So you’ve been studying for a few hours now and midway through reading a chapter you keep losing focus and suddenly realize that you can’t remember anything you read in the last hour. Students face this scenario quite often and it can be frustrating. Why does this happen?
To answer this question, we need to remember that we have two types of memory vaults: short-term memory and long-term memory. When we learn new information it goes into our short-term memory vault. It’s only through reciting and reviewing that the new concept we learned will go into our long-term memory vault where it will be stored for a long time. There is a limit to how much information we can store in our short-term memory at a given time. In one setting we are able to learn 5 to 9 new concepts before we reach our brain overload. At this point, whatever new information you try to squeeze into your brain will get pushed out.
So when you try to read a whole chapter in one setting, you can only grasp the first 9 concepts before your brain overloads. At this point, continuing to read may do nothing but confuse and frustrate you.
What can I do about it?
When you go through brain overload, it is time to get those new concepts from your short-term memory into your long-term memory. Stop reading further into the chapter and start rehearsing, reciting, or practicing the information you’ve read so far. Go back and re-read the sections you already read then, do practice problem questions, give yourself a quiz, draw diagrams, talk about what you learned to a friend or write down the formulas or the key concepts on a piece of paper. If you are preparing for a presentation, present the material you’ve read so far a few times until you feel comfortable. If you are preparing for a test, write a mock test. The goal here is to use and apply the information you learned.
Once you are comfortable with the material, move forward and repeat the above tips until you reach the end of your chapter.