UPSC Mains 2020 exam tests the knowledge of aspirants in a wide range of subjects. This requires every UPSC aspirant to read a lot as the syllabus is usually extremely vast. While gathering study material for UPSC isn’t a very tedious matter anymore, remembering so much still is. Having a strong memory is vital to scoring well and securing a good enough rank.
A lot of memory techniques have been invented, discovered, developed and applied in the past. Each one has its own methods of implementation and may or may not work wonders for everyone. Here are a few techniques you can definitely try out while studying to improve information retention:
- Write Down as You Read
Taking down notes and important points is a very way to remember what you read. The mind tends to forget unimportant data within 15 minutes of reading it. To be able to remember everything, your brain needs to be convinced that the chapter you just read is important. Writing down notes gives off that signal to the brain. To make sure things get retained even better, go back to reading those notes 15-20 minutes after you wrote them.
- Visual Learning is Better Than Plain Text
There is a reason we remember nursery rhymes and stories far better than a 10th std. quadratic formula. The representation of the data in the books for each of them had a vast difference. While the former had butterflies, elephants and was very colourful and bright, the latter may not necessarily have been as vibrant.
Try watching documentaries on your subject instead of reading plainly through the book. Brain retains information better when it is presented in an audio-visual manner.
This is an interesting way to remember things. E.g. consider the sentence “Meera Very Easily Makes Jamun Sweets Using Nutritious Powder.” The first letter of every word of the sentence forms the sequence M-V-E-M-J-S-U-N-P, which is also how our planets are lined up [Mercury-Venus-Earth-Mars-Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus-Neptune-Pluto]. While Pluto isn’t considered a planet anymore, the technique still holds true.
Anything from sentences to phrases, abbreviations to outright silly names can work. Choose what is best for you carefully.
As told earlier, the mind tends to forget chunks of information after some time. Going back to read what you studied earlier helps the brain understand the concept better than the last time. Since you’ll be going through the same concept for the 2nd time, maybe even 3rd, part of the information retained from the last time will connect better with every iteration. You can understand concepts better with multiple attempts.
Try to Teach What You Read
A lot of people tend to understand a concept better when they’re explaining it to someone else. Also, while teaching, the mind is more aware of mistakes and understanding of the concept for itself; more so than the recipient. So, if you think you understood and remember some part of what you studied, try to teach this to someone. Your mind will tend to understand either on the fly, or you’ll know where you’re confused and can go back to reading it properly again.
Discussion and Debates
You can also keep talking about things, concepts, historical dates etc. with your peers and fellow aspirants. Since no one likes to lose, the mind races during debates and discussions to make sure one is right and on-point. Similar to the teaching technique, this one also will aid you in being understanding what you read on the fly. If not, you can always go back. This technique has one other advantage. In things where there is scope for opinionated thoughts and ambiguity, having an opponent will give insights into other angles from which to look at the topic; this is always a good thing.
Taking Breaks Regularly
Breaks are necessary for every kind of task. When one sits in the same place and studies for a long time, everything after 20-30 minutes starts becoming hazy and you may not be able to remember it properly. Unless it was a problem you were trying to solve or some essay you were practicing, take a break every 30 minutes. Breaks refresh the mind and help in retaining focus. Ensure it is not more than 10 minutes long though as this would distract you for long enough that you wouldn’t be able to focus again.
- Have a Good Sleep Cycle
A healthy mind resides in a healthy body; and a healthy body is well-rested. Having proper sleep time and quality is vital for the brain to function properly. Bad sleep can create chemical imbalances which can do harm instead of being helpful.
Remembering such swathes of information out of a vast syllabus is a daunting task and clearing UPSC exams is a big deal. A great memory will serve every UPSC candidate for a long time. Even after becoming an IAS officer, the memory will need to stay sharp. Developing a mental technique to keep your power to remember at the top of its game goes a long way to serve you well throughout your career. Find out what technique suits you well and stick to it; you’ll find yourself doing much better eventually.
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