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Many students complaint that they study harder but they are not able to retain it for longer period of time. Actually this happens due to bad processing of information into our memory.

The information process into our memory through these three stages: Encoding, Storage and Retrieval. So here are some psychological ways to study that process information through these stages.

Encoding: Putting it into Brain

Active reading

Most of the students read passively, that is, reading without paying attention to what they are reading.

Active reading is just opposite of the passive reading in which you engage yourself actively with the text you are reading by questioning and connecting with your personal experience.

Active reading helps you in many ways:

  • It creates deeper understanding of the concept.
  • It provides in-depth knowledge.
  • It saves your precious time as you don’t need to read the text over and over again.

How to practice active reading?

F.P. Robinson talks about SQ3R method of reading in his book Effective Study published in 1946. The SQ3R method is widely practiced by toppers. SQ3R stands for:

  • Survey – Have a quick glance on chapter’s headings, subheadings, tables and figures, summary or concept map if provided. It gives you an overview of what you are going to read and what you should focus on.
  • Question – Ask yourself that what the particular heading is about, such as “What is SQ3R?”. Asking questions gives you the purpose to find the answer which helps you in remembering.
  • Read – Read the section to find the answers of your questions and take notes from it. Writing notes establish a neural connection with words through your fingers.
  • Recite – Try to explain the concept in your own words to someone (you can also imagine a person). You’ll be able to do this when you understood the concept clearly.
  • Recall/Review – Now it’s the time to recall what you have learned and review the concept if it is still not cleared.

Reading out loud

In the University of Waterloo situated in Canada, psychologist Colin MacLeod explored the impact of reading out loud on our memory in which he found that people remember texts longer when they read out loud than reading silently.

MacLeod coined the term ‘production effect’ to name this phenomenon. It means the production of written text in sounds or audio stays longer in our memory i.e., improves our memory.

Utilizing memory aids

Memory aids such as audio-visual learning material, concept maps, highlighting text with different color highlighters and mnemonic devices can help you to memorize faster and longer.

You can use these mnemonic devices:

  • Categorical clustering – Organize a list of items into a set of categories.
  • Interactive images – Create interactive images that link the isolated words in a list.
  • Peg word system – Associate each new word with a word on a previously memorized list and form an interactive image between the two words.
  • Method of loci – visualize walking around an area with distinctive landmarks that you know well, and then link the various landmarks to specific items to be remembered.
  • Acronym – Form a word or expression in which each of its letter stands for a certain other word or concept.
  • Acrostic – Form a sentence rather than a single word to help you remember the new words.
  • Keyword system – Form an interactive image that kink the sound and the meaning of the foreign word with the sound and meaning of a familiar word.

Storage: Keeping it in the Brain


Elaboration is a technique of transferring information form a surface level to a deeper level of memory by making the information meaningful.

Craik and Lockhart (1972) found that when an information is deeply processed by elaboration, it will help in remembering information efficiently and for a longer period of time.

When you read a text try to elaborate it in some way that contains a meaning which will help you to remember it faster and longer.

To make the information meaningful just connect new information with something that you already know very well.

Connect with real life experiences

When you connect the new information or concept with you own life experiences, the new information gets transferred easily into your long-term memory because your Real-Life experiences have an emotional impact on you that helps you to retain longer.


Revision stores information in the deep level of memory. It is something like writing over and over again on a written text to make it darker.

Retrieval: Getting it out from Brain

Context depended cues

Context dependent cues are the clues of your surroundings where you learned or studied something.

When you study something for the very first time you unconsciously connect it with your surroundings such as garden, flowerpot, stairs, it can be anything.

Use your surroundings as a cue for remembering and retrieval. These cues will help you to recall the stored information very easily and quickly.

State depended cues

State depended cues are the clues of your physiological and psychological state when you learned or studied something.

You unconsciously connect the new information with your particular physiological and psychological state or mood.  

Use your physiological and psychological state as a cue for remembering and retrieval. These cues will help you to recall the stored information very easily and quickly.

The Better the Encoding, the longer the Storage; The Longer the storage, the Easier the Retrieval.

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