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Forgetting things you have learn't in previous years

  1. Apr 4, 2015 #1
    While browsing the homework questions section I find myself unable to answer - for example - some of the 1st/2nd year physics questions and I'm currently in my 3rd year. I could have answered them at the time of studying but now it seems I can only remember the things I'm currently studying. Is this normal? How do the homework helpers manage to remember everything and answer a broad range of physics questions? Do they have superior mental abilities?

    Would be interested to know if anyone else has this problem.

    And also how to remember to spell the word learnt.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 4, 2015 #2
    Can you tell us in detail how you study for a topic?
  4. Apr 4, 2015 #3

    Sure, first I review the lecture notes, then the problem sets, then the past exam papers. I usually do well in the exams but find I do not retain the information for very long, especially when I start studying a new subject on the course.
  5. Apr 4, 2015 #4
    How long do you study a specific concept?
    How often do you revise it?
    Do you make pictures or mindmaps?
    Do you look for problems not related to the problem sets?
    Do you look up the concepts and read explanations in other books?
    Do you ask yourself questions during reading the lecture notes? What kind of questions? How often?
  6. Apr 4, 2015 #5


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    Staff Emeritus
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    Homework Helper

    You're still in school and you're worried about not remembering things from a couple of years before?

    This could be a problem, especially after you get out of school. In order to reinforce what you have learned (supposedly), you need to work a variety of problems in these subjects. This helps keep the knowledge fresh in your mind.

    A lot of the stuff the HW helpers cover comes from high school or college work, and some of us have been out of school for decades. :))
  7. Apr 4, 2015 #6
    I actually think this is pretty normal, hw helpers remember since they are seeing the same problems daily. If you review say a formula or example of the problem it generally will come back to you. I don't think its unusual not to remember every detail, this is why you keep books around to refresh a topic that you forgot. Since you have learned it before you will remember how to do them quicker then someone seeing it for the first time.

    I've even brought hw problems to professors and they have to look at the book really quick to review a theorem once in a while. So don't feel bad if you can't at any moment know how to do any problem that you have seen before.
  8. Apr 4, 2015 #7
    I see what you are both getting at, to be honest once I've "finished" the subject (after the exam) I rarely look back upon the notes or attempt questions that relate, I think I will try this more often.

    Thanks, this is encouraging!
  9. Apr 4, 2015 #8
    The best way to solidify a concept in your mind is by teaching it to someone else. I found this by tutoring people in math.

    As a non-science example: a couple years ago I started giving guitar lessons at a music store. That's what I realized that you don't necessarily become a teacher because you know everything about a subject. But you can learn everything about a subject by teaching it enough.
  10. Apr 4, 2015 #9
    I have found being a tutor really helps you remember old stuff
    Very true you also get a much better understanding also.

    There's an old joke where a Russian is talking about teaching and learning math which goes like this:

    "These students are terrible. They don't understand any mathematics!

    We teach it to them once, they don't learn.

    We teach it to them a second time, they don't learn.

    We teach it to them a third time and finally we understand but they still don't!"

    I still wouldn't worry too much if you forget a detail or two. It is good to look at old problems though and try them out even i you can't teach.
  11. Apr 5, 2015 #10


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    Education Advisor

    It's often the case that we learn something and don't use it in any of our classes again for a while. Most of the material from Physics I isn't 'directly' relevant to Physics II or Physics III. A lot of the same concepts, laws, and equations are used, but we aren't working inclined plane problems, for example, in Physics II or Physics III in most cases. Long term understanding comes from repeated use of the material. I'm currently in physics III, and I'll be starting in upper level classical mechanics in the fall. Over the summer I'm going to go through a good review of freshman mechanics so that the material is fresher.

    I work as a tutor in my schools tutoring lab, and because of this I tend to remember a lot more of the material. There are a bunch of weird trig identities and rather obscure rules from college algebra and such that almost never come up after college algebra (because we start using calculus), and most people don't remember these rules. Things like the rational zero test, alternating sign tests, and other such rules. The rational zero test came up in my differential equations class last semester, and I don't think anyone in the class aside from me even remembered it lol

    I'd say it's fairly normal to not remember every part of the class. However, you should be retaining a good deal of it. Enough to understand the concepts that are at work and the general approach to solving the problem.
  12. Apr 5, 2015 #11
    There must be a kind of "embracement" between you and the topic.
    You study it for a while, you ask yourself questions, work very hard to find solutions to these questions, read about the topic from several books, go a little bit further than the normal level, discuss the topic with your professor and with other students, and solve a huge number of difficult problems.
    It needs competence and dedication and you'll never forget what you've studied.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2015
  13. Apr 5, 2015 #12


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    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    That must be it! That must be it!

    We gotta face the facts.
  14. Apr 5, 2015 #13
    Try spaced repetition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaced_repetition) using Anki (http://ankisrs.net/) on a trial topic and see how you get on. Don't use shared decks though, make your own to be effective
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