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Does Better Memory=Better Grades?

  1. Jul 18, 2007 #1
    I just wanted to get other people's opinion on memory improvement courses. I read that memorization is a key to learning. So in my mind I was thinking if I could improve my memory I would be able to do better in school. I have done some research and found some memory improvement courses online like the School of Phenomenal Memory and Dr. Bruno's Course. Now I just want to hear from anyone who has experience dealing with any memory improvement courses. Any info would be great thanks.
     
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  3. Jul 18, 2007 #2

    G01

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    Not with physics at least. You can memorize all the formulas and relationships you want. It doesn't mean you are going to be good at solving problems.
     
  4. Jul 18, 2007 #3
    Practice Practice Practice!
     
  5. Jul 18, 2007 #4

    Moonbear

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    Understanding the material and knowing how to problem-solve are far more important than rote memorization, which won't get you anywhere as soon as you are asked a complex question that requires relating multiple concepts to get an answer.
     
  6. Jul 18, 2007 #5

    chroot

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    In some fields, a better memory will absolutely improve your grades. Two fields that come to mind instantly would be biology and art history. The reason is not that memorization actually makes you smarter -- the reason is that many academic tests focus on memorization, because such tests are easy to design.

    I can't recommend any specific memory courses, and suspect that many of them are wastes of money. On the other hand, you can find many websites about memorization techniques. Some of these techniques have actually been known since antiquity.

    I can vouch for the effectiveness of some of the widely-known techniques. I've used simple tricks to memorize things like the periodic table with (in my opinion) fabulous success. I can still remember probably 95% of the table, given about ten seconds for each atomic number, even after five years with barely any practice at all.

    - Warren
     
  7. Jul 18, 2007 #6

    Moonbear

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    I beg to differ. While I haven't taken a lot of history courses, it sure wouldn't help with the biology courses I've taught. This is a HUGE mistake a lot of biology students make, and then don't understand why they're only getting a C or D in the class.

    Of course, in any subject, if you have an instructor who is lazy about writing tests, they will rely more on memorization than concepts, but that has nothing to do with the subject, just getting a bad instructor.
     
  8. Jul 18, 2007 #7

    chroot

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    I dunno Moonie. I've taken freshman biology at a major university. If you can simply memorize a bunch of stuff, you'll do quite well on the tests. It doesn't mean you'll retain anything, or gain anythign from the experience, and it certainly doesn't mean you'll do well on the exams you'll have next year -- but it'll get you through nearly any Biology 101 class in the country with flying colors.

    What's really funny about memorization techniques is that so many instructors are so firmly against them, as if they're some form of cheating. It's as if they want to stress memorization, but only in the naive, difficult way. In my opinion, it's simply the instructor's fault for making such dumb tests in the first place.

    In any event, better memory certainly doesn't guarantee better grades, but there's an undeniable correlation in some programs.

    - Warren
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2007
  9. Jul 18, 2007 #8

    berkeman

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    I don't know about intro biology classes, but I can contribute one relevant datapoint. A good friend of mine that I went to MSEE grad school with (and worked at Bell Labs with) decided after about 5 years of EE work, that he really wanted to pursue his true interest of becoming an MD. So he applied to medical school and ended up doing quite well.

    I was talking with him several years later, and asked him how hard he had found medical school. He replied that it was a *lot* easier than he had expected. He said that he had always had a talent for memorization, and he estimated that about half of med school work (in the first couple years, presumably) was pure memorization. Since that was easy for him, he could concentrate more time on the harder parts of med school, while others were struggling. Interesting.

    And I agree with the viewpoint that memorization is not much help in physics and engineering. Maybe chemistry it helps some? I don't know -- I'm not very good at chemistry. :blushing:
     
  10. Jul 18, 2007 #9

    Kurdt

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    From my experience of biology it really is all memorisation of names for things and chemical sequences. Thats why I chose physics because I passed my A-level biology with 95% getting full marks in 3 of the 6 exam papers. I realise it probably gets harder in grad school :biggrin:

    I'm also probably the worlds biggest idiot giving up something I was exceptional at for something I was less good at.

    And to be fair Physics was all memorisation at that level aswell and thats why I was an awful undergrad student because I was used to doing next to nothing playing snooker and drinking beer. So in conlusion theres probably some point with all subjects beyond which memory is absolutely no help.
     
  11. Jul 18, 2007 #10

    Moonbear

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    There is a lot of terminology to learn, so if you can't remember it, you're not going to be able to get to the harder concepts, but you still need to learn the concepts to do well. The board exams aren't pure memorization. Like the exams, they're higher level questions where you need to relate concepts and understand function.

    Chroot, you may have understood the concepts better than you realized, and thus didn't notice you were doing more than memorization, or maybe you had a really lousy instructor who just wrote simple regurgitation tests. I can't speak to your personal experience, but it is not the way I was taught biology, nor the way I teach it to others, nor the way my colleagues teach their courses (we teach the upper level courses in physiology along with med school courses). And, just as people have pointed out in the past here, there is more to a subject than a single introductory course on it, especially if it's one given to non-bio majors (you probably can do well enough just memorizing material for a non-majors intro course, but that indicates nothing in how you'd do in the subject area as a whole). It's also going to be a lot tougher to handle the upper level classes if all you did was memorize and regurgitate material in the intro courses, because it means you're lacking fundamental understanding that's going to come back to haunt you later.

    In any class, sure, there's a component of memorization (in general physics, it's those fundamental equations from which you derive everything else, along with a number of definitions, and somewhere along the way, you had to memorize all those rules for derivatives and integrals for trig functions, etc., but that isn't what it takes to do well in a subject...sure, it helps, because it frees your time to learn the concepts) but it's not the most important part of it.
     
  12. Jul 18, 2007 #11
    I haven't found my biology classes to be memorization at all, well except for my one class that only delt with evolution and the good old genus kingdom species stuff (I hated that class :P ). My other classes however I found you had to actually understand the principles we were learning to do well, the students who thought brute memorization was the best method either failed the courses or did quite poorly in it. Biology (microbiology, medical biology, genetics...ect) and Chemistry are my two favorite subjects and I think neither involve much pure memorization.
     
  13. Jul 18, 2007 #12

    hypnagogue

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    There is of course a memory component to any kind of learning. To learn how to solve a problem is to encode the concepts involved into memory, and in some instances remembering how you solved similar problems in the past will help you solve novel problems.

    The question "does better memory amount to better grades" depends in part on what you mean by "better memory." There are certain kinds of tricks and tips that help boost short term memory performance-- essentially they are algorithmic kinds of things that help you pack or retrieve more information from the limited store of items you can maintain in working memory. These sorts of things are good for impressing people but I doubt they have much utility in an academic setting, except for rote memorization perhaps.

    A very simple way that having better memory can help you learn is that you have things packed in your head, ready for retrieval and conceptual linking with new things you come across, rather than having them stored in textbooks or whatever where you need to look them up and don't have the opportunity to readily integrate them with new material. In that sense, having a good memory for the basics of your field will be invaluable in helping you learn more quickly, efficiently, and deeply.

    The best way to boost your memory for these sorts of things is repeated retrieval. In other words, constantly quiz yourself on material you are trying to learn. The more you retrieve the relevant information from memory, the stronger and more interconnected the underlying neural circuitry becomes, and the more readily and fluidly you can recall things and bring them to bear on new situations.
     
  14. Jul 19, 2007 #13
    Wow guys , thanks for the replies I really appreciate it.

    My question now is that even if memory wasn't a huge component in chemistry or biology. Wouldn't it still help? I mean I have had times in chemistry where I would understand the material but when it came to test time I just couldn't remember it. So my rationalization is that if I could just improve my memory and maybe even my attention and take the time to take one of these courses. I am pretty sure I would see improvement in studies. It is summer break and I really don't have much of anything else to do, I am just guessing it will be just like taking a little bit of summer school but hopefully it will help me in the long run.

    I did a little more research and read a little of Dr. Bruno's Course but it didn't help me much and the website looked like it hasn't been updated in a while. However, the School of Phenomenal Memory had this free manual that I could download and read. And damn this thing is pretty long. Well I just got it and will start browsing through it today and will tell you guys what I think later. But if anybody has tried any of these courses just give me a reply. Thanks
     
  15. Jul 19, 2007 #14

    hypnagogue

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    My instinct is to be skeptical that these "memory improvement" courses are going to help you out much in your classes. What kinds of claims do they make about memory improvement, and what are the techniques?

    What they advocate is likely to be strategic sorts of things that could help you leverage the limited store of short term memory. But what likely will not happen is that you will be able to suddenly absorb things into memory more easily without putting in the effort or anything like that.

    As far as improving memory to improve academic performance goes, my advice again would just be to practice retrieving information about things you want to remember well. Often when people study what they do is read and reread text and notes and such. But what is more effective for creating and consolidating memory performance is to practice retrieving memory traces that are already there, rather than just exposing yourself to the material perceptually over and over again. Involving yourself in discussions where you need to use the information in question (like the discussions you can find here at PF) could be an effective way to practice this memory retrieval and consolidation if doing self-quizzing kinds of things become boring.
     
  16. Jul 19, 2007 #15
    Thanks hypnagogue for the advice. I am not sure about the techniques or methods yet but they do seem to explain it in the manual that I got from the School of Phenomenal Memory. If you want to read it also heres the link http://www.pmemory.com/memory_book.html

    But yea I agree that Practicing over and over again does seem to work. The problem is that it does get tedious and boring but I guess that is the bad part about learning. how ever, don't you think it would still help if my memory was better. I mean I probably would still have to do the whole practice thing but hopefully a lot less with better memory. I don't know. It's just my opinion that I wouldn't really suffer from trying to obtain better memory. Do you know anyone who has tried any memory improvement courses? Thanks
     
  17. Jul 19, 2007 #16

    chroot

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    You appear to have had no exposure to more powerful memorization techniques. Real memorization techniques actually allow the information to be stored in long-term memory with relative ease. The memorized information remains quickly accessible years and years later. I'm living proof.

    You'd be surprised. Think about the last open-notes test you took, and how long you spent simply flipping through pages to find one equation or one sentence in your notes. Now imagine simply not having to do that anymore. Good memorization techniques can actually provide you with significantly more time to work on your problems. That in turn can lead to better grades.

    This is actually the naive approach, and is one of the least useful ways to memorize in almost every way. Again, it seems as though you have had no exposure to anything resembling 'real' memorization techniques.

    - Warren
     
  18. Jul 19, 2007 #17
    Hey Warren. Thanks for the reply. You seem to have a good understanding of memorization techniques and I just wanted to know if you have had any experience with memory improvement classes like Dr. Bruno or the School of Phenomenal Memory. Thanks
     
  19. Jul 19, 2007 #18

    chroot

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    As I've said already in this thread, I have not taken any specific memory courses, and cannot vouch for any of them. In fact, I'd venture that most of them are probably wastes of money. I would look into books or websites first.

    - Warren
     
  20. Jul 19, 2007 #19
    i would say, it does help to score more when u memorize more. but i hate to practice it. a lot of my fellow students get more marks because of their superior memorizing techniques. no matter how hard i try, i cant memorize anything unless i understand it.
    so understanding the stuff, works well for me.
     
  21. Jul 19, 2007 #20
    My memorisation technique is simple: read the subject, if you don't understand it read it again, if you still don't understand it talk to people who do. If then when you understand it explain it to someone (not relevant that they understand it just that you do, although it helps if they do) Follow this up by practical work, by using the techniques you have now mastered.

    This is a simple and widely verified technique that is unquestionably valid.

    My memory is poor, I have to plug away by repetition to remember stuff, luckily once it's in there it stays for a long time, sometimes years.

    Memory is an important part of the process, understanding more so, first understand well, then memorise and reiterate by practice.

    The memory techniques I hear about tend to be short term and may help you in an exam, but not in keeping such knowledge on tap, reinforcing them is not short term it takes repeated effort, and practice makes perfect.

    Something I find of particular value on academic forums, is taking on a subject you have learnt about and discussing it again, to reinforce your knowledge. Perhaps help out in some maths where you know the stuff but are not necessarily a very knowledgeable person. This not only helps you but if your very lucky it helps someone else too. As I mentioned before being a teacher is the best way to become proficient at any area even if you are wrong, no especially if you are wrong( although let's not go off half cocked) I'm surprised more people don't cotton on to this, perhaps their looking for short term fixes. :smile:
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2007
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