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Researchers have found that some of the most common study techniques are highlighting or reading and rereading text/notes.It doesn’t take a whole lot of (cognitive) effort to read a passage or highlight a phrase.
Let’s consider the 14-digit number string 1-9-6-9-4-8-1-2-1-6-1-0-6-6.
At first sight this might seem fairly meaningless, but if I rewrite it as 1969 – 4,8,12,16 – 1066 suddenly it becomes pretty easy to remember.
What you ideally want to do is study in a number of short bursts, mixed up by breaks, rather than doing all of your study at once (cramming).
As well as leading to a significant decrease in academic performance, all-night cram may be causing serious health problems (anxiety, depression, insomnia).
A group study appearing in the New Year 2003 edition of Nature Neuroscience investigated the reasons for memory champions’ superior performance.
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Their conclusion was that they employed "strategies for encoding information with the sole purpose of making it more memorable," but that superior memory was NOT driven by exceptional cognitive ability or structural differences in the brain.
If you haven’t heard of the Method of Loci (aka The Memory Palace), I would definitely recommend googling it and/or reading about it extensively.
You know those people that perform astonishing memory feats like remembering decks of cards, pi to 1,000 places, or the names and faces of hundreds of people, all in a single sitting, well with the exception of savants like Kim Peek and Daniel Tammet, most of them are just average people with inherently average memories.
Essentially, those that are highly adept at memorization tasks ‘encode’ information (store it in their mind) very effectively.
The most common way of encoding large amounts of information effectively is with visualization.