Michael Mantell by Michael Mantell

RememberMaybe it’s been awhile since you’ve been in school and now you’re faced with studying a manual that’s filled with words, concepts, definitions and material that you’re having a hard time remembering. For those of you who are exasperated and stressed out, here are some tips on how to better remember what you study.

1. Challenge and replace erroneous thoughts.

  • Instead of saying, “My memory is so bad, I can’t remember enough to pass the exam,” say, “I haven’t taken the exam, so how do I know for certain that I can’t pass it?”
  • Replace “All of these terms like anaerobic glycolysis and MET give me such trouble, I’ll never get them down,” with “I can use the study aids to help me memorize terms and understand concepts just like everyone else does.”

2. Determine your purpose. Having a specific purpose and continually reminding yourself why you’re reading something will help you stay focused and on task, as well as help you constantly search for questions and rehearse answers. If you ask yourself, “What am I supposed to learn from this section?” you’ll point yourself in the right direction. Furthermore, purpose enhances your memory through association, visualization, concentration and repetition.

3. Use methods such as association, visualization, concentration and repetition.

  • Association is when you take one concept and relate it to another. For example, if you are trying to remember the steps in the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, you might associate “Precontemplation” with “pre,” meaning before contemplation, which is in fact the next stage. “Preparation” might be associated with “Action” as in “prepare for action.”
  • Visualization will help you build a picture in your mind—it’s a form of association with mental images. Look at the highlighted words in the ACE manual and “see” those highlights as mental pictures. For example, if you are trying to recall research-supported outcomes for yoga and tai chi, you might picture the human being comprised of cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, psychobiologic, metabolic components—see the human being in its totality including heart, muscles, psychology and metabolism.
  • Concentration, or focusing your attention on one thing at a time, can be enhanced through thinking in pictures, insisting that you do whatever it takes to understand the meaning of something the first time before moving forward, and keeping in mind the specific goal of learning a concept or term (“How will I use this with a client?”).
  • Mental repetition, or rehearsing, will strengthen your memorization. Association, visualization and keeping in mind your purpose for learning a specific concept are tools of repetition that ensure you will recall the information you are studying. Also, as you read and study, mentally rehearse how you will use the material in a real-life situation, how you may see it on an exam, how it relates to other material you’ve already studied, and paraphrase “chunks” of material before moving forward.

4. Skim a section before you carefully read it. This will help train your memory bank, accommodate your thinking to the material you will be studying, and provide you complete comfort with what you will be reading because you have “seen” it already. 

5. Take breaks. If your attention span is short, study within that timeframe and take essential breaks. When you do take a break, bring your associations and mental images with you and “play” with them in your mind, talk about them with others, put music to your visualizations, find humor in the pictures, make up rhymes with them and create interesting pneumonic devices to help you recall lists.

Use these smart, well-tested methods to assure you will remember what you are reading—not only to pass the all-important ACE certification exam, but also to apply the wealth of information you’ve learned when working with future clients.

For more tips on how to remember what your study, please contact our ACE Resource Center at 888-825-3636, Ext. 796, or resource@acefitness.org