Remembering For Examinations

Few people hear the word 'examination' without a slight feeling of fear or distaste. In Speed Reading, I have dealt comprehensively with methods for studying three to ten times more effectively. Here I'm going to discuss examinations in relation to memory systems.

Typically, the person taking an examination dashes to his seat in order to use all the available time and reads his examination paper so nervously, quickly and confusedly that he has to read it over again to find out just what it is he is being asked.

At this stage he usually becomes flustered, desperately trying to co-ordinate all the information which he thinks might relate to the question he is trying to answer, but which is buried in the mire of all his other disorganised knowledge. How often have you yourself, or have you seen someone else write an examination, spending as much as 15 minutes of an hour's time jotting down notes, scratching his head, resting his chin on his hand, and frowning as he frantically tries to recall all that he knows and yet at this moment does not know?

Such students often possess more knowledge about the subject than others. I remember at least three students in my undergraduate years who knew more about certain subjects than virtually everyone in the class and who used to give private tuition and coaching to those who were struggling.

Extraordinarily and regularly, these students would fail to excel at examination time, invariably complaining that they had not had time in the examination room to gather together the knowledge they had.

Problems such as theirs can be overcome by preparing for examinations using the Major and Skipnum Memory Systems, in conjunction with the link system.

Let us assume that the subject to be examined is psychology. Reviewing your notes, you realise that in the year's study you have covered four major areas, and that each area had four or five main theories, four or five major figures, and a number of experiments.

Applying this information to the memory system, you link the name of the first major area with the first word of the system, list the main theories on the following numbers, the main figures on the next numbers and after that the experiments. For the next major area you repeat this process until you have covered the major key words and ideas for the content of the year's course. Should any of these items have smaller items which you think might be significant, they can be linked to the key psychology words.

It may surprise you to learn that in circumstances where my students have applied these systems, their memory list for any given subject in a yearly exam seldom exceeds 70 items! In the examination room they are immediately far ahead of their erstwhile "peers. When considering their answers to questions, they simply survey their organised knowledge in less than a minute, selecting those items that are relevant. In addition, the items selected are already in an 'essay' form.

In the example we are using, the answer to any question could take the following form 'in considering the problem of blank and blank I wish to discuss three of the major areas of psychology, citing the theories of blank from the second, and the theories of blank and blank from the third area. In connection with these areas and theories I will also consider the importance of the following major figures in the history of these ideas, and shall discuss in relation to the entire question the following experiments: ...'

Without having said anything our imaginary student already sounds well on the way to a 1st class! Indeed he may well be, for as his initial fact getting-down task has been made so much more easy, the amount of time left to him for creative discussion and comment on what he has written will be greater.

To carry this last point a little further—it is advisable to peg on to your memory system creative or original ideas that flash into your mind concerning the subject of examination. These often make the difference between a 1st and 2nd class, yet normally they tend either to get mixed up in a generally confused presentation of knowledge and ideas or lost in the heat of the moment.

Smaller details, including the titles of books, articles and dates, can obviously be co-ordinated with the system explained above.

Examinations are not all that difficult. Explaining what you know in an organised and coherent fashion to an examiner can be—use your memory systems to help you!

chapter twenty-one


You have now completed your basic course and should have learnt no fewer than twenty different systems for remembering different items!

After being given a rough historical context within which to work, you were given an initial memory test designed to establish the limits of your memory at that time.

The first chapters (in an attempt to overcome as rapidly as possible the deficiencies laid bare by the test!) dealt with the basic principles of remembering, giving you practice in the rules of exaggeration, movement, substitution and absurdity. The principles learnt in these systems were then applied to the new memory system of Heinz Norden, Skipnum, and to the Major System.

From the Major System you were able to branch out into the remembering of numbers, anniversaries, birthdays and historical dates, including the year, month and day.

Apart from this you learnt systems for remembering names and faces, speeches, jokes, narratives, articles, languages, and playing cards.

With the information you now possess you are ready to use your memory in a far more adequate and comprehensive way. Apart from your business and social life many of the systems may be used to give 'memory demonstrations' ranging from reeling off lists of items to picking out the 'missing cards' from a deck.

Building a good memory is much like growing up. You develop a little day by day but seldom notice the changes until you suddenly look back at yourself, often through other people's eyes, writing or photographs. You may not even now be fully aware of the strides you have made during your reading of Speed Memory.

To see just how far you have come, go back and look at the 'photograph' of your memory as recorded in the initial memory test. Things which at that time appeared (and were!) difficult will now seem like child's play.

We have come to the end of the course, but in a sense it is only a beginning. At the moment you are using abstract systems to remember items that have given you difficulty in the past. By continuing to use these systems and actively concerning yourself with remembering to remember, you will find that the systems themselves will become unnecessary, and that through the process of consciously working to improve your memory with 'artificial aids', you will have helped it to become vigorous and independent.

If you feel you have benefited from reading this book why not invest in a copy of Tony Buzan's SPEED READING by Sphere Books.

To anyone reaching a reading speed of 350 words per minute plus 50 per cent comprehension of SPEED READING the author offers a £5 reduction in an ADVANCED READING COURSE taught personally by Tony Buzan.

For further details please write or telephone:

The College of Advanced Reading, 49 Frognal, Hampstead, London N.W.3.

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