Have you ever arrived at the bottom of a page
in a textbook and realized that you haven't the foggiest
notion what it was about? Or, have you tried to remember later
in the day what happened in a lecture that morning, only to
discover that it's pretty much a blank? Or perhaps you have
found yourself in an examination looking at a familiar
question, but are not able to recall much by way of an answer?
Well, join the club. You are not alone. All of us experience
problems remembering from time to time.
1) We divide remembering into two basic types: (1)
recognizing and (2) recalling, and each
requires a different type of practice to optimize learning and
memory. We are recognizing something when we can
spot it, and pick it out of a set of similar items, as in a
multiple-choice question. In recognizing, the focus is on the
material rather than on your response to it. In contrast, we
are recalling something when we can produce or
reproduce information as in a short answer question. In recalling
the focus is on what you are able to do in
response to the item.
2) You must learn something before you can remember it. To do
this you must pay attention and respond to the material as you
are learning. This might mean paraphrasing main ideas and
concepts as you are reading or listening
to a lecture, relating the things you are learning to other
things that you know (perhaps with a concept map), or discussing
what you have learned with a colleague or in a study group.
3) Recognition and recall of learned material improves with
practice. To put it another way, you must practice remembering a
concept if you want to be good at remembering the concept.
Ideally, you will do this practice in a context that is similar
to the situation where you will need to remember the concept.
Sometimes this involves practicing in the absence of certain
things. For example, to practice recalling the contents of your
notes, you must not look at your notes; otherwise you are simply
4) Practice should continue until you are both accurate and quick
in remembering the material. Accuracy + Speed = Fluency. With
fluency comes retention, endurance, ability to apply concepts,
understanding, confidence and fun.
From time to time we have Workshops devoted to issues of
remembering. However, we encourage students to make an
appointment to see one of us ( David
Palmer-Stone or Tricia Best or June Saracuse) as soon as remembering concerns arise.
Students enrolled in the Learning Skills Course work
through several modules specifically related to remembering. One
module deals with Memory and Fluency, and another deals with
Memory Techniques including mnemonics. Indeed, many of the
modules in the course involve issues of remembering. For example,
the module on 3-R Reading and the module on Note-Making both
provide strategies that enhance learning and recall, by promoting
The following handouts on techniques for remembering are
available at the Counselling Services.
Page last updated: March 2011