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The Importance of Retaining Course Material in Higher Education

How well you remember what you learn in class will determine how well you do on your college exams. Since memory is nothing more than a record of what you have learned, you’d think it would be easy to recall what you’ve learned when you need it. Memory retention depends on many variables, like how much new information you take in, how well you pay attention in class, and how strong your desire is to remember the information.

The Challenges of Remembering and Recalling Information in a College or University Setting

Memory is the key to all learning because it lets you store and recall the information your instructors have taught you. While learning material for one class can be challenging, learning content for multiple college classes can be much more stressful. Adding to the confusion is that each professor has their own teaching style. Students struggle since there is no set method for learning new concepts and formulas

For memory retention and recall, the brain can be hit-or-miss. Since it gets distracted easily, we need to get it to focus. We will show you some tricks and techniques that can help you stay focused and remember information longer than usual.

In this blog, we will cover five memory improvement techniques for retaining course material in higher education. Those techniques are:

  1. Creating a Study Guide
  2. Using Mnemonic Devices
  3. Practicing Spaced Repetition
  4. Teaching the Material to Someone Else.
  5. Using Visual Aids.

Technique #1: Create a Study Guide

One proven strategy to get better test results is to create a detailed study guide. Study guides are also helpful in increasing your motivation to study. Putting what you’ve learned in class into a study guide helps your brain make stronger connections so you can recall it for tests.

You can create study guides in a notebook, a binder, or on 5×7 note cards. Use whichever works best for you. Information should go from general to specific and cover everything you think will be on the test. Add notes and illustrations to help you remember the details. Math or scientific study guides benefit from the use of charts or diagrams. For other subjects, lists work well.

PRO TIP: Use colored markers to create a color theme for each class.

Technique #2: Use Mnemonic Devices

Mnemonics are tricks to help us remember tricky information by making connections between abstract ideas and things we are familiar with. Rhymes, word associations, acronyms, short stories, colors, shapes, and even smells are a few examples of common mnemonic devices.

Here’s an example of a mnemonic device that grade school students use to memorize the Great Lakes. Just remember the word “HOMES.” Then, practice reciting the name of each lake with the letters in HOMES.

  •             H = Huron
  •             O = Ontario
  •             M = Michigan
  •             E = Erie
  •             S = Superior

Once you’ve learned this trick, you’ll never forget the names of the Great Lakes.

To use mnemonic devices for studying, choose the appropriate mnemonic type for the information you need to recall. To make it easier for you to recall what you’ve learned, practice your mnemonic device as often as possible before your exam.

Technique #3: Practice Spaced Repetition

Spaced repetition may be the most effective method for enhancing your brain’s capacity for learning and retention. When you begin studying with spaced repetition, the intervals are close together, and then the gaps expand over time.

An Example of spaced repetition:

  • Study your material.
  • Study again in 1 Hour.
  • Study again in 2 Hours.
  • Study in 4 Hours.
  • Study 4 Times the Next Day.
  • Twice the Day After That.
  • Once the next Day, and so on.
  • Study Right Before Your Exam.

Use spaced repetition to reinforce learning and retention of course material. The spacing effect helps people learn and recall information more effectively by spreading the study time over a longer duration. Instead of cramming everything into one day and forgetting most of it, spaced repetition reinforces learning and retention by revisiting the information before your brain forgets it.

Technique #4: Teach the Material to Someone Else

The protégé effect is a psychological phenomenon in which we enhance learning when information is prepared to be taught to others. The benefits of teaching material to someone else are many. The process helps you learn and retain more than regular studying does. Learning by teaching can also help students build confidence.

This technique is a great exercise for students to work together and help each other learn and retain classroom content. When you explain the information to someone else, you will be talking out loud. Speaking while you’re learning is another way to get more information to your brain. The more variety of input you receive, the higher your likelihood of remembering what you have learned.

Technique #5: Use Visual Aids

The benefits of using visual aids to remember course material are better retention and recall.

Humans are very visual creatures, and 90% of the information sent to the brain is visual. That means information is easily retained when it is studied visually. Using visual images while studying improves our retention of information.

Using visual aids, such as mind maps or concept maps is very helpful to most people. You can turn an idea or concept into a visual map for easier comprehension. Visual maps enable you to understand complex information for a more comprehensive learning experience. Also, mapping out information causes your brain to retain what you are learning on a deeper level.


In this blog, we have discussed five memory improvement techniques, including creating a Study Guide, using Mnemonic Devices, practicing Spaced Repetition, Teaching the Material to Someone Else, and using Visual Aids.

While there are many techniques for studying, these five are among the most successful. We encourage you to try these techniques and find what works best for you. Simply trying any of these Techniques for Retaining Course Material will help you while you’re on your quest for Higher Education.

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