the board. The general rule is that if the teacher took the time to write something out on the board, it is important and will probably be on the test. You might even want to underline things in your notes that were on the board to show what you should focus on while studying.[5]
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    Ask questions if you aren't sure of something. If you don't understand something the instructor just said, ask her to repeat or explain it. If you don't, you'll end up copying it down in your notes the wrong way, and you'll get it wrong on the test.[6]
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    Go back and add more information to your notes if needed. It is easy to miss information while taking notes. Perhaps the teacher used a word you've never heard before and there was no time to ask for a definition. Make note of this word and look it up after class. Then add it into your notes so it's there for when you study.[7]
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    Ask your instructor to allow you to record lectures. If you're having trouble keeping up with class and can't take notes fast enough, you could see if your instructor will let you record lectures. That way, you can listen to them later and transcribe notes from the tape.
    • Make sure to get permission before recording any lectures. Some instructors don't allow recording and might think you're trying to cheat if they catch you.

Part 2
Reviewing Your Notes

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    Look over your notes within 24 hours of taking them. Even if you don't have a test coming up, you should look over your notes within a day of taking them. This will put you at a huge advantage when you actually start studying for a test. Your brain will start absorbing the information while it is still fresh in your mind. Then when you study in the days before a test, you will be able to recall the information much better than if you hadn't looked over your notes at all since you took them.[8]
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    Start studying a few days before the exam. Pulling an all-nighter and cramming the night before a test in an ineffective method of studying. Not only will you be tired during the test, but you won't retain information as well by cramming. Instead, give yourself at least 3 or 4 days to study. Reviewing your notes on these days will result in a much better absorption of information.[9]
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    Break your notes into sections. If you try to study an entire unit at once, you'll probably overwhelm yourself. You might start strong and know the first part well, but lose your energy and zone out while studying the last few parts. Instead, you should break your notes into sections. Set aside blocks you can cover in about an hour, then take a break. This will ensure that you study all parts of your notes equally.[10]
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    Speak your notes out loud. Instead of simply reading your notes to yourself, say them aloud. Studies show that speaking out loud aids in memorization. Speaking also keeps you more focused than reading to yourself would. It allows you to hear the information again and gives your brain another chance to process it.[11]
    • When you speak, try paraphrasing sometimes rather than reading directly. Having to paraphrase and then speak aloud requires your brain to do more work, making it more likely that you will remember what you're studying.
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    Focus on individual sections before moving on. When you've broken your notes into sections, start working your way down. Apply the following system for each section to memorize it before moving on to the next one.[12]
    • Read or speak each line of notes 3-5 times.
    • Try to repeat that line as closely as possible without looking. This doesn't have to be word for word, but you should ensure that you can reflect the same information that the line contains.
    • When you've completed a line, move on to the next.
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    Write down your notes without looking. When you've read an entire section and repeated it back, try to write that section without looking. Go line by line and write out all that you remember. Again, this doesn't have to be word for word, but all the information from your notes should get across in your repetition. When you've written down a section, go back and compare it to your notes. Pay attention to your mistakes so you can correct them and make sure you know them for the test.[13]
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    Make flashcards. Flashcards are an effective way to study a wide variety of information. You can make them for vocabulary words, dates, scientific concepts, math formulas, and anything else you might need. Not only are flashcards a handy way to study, but the act of writing them out is studying in itself. Make them whenever you have a lot of information to aid in your memorization.[14]
    • As an added study tool, use different colors for different ideas on your flashcards. This visual stimulation will aid in your ability to remember information.
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    Use mnemonic devices. A mnemonic is a mental tool used to jar your memory and help you remember things. There are a number of mnemonics you could use to improve your memory and raise your test scores. These are some of the most popular ones.[15]
    • Make a song. Tuneful lyrics are easier to memorize than words on a page. Try making a song out of things you have to memorize. You don't have to make a whole new song. Instead, just replace the words in a song you already like. This will make memorization even easier.
    • Use the first letter of each word in a sequence to make a name. Probably the most famous example of this is Roy G. Biv, the colors of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.
    • Make a rhyme for different information. Like making a song, creating rhymes helps you remember information. For example: In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
    • Create wacky associations. For example, to remember that the word "gregarious" means "outgoing, sociable" you could imagine a party animal character named "Greg Arious." Give him a funny party hat and surround him with zebras living it up. You won't forget the meaning of this word any time soon!

Part 3
Keeping Your Brain Focused

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    Do some physical activity before studying. Your brain and body need to be in the right mood to optimize your studying. Studies show that light exercise boosts brain activity. By stimulating the brain, you're warming it up for your study session so it will absorb information more effectively. Try taking a 10-20 minute walk or doing some calisthenics (jumping jacks, running in place, jumping rope, etc.) before you start studying to activate the learning areas of your brain.[16]
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    Vary your study space. Sitting in the same location every time you study will get boring. This monotony will cause your brain to tune out, and you won't be able to focus anymore. Instead, try studying in different rooms of your house or alternating between sitting at your desk and sitting on the couch.[17]
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    Cut out distractions. Between social media and email, it's very easy to get distracted when studying. Remove temptations by putting your phone on silent and leaving it across the room. Also don't study somewhere there is a TV to remove the temptation of turning it on.[18]
    • If turning off your phone is unthinkable to you, give yourself "time-outs" from it instead. For example, you could say, "I will not check my phone for 20 minutes" and then set a timer. Study hard until the timer goes off, and then check your phone. This way, you maintain focus for an uninterrupted stretch, but you don't feel like you're punishing yourself.
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    Take breaks. When we get tired we lose focus and starting zoning out. When you reach this point, it's no longer effective to study. Your brain has shut down and you're not absorbing information. When you feel your focus start failing, take a break. Go for a walk, watch some TV, listen to music, take a nap—whatever it takes to get relaxed. Then when you come back, your brain will be rested and ready to get back to work.[19][20]
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    Eat if you get hungry. When we get hungry, usually the first thing to go is our brain power. Your mind will start wandering and be focused on your hunger. Nip this in the bud early. When you get hungry, take a snack break. Then come back refreshed and ready to keep working.[21]
    • Complex carbohydrates are usually best for a quick energy boost. Whole wheat products like bread and English muffins will produce a sustained release of energy that will carry you through a study session.
    • Eat sugar with caution. It's true that sugary snacks and drinks will boost your energy and alertness in the short-term. The energy spike also comes with a crash, however, so you could end up feeling even more fatigued before your study session is over. It's much better to eat foods that will provide a sustained release instead of a quick spike.

Part 4
Being Physically Prepared for the Test

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    Get a good night's sleep. Never stay up all night studying. If you've left enough time and started studying early enough before the test, this last-minute cramming session should be unnecessary anyway. It will only result in an improper understanding of the material and a lack of focus during the test. The best way to make sure you do well is to be well-rested for the exam.[22]
    • Your brain actually transfers information into long-term memory while you sleep. Getting enough sleep will help your brain store all that stuff you're studying so you can recall it later.[23]
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    Eat a good breakfast the morning of the test. Just like with studying, you should make sure you're well-fed for the test itself. Have a bigger breakfast than usual the morning of a test to keep your brain nourished and focused. If you have the test later in the day, pack a small snack like a granola bar to keep in your bag. Eat it quickly before the test to keep your brain going.[24]
    • Eat complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain toast or oatmeal. These digest slowly so you won't experience a crash during the middle of your test.
    • Eggs are a good choice. They contain protein and choline, a substance that may boost your memory.[25]
    • Have a little lox on a whole-grain bagel. Studies suggest that eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, can help improve your brain functioning.[26]
    • Have a cup of coffee or tea if you'd like. Caffeine may benefit your memory, according to some studies.[27]
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    Study only a little the day of the test. Looking over your notes a few more times can be beneficial. You might catch something you missed before and end up getting an answer right on the test because of it. Do not, however, spend the entire day cramming. If you've studied effectively, this is unnecessary. You'll end up stressing yourself out and by the time you take the test, your brain will be too tired to concentrate. Instead, just look over your notes over breakfast, and maybe once more the period before the test. Any more risks wearing out your brain before you even take the test.[28]
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    Go to the bathroom before the test. While it sounds silly, this can be a huge distraction during a test. Your brain will have a tougher time focusing on the test if it is distracted with this. Also, you may not be allowed to go to the bathroom during the test for fear of cheating. Eliminate this worry by visiting the bathroom before the test period.[29]

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Categories: Memorization Skills | Tests and Exams