How to Retain Information When Studying?

There's no doubt that studying comes with a few challenges, one of which is information fading from your memory. It can be frustrating to remember so little during an exam or to spend hours memorizing a single topic.
What causes this? More importantly, how to retain information when studying? Keep reading to find out.

Why Is Retaining Information Difficult?

Before we get to how you can better your information retention, it's important to understand why you're having trouble remembering something you learned a few days ago.
The primary reason is that you've never attempted to change that.
According to Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, we have what's referred to as the forgetting curve, where you'll notice that the curve will keep on declining if no effort is made to retain what’s learned.
Ebbinghaus wanted to learn more about forgetting and memory retention patterns, so he invented the forgetting curve as a graphic representation of our forgetting process.
Here’s what’s interesting:
The forgetting curve starts steep. It turns out that the majority of forgetting occurs within the first hour of hearing information. It’s when you’ve just finished a lecture but remember very little of it afterward.
That's because you didn't work or train your mind to remember such information. Without doing this extra effort, the forgetting curve keeps on declining. As a result, after a week or so, you won't remember anything from this lecture.
Of course, the forgetting curve varies from one person to another and is influenced by several factors, including:
The subject's complexity
Physiological factors, such as hunger or a lack of sleep
How the information is represented
Psychological factors, such as anxiety and stress
Whether or not the information is meaningful
Putting your procedural memory to work will help you remember information more effectively. In fact, it's the star of our show, as our tips are mainly focused on training it to help you recall information effortlessly.

How to Retain Information When Studying?

We've broken things down into five strategies that'll help you recall what you've learned.
It's important to remember that training your mind to retain information won't happen overnight. In other words, if you want long-term results, you must be patient; those strategies are fueled by consistency.

Use Mnemonic Techniques

This is the type of learning strategy that we like to call "old but gold." Mnemonic techniques are extremely useful for storing and retrieving data. They’re also quite fun.
These techniques are based on associations, which allow you to easily track information when needed. Where you can connect what you're learning to images, rhymes, patterns, emotions, etc. For example, song mnemonics were used to teach us the alphabet through the ABC song.
Additionally, several studies have been conducted to demonstrate how mnemonic devices help in retaining information. Those studies also showed that it helps in reducing stress during tests and learning.

Practice Spaced Learning

The ugly truth is that pulling an all-nighter and cramming your brain with information doesn't work. By doing so, you are storing information in your short-term memory. That's why, the next day during the test, you can barely recall what you've been studying.
So, how do you store information in long-term memory? The magic word is "Spaced learning."
In a nutshell, spaced learning is when you start revising a subject once you notice it's fading away, rather than when it’s completely forgotten.
You repeatedly refresh your memory with the subject throughout different periods. This slows your forgetting curve notably and you'll notice that the gaps between your reviewing sessions are gradually increasing.

Explain to a Friend

If you can't explain it, you're unlikely to remember it. Because if the information doesn't come to you easily, then you didn't fully grasp it.
Besides, while explaining the subject out loud, you may notice that a particular topic confuses you. Either way, this means you'll need to learn whatever makes you pause more thoroughly.
Comprehension is crucial for retaining information. Make the information you feed your brain meaningful so that your memory can prioritize it for easier recollection.

Sleeping Improves Your Memory

We don't perform well when we're sleep-deprived, and there's a scientific reason behind this. Sleep both strengthens your memory and prepares it to receive new information.
When you don't get enough sleep, the hippocampus, a part of your brain that's responsible for making new memories, is affected. Thus, your ability to learn new things is reduced by 40%.
Napping can also be very effective. A recent study showed that napping for 45-60 minutes can boost your memory.
During this study, people who napped performed five times better in recalling information than those who didn't.

Challenge Your Memory

Instead of becoming frustrated when you can't remember something, give yourself a few moments to track it down. This is considered a memory strengthening exercise.
If your first instinct is to look up the answer, then you're unintentionally weakening your memory. Take a minute, take a deep breath, and think again. This challenge will help you recall this piece of information faster next time.

Does Taking Notes Help You Retain Information?

Yes, note-taking techniques have proven their worth over the years. We now have a variety of note-taking methods for every situation.
For example, during live lectures, you can use either the Cornell or Flow note-taking methods. Both will enable you to memorize the main points of the lecture, making it easier to recall later when studying.
Furthermore, when studying complex subjects such as chemistry or philosophy, Mind Mapping is the way to go, as it'll organize all the scattered keywords and make them more visually trackable for your brain.
While taking notes, there are three general rules that you should keep in mind:
  • Write in phrases rather than full sentences as phrases are easier to remember
  • Write in your own words to better understand and retain information
  • Use colors to highlight key points or keywords in order to improve visualization

Tips to Help You Stay Focused

There are four study tips that you shouldn’t take for granted. You should always:
  • Stay hydrated
  • Drinking water improves your concentration and overall performance
  • Eliminate distractions
  • You'll need to be focused during study time. Turn off your phone, television, and anything else that could distract you
  • Take breaks to recharge
  • Take short breaks; an overworked brain will eventually stop absorbing new information
  • Participate in study groups
  • Seeing different points of view allows you to gain a better understanding of the subject


How to retain information when studying? It isn't as mysterious as you might think.
There are numerous strategies and techniques for managing our forgetting curve. All it takes is a consistent effort on your part. So, get enough sleep, stay hydrated, and always challenge your memory.