Module 6 Psych Soc Strategy - Memory
The practical side of this subjectMemory is a topic for the psychology section. I also has direct practical relevance for the rest of MCAT preparation.
You may think you've forgotten everything you learned from some of your undergraduate science courses, especially if you took them a long time ago. The problem, though, is that the memories are covered over, not that they are gone from storage. The speed with which we relearn things is strong evidence that we still possess the information in our unconscious. The brain needs only to revive these memories and refresh them for use. With a little work you can get back to where you were fairly quickly. Then you move forward!
Distributed (spaced) repetition
Distributed repetition is superior to massed practice for both depth of processing and strength of memory. Study a topic for one hour. Study it again for 2 hours three days later, and in two weeks, study it again for another hour. This is superior to studying a topic for 4 hours in one sitting.
Maintenance rehearsal involves repeating information without thinking about its meaning or connecting it with other information. While maintenance rehearsal can help you keep information in your working memory, it is not an effective way to transfer the information into long term memory. A better path to long term memory is through elaborative rehearsal. Elaborative rehearsal involves thinking about the meaning of the information and connecting it to other information already stored in memory.
The forgetting curve
A typical graph of the forgetting curve shows that humans tend to halve their memory of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless they consciously review the learned material. Things slip away, and later, during full-length practice you find yourself saying 'I'm supposed to know this!' The solution to the forgetting curve is a discipline of regular spaced repetition throughout MCAT review. Everything needs a visit.
You will have a tendency to encode information differently depending on the level to which the information is relevant to your life. This is the self-reference effect. Knowledge items with personal relevance are easier to remember and learned more deeply. Relate science concepts to your personal experience as much as possible.
Dual coding theory
Coding a stimulus two different ways increases the chance of remembering it compared to coding it only one way. Don't just write down a definition. Mentally associate the conceptual term with an image or draw a figure.
Sound images form weak memory traces
As you come across the many substances in biochemistry - macromolecules, metabolic intermediates, enzymes and cofactors, there can be a strong temptation to learn the substance names as phonological sound images, to repeat the name to yourself and remember it by imprinting the sound of the word. Phonological sound images are a weak memory trace. Learn to ask yourself, what are the parts of this name? Where did the name come from? Dihydroxyacetone. What is that? Nicotinamide adenosine dinucleotide. Make a habit of looking closely at the name to give encoding a deeper form of processing than the sound of the word.
Mnemonic devices work
Mnemonic devices are memory techniques to help your brain better encode and recall important information. Mnemonic devices are especially useful in MCAT review for the biological sciences and psychology. These subjects have an aspect which is, basically, rote memory work. Techniques such as peg-word method or method of loci may seem strange and ridiculous, but they are uncannily effective. MCAT review is a good opportunity to learn these techniques. Skill with mnemonic devices will become a big asset in medical school.
Long term memory consolidation happens during sleep
Long-term memory formation is a major function of sleep. You must get a full night's sleep every single night. Never trade sleep for study. Sleep is crucial for memory consolidation, mood, and attention. When you face the choice between going to sleep or studying another hour, sleep always wins. Sleep is when your long term memory consolidates. Your hippocampus and cortex communicate with each other all night, consolidating long-term memories of the material you studied during the day and connecting those to other memory items. If you don't go to sleep, you don't complete the learning process.
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