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Mentalrobics™

You exercise your body to stay physically in shape, so why shouldn't you exercise your brain to stay mentally fit? With these daily exercises you will learn how to flex your mind, improve your creativity and boost your memory. As with any exercise, repetition is necessary for you to see improvement, so pick your favorite exercises from our daily suggestions and repeat them as desired. Try to do some mentalrobics every single day!

When you learn something, there are several different ways to measure how you remember it. The deepest form of memory is called recall and refers to any piece of information that you can instantly remember (for example: your name). The goal of most studying is to get the information memorized to a point where you can recall it.

One step down from recall is aided recall. This describes the type of memory where you cannot remember it until you are given a hint (for example: your first grade teacher's name starts with a B). Mnemonics help with memories in this stage by providing the cues to help you recall the information. This is why mnemonics work so well! You don't have to study the facts as much in order to remember them.

If you are unable to recall the information, then you may have only memorized the information to the point of recognition. At this stage, you are unable to recall the information even if aided, but once the material is shown to you, you instantly remember it. This is why multiple-choice tests are easier than fill-in-the-blank tests. You only have to recognize the answer, not recall it.

If you learned the fact at some point and now have forgotten it to a point where you can't even recognize it, then your memory may be in the relearnable stage. In this stage, there is some evidence of previous learning because you learn it much faster the second time around. An example of this would be relearning a foreign language that you learned many years ago, but forgot.

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SQ3R is an acronym for a popular study system that will help you get the most from your studying. SQ3R stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. It's a good system to use if you are trying to learn the material in a textbook.

Survey

In this first step, you should take no more than 5 minutes to get an overview of what the chapter or book is about. Read the preface, table of contents, chapter titles, headings, graphs, summaries, etc. This will give you an outline of what you are about to learn which will help you know what to expect.

Question

Survey the material again, but stop at each section and ask yourself some questions about what you hope to learn by reading that material. This step helps increase your interest in the topic and focus your attention on what you will be learning.

Read

Read the material. Don't take notes or highlight anything yet. The first time you read through the material, you don't yet know which facts are important, so taking notes is difficult and inefficient.

Recite

In this step, you should try to answer the questions you asked in the Question step. Look back at the material only if necessary. Talking out loud to yourself isn't necessary, but it can help reinforce the information. Recitation also provides Feedback. Spend at least half of your time on this step.

Review

Survey the book again and take note of which areas you were able to recite successfully and which areas you were not. You can study the weak areas again later. A review right after studying will help solidify the material in your mind. Periodic reviews at later dates will refresh your memory and help relearn material that you have forgotten.

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Which is a better way to study?

A) You study an entire book.
B) You study one chapter at a time and test yourself after each one.

You will learn better and remember more using method B. Frequent feedback is an important part of learning for several reasons:

First, it shows you how much you are learning, which helps keep you motivated and interested in studying. If you never give yourself feedback, you may lose interest or your mind may wander.

Second, it helps reinforce the information in your memory by using repetition.

Third, it lets you know what information you haven't learned yet and might need to study again.

To give yourself feedback, you might study with a friend and quiz each other, or you might make up your own test questions and quiz yourself.

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Studies show that where you learn something has an effect on your ability to recall the information at a later date. In particular, your ability to remember something is improved if you learn the information in the same or similar location that you will recall it. This is because the context in which you learn the material serves as a landmark for your memory.

To use this to your advantage, you should study your subject in the location where you will be expected to recall it. For example, if you are studying for a test, you could study the material in the same classroom (or similar classroom) where you are going to be tested. If you are memorizing lines for a play, you could do it in the theater where you will be performing.

If you don't know where you will be expected to recall the information, or if you can't replicate the environment, then you should try to study the material in a variety of different places so you don't get tied to one particular location.

Studies also show that your body position affects your accuracy at recalling information. So, if you are going to be sitting down while taking your test, it might be a good idea to be seated when you study for it, as opposed to lying down.

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Everyone has experienced a mental block when trying to remember something. This happens most often when you are under pressure to remember, such as during a test.

Instead of trying to think harder, it's often helpful to stop trying to remember and move on to another problem. Frequently, you will find that just giving up the search will be enough to remove the block and the fact will instantly come into your head. This is because you are more relaxed. It's also likely that your subconscious will continue to think about the problem and the answer will pop into your head a few minutes later.

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