How Do I Remember Material I Studied Four Months Ago?

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Session 72

When you study for the MCAT, your schedule usually stretches out over several months. How do you make sure that you remember all of content you studied?

Also, check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media. Listen to The Premed Years Podcast to help you on your premed journey as well as our newest podcast, Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A.

[01:25] Strategies for Long-Term Retention

Bryan from Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) dishes out some strategies to help you prepare. First, learn the information of course.

[Tweet “”You can’t retain it for the first six months if you can’t retain it for the first six days.””]

One strategy for long-term retention is to make sure you’re learning it the right way at the beginning. Learn it through connections and context in the real brain-friendly way, which means learn things the way your brain learns things.

Isolate independent facts such as repetition flashcards may not be very good for MCAT memorization. This is so, as Bryan explains it, because you’ll run into exactly the problem they’re asking about. You’ll learn it for a day or two. This is fine if you just had to spit the fact up on a final exam the next day. But for the MCAT, you would have to retain it for months.

So you wouldn’t just memorize some single random fact. For example, you learn that “reduction is the gain of electrons” on a single flashcard. Instead, you have to build the whole context of how does redox chemistry work.

You would learn it in a way and learn it so well that if someone just gave you a chalkboard and a piece of chalk, you could give a 15-min lecture just off the top of your head. So it’s not just a single fact, but a whole series of connected facts.

[Tweet “”Ultimately, that is what our brain is good at – connections between ideas.””]

[03:17] Build a Review Day for Repetition

So if you want to remember it for the first six months of your prep, first learn it the right way. The second thing is that you have to be willing to invest the time and effort in the repetition and reinforcement.

There’s that curve of forgetting where you initially learn some information and then your retention drops off almost instantly. MCAT students often freak out about the stress and how much they have to do that they always want to rush things ahead. It’s always about the next thing.

What Bryan does with the students he’s working with is build one day a week for review day.

One day, every single week, you are literally doing nothing new. No new chapters, no new tests, no new facts, no new anything. Your only job all day is to just repeat the information from the past week and to review your notes from earlier weeks.

[Tweet “”From the get-go, build in a review day every week so you can just have that repetition, have that repetition, have that repetition.””]

[05:11] Create Artificial Connections

Next week’s episode on The Premed Years Podcast (episode 265), our guest is Luis Angel, who is a world-class memory master. He’s going to share about how to retain information. So be sure to check it out once it’s published.

Bryan adds that what these people who can memorize a deck of cards so fast is that they create these artificial connections. They memorize certain funny connections. Then when they open a deck of cards up, if it’s those three cards are in order, they will then create a story in their head. So it becomes so much easier to remember.

So if you could give  a 15-min lecture off the top of your head and tell the story of say, how redox chemistry works, then you know that you know it. Not just if you can spew out some random fact.

[06:50] Listen to The Premed Years Podcast Episode 265

Again, stay tuned for Episode 265 of The Premed Years Podcast where I will be having Luis Angel, a world-class memory master. If you have struggles with memorizing and remembering things, be sure to take a listen.


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The Premed Years Podcast

Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A

Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)