A couple of years ago I was faced with having to revise for a developmental psychology exam. Racked with panic that I wouldn’t remember a thing on the day, I came across this book by Dominic O’Brien called How To Pass Exams. At first I thought he was going to be one of those people born fortunate enough to have a photographic memory- after all, the cover professes the fact he won the world memory championship eight times over. But I soon realised that his skills were self-taught and quick to grasp.
Before you say- ‘You want me to learn something else, seriously?’ Bear with me.
I never read the whole book (and his champion status is by no means under threat). But I did read enough to sail through my exam, remembering names/dates/details I would never have been able to recall otherwise. In the lead up to the exam, it also helped me cope with my fear of amnesia too.
So how does it work? O’Brien describes how memory works well when you associate information with images and word-association. Sound silly? Read this book and test it for yourself, he’ll teach you how to do it. In an exam situation, it will trigger your memory. It’s also got info on speed reading, note taking, mind mapping and other useful techniques. He encourages you to personalise his methods, as well as demonstrating his own.
If you like writing stories or drawing, you might be able to do what I did (depending on the topic). I summarised chapter info into short stories (ridiculous ones albeit) and then turned the same information into pictures. For example, I drew a field with stalls and paths like a festival. I imagined walking up the paths and meeting characters in different stages/tents/arenas. One of the names I had to learn was Baron-Cohen (related to Sacha Baron-Cohen, aka Ali G!), so my stick figure wore a man-kini and had a thought bubble with the theory name in it. Yes, it’s a bit bonkers but the point is it worked! I plastered pictures all round my house (be prepared to explain yourself to visitors) and even made a mini pocket version by scanning and laminating them (I was so scared of failing!).
This book might not help you through all your exams but for those where you are worried about remembering key facts, names and dates I recommend you give it a go. Equally, if you’re like me and can never remember your way around places, it gives you a technique to try!