This article is about some memorization techniques and discusses how scientists believe that memorization techniques can be implemented for exams and test days. This will help solve the age-old question “How do I remember what I have studied on exam day?”

Remember what you study

Similar to how you can strengthen any muscle in your body, you can train your brains to remember more. A common mistake made by the vast majority of students is to test yourself because all this does is check how much you know at that particular point in time. It’s not going to help you retain the information you need for exam day. What you need are proven techniques to help you remember. Many research studies have been conducted into memory techniques that have proven beyond doubt that various memorization techniques can successfully prepare students for exams. That retrieval practice or “practice testing” was the most powerful. In addition to visual and spatial memory techniques, other tricks can be used to help you retain the information needed on exam day too.

The Science of Memory

Scientists have found that there are fundamentally three stages of memory processing: encoding, storage, and recall.

Encoding: This is when you first come across the event or information that you want to remember. Your brain will consciously perceive the image, sound, physical feeling, or other sensory detail involved. For example, let’s say you are visiting a historic building. Your visual senses will notice the architecture of the building, the design, any carvings, the landscape, and so on. Your auditory senses will remember any noises associated with the trip. Maybe it is a church, and the bells ring. Your sense of smell may pick up on musty odors, and so on. What is happening is called semantic encoding.

Storage: All of these bits of information are then stored in different areas of your brain. The nerve cells in your brain pass signals to each other about what you perceived. They talk to each other and build either temporary (short-term memory) or long-lasting (long-term memory) connections.

Recall: To retrieve a memory, your brain “replays” the nerve pathways created when the memory was formed.

How can this help you? 

Repetitively recalling information will strengthen your memory connections. Therefore, techniques such as reviewing your notes or using flashcards are memory triggers, helping you retain the information you need for exam day. Lifestyle changes help too, you can improve your overall health by getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and better nutrition as they all help improve your brain and memory. If you are taking the  USMLE Step 2 CK exam, try shifting your mindset. For example, don’t focus on what you don’t know. Focus on earning points! Get excited about the questions you know well and see your grade getting better. See each question as an opportunity to enhance your grade, rather than a hurdle. If there is a question you don’t know, don’t worry, it’s not going to decrease your score. Move on to the next question, and don’t get stuck on what you don’t know! The step 2-CK exam is long, so plan your brakes – have a game plan before you start the exam.

Exam Game plan

Make sure you eat breakfast on the day of your exam. Skipping it will decrease your performance. Pack healthy light snacks, you’re going to be working hard, and that’s going to build up your appetite. Stay hydrated by drinking water, but not so much that you have to run to the bathroom frequently. Arrive at the exam early to avoid getting stressed about being late. If you’re allowed to choose a seat, pick one away from the door to minimize distractions and possible drafts. Use earplugs to reduce any noises; this can also help you zone in on just the exam!