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How to retain and recall information better?

Updated: Feb 8

In the last article I discussed about how to sort relevant information from a quizzing standpoint. In this article I will talk about some tips and tricks that will help you retain information better.

But before we begin, you need to understand that there is no magical way to remember every information that you come across (unless you have an eidetic memory like Sheldon Cooper or Sherlock Holmes). But there are ways to remember that crucial data which will help you crack an important question during a quiz.

Let’s dig in.

1.       Reinforcement: Well, when you are preparing for an exam, your teachers always tell you to revise the syllabus. This funda holds good for quizzing too, but in a slightly different way. Since there is no prescribed syllabus for quizzes, you can’t go on revising the same thing. That’s when information reinforcement comes into the picture. Reinforcement basically means when you encounter the same information multiple times, it gets ingrained in your memory. So, you need to do this consciously. You don’t need to read the same article/report over and over; but make sure you read about connected things from multiple sources.

I will explain with an example. Suppose you want to read up on the Israel-Hamas conflict. You head over to Wikipedia and glance over the page once. Next, you can watch an informative YouTube video about the issue. Then read up on a current news article from a good source. When you do this exercise, you will notice that some of the information is repetitive, and some information builds up on the previous information. This basically creates a reinforcement of relevant data in your brain which ultimately will help you recall any information about this topic later.
2.       Mnemonic Devices: Mnemonic devices are memory aids that use associations, patterns, or acronyms to help remember information. And there is one thing I have understood from experience, the funnier the mnemonic; the better the retention.
For example, the capital of Bulgaria is Sofia. Now, if you imagine a bull falling from a sofa (bull gir gaya sofa se); there is no way you can get that image out of your mind and this information will be imprinted in your memory forever.
Bear in mind that not all associations would be as apparent and as easy as this one. You have to be creative and think out of the box to make these connections. And believe me, the use of mnemonic devices will come more naturally to you as you keep using them and you won’t have to think too hard to come up with it once you get the hang of the process.
3.       Connections: Finally, connections are the best way to retain and recollect information for any quizzer (and maybe for the writers of the web series Dark :P ). If you are able to connect one information with other, it will be very easy for you to mentally tug on the string of connections and pull out the desired information when faced with a question.

I will explain with an example. There is a popular story that Newton was sitting under an apple tree, an apple fell on his head, and he discovered the Universal Law of Gravitation. This was the inspiration behind Apple’s first logo which looked something like this:

In 1954, computer scientist and brilliant mathematician Alan Turing died after biting into an apple laced with cyanide and a half-eaten apple was found by Turing’s bedside. Now, Apple’s present logo is also a bitten apple although it has no connection with Turing. Now if you can make a mental connection between the different entities: Newton, Apple and Alan Turing; and insert other information about them in between; it will be very helpful for you to recollect any specific relevant information from this connected collective memory even if it is not asked as a direct question.
There are many other small tricks which might help you retain and recall information better; but let’s keep them for another article.
Since we have been discussing all serious stuff about quizzing since the inception of this series, in the next article let’s do something fun.

In the next article, I will share a list of the best podcasts for quizzers.

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