PostGrad is brutal. What is the most useful life hack in studying?

German college is brutal. Here’s how it works:

You show up the first day, then the professor dumps 800 slides and a ton of materials on you. After that, class attendance isn’t mandatory, so naturally, you don’t go. At the end of the semester, you have to take one big ass exam that makes up 100% of your grade.

*last night pre-exam cramming deluxe here we go*

If you’re like me, then whenever there’s something you just have to do, you’ll try to do it with as little work as you can. Over the course of 10 semesters, I managed to put together a decent system with a good effort-reward ratio.

Today, I want to show you 3 parts of that system. They’re my 3 favorite memory hacks and will help you remember what you read and study a lot better.

Memory Hack #1: Chunking

1117200112241999 is tough to remember.

But two consecutive dates aren’t: 11/17/2001 and 12/24/1999. Especially if you put them into context: a friend’s birthday and Christmas 1999. Chunk up large pieces of information into smaller bits and put them into context and they’ll be much easier to recall.

The way you do this is by coding the data. For example in a scientific paper (which are usually massive walls of text) you could draw lines separating important paragraphs and mark those with numbers.

For long sentences you want to remember, you can single out and chain together a few keywords. Or make an acronym. Which brings me to the second hack.

Memory Hack #2: Acronyms

I LOVE acronyms. They’re so much easier to remember than what they stand for. And faster too. If I say VIP you probably have an image of someone important in your mind way before decoding it to “very important person.” You might not do that at all.

Let’s say you wanted to remember a focus hack I talked about before: Keep your phone out of sight.

If you take just the first letter of each word and line them up you get KYPOOS. What you could make of that is KY POOS. Now you can imagine KY is a dog, for example and that he, well, POOS. *poop emoji*

Ky poos. Maybe he poos in the garden, maybe he poos on the street. But now you know Ky and that he poos and you’ve already memorized the acronym.

Bonus idea: If you create a word that even remotely sounds like it could make sense, google it. For example if we drop one of the O’s from above we get KYPOS.

A quick Google search tells me it’s some beach or island in Greece and there’s several restaurants with the same name:

Not that you’d have any problems keeping your phone out of sight at the beach, but you have to admit: pretty easy to remember.

Memory Hack #3: One-page summaries

Here’s the summary I made for the first exam I took in my Master’s, strategic management in SMEs:

Yup, that’s it. I did write a more comprehensive one before, but in the end, I condensed it all into this one, single page.

As you can see I combined everything using the other two hacks: chunking and acronyms. In the end, all I had to do was memorize this ONE tree structure based on all the chapters and I could recall any of the concepts via its acronym at will.

Whenever you have to remember a large, comprehensive amount of information, condense it until you manage to somehow capture it on one page.

It doesn’t have to be visual, although that can help. You could just as well write one fluent text, make a list of bullet points or draw a mind map.

Author: Niklas Göke

October 11, 2017

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