Memory Management 2.

Essay by manginaboy April 2003

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Memory Management 2

With the feedback from my first article, I have decided to write a sequel. Both will be condensed into one article (sometime soon) at my website

If you have not already read the first article, I strongly recommend you do so, so that you may understand various methods that I may talk about.

I will speak about 5 general areas - allocation, tests, essays, projects and exams.

Allocation is important and it is something often neglected in the final years for high school students. Students need to be aware of the grading schemes used in teaching because with 5 assignments ending up due at the same time (whether they be tests, essays or projects), you need to know which ones will benefit you the most. Take these factors into consideration:

When is the assignment due?

How much is the test/assignment/essay worth?

How much time will it take to complete?

How many marks am I likely to get from it?

There is no particular order for these questions, but try to work out if you have time for everything.

If you have an essay due about mitosis of cells for example and you doubt you'll pass the essay even if you spend a lot of time on it, perhaps it isn't worth it. Then again, perhaps the essay is worth 30% of your mark, in which case even getting 50% means 15% of your grade.

Remember that if you don't get enough sleep, then whatever work you do the next day will be very poor especially in the case of tests. You are much better off if you go to sleep earlier and finish it in the morning. This works especially well for those 9AM tests that the teachers seem so intent on giving to you.

When learning for tests, you should understand how your memory works for these kinds of things. In the first example of the first memory management text i wrote, I gave an example of words such as clown, ladder, green and so on. I also mentioned that you should find out the amount of time it takes you to remember things as well as possible. Repeating the example for clarity: if it takes you 1 minute to memorise 50% of the words, 3 minutes to memorise 100% of the words, but 2 minutes to memorise 80% of the words, you are better off timewise, remembering 80% in 2 minutes, than 100% in 3 minutes.

To understand how memory works, you need to understand what it is for. Memory is like another sense. We use our senses to avoid danger. With increased intelligence overall and hence better technology, everything becomes more chaotic and dangerous. Our memory, therefore, is a defense mechanism and we will remember more through two means. Acute - this is like war veterans remembering explosions or people being hit by a car. Chronic - this is repetition and what I will focus on now.

Chronic memory (coming from chrono meaning time) needs repetition. Your brain however is like a muscle, you have to train it to remember correctly. Look at a word in this article. If you look away from the screen for a few seconds, it is very likely that you will remember that word. Check it. Try a different word, but this time, go and make yourself a drink or something and then come back and try to remember it, it should be slightly more difficult to remember the second word than the first word, although the higher IQ you have, the less noticeable this effect will be. People with higher IQ will have a greater 'memory depth' meaning they will be able to remember more from further back in time. The reason why it becomes so hard to remember things from farther back is because of the number of memories from that far back.

Consider a row of bookshelves and you are standing at one end with a half empty bookshelf. It is more likely that you will find a book faster from your end with a half empty bookshelf than one crammed with books at the other end of the row of bookshelves. Likewise, particular memories are like finding a particular phrase in one of those books crammed in a shelf at the farthest row of bookshelves.

In the above example, I talked about remembering one word. This is quite simple, especially in the case of a couple of seconds, but what about a list of 10 words? If after reading the list I asked you for it again in 2 seconds, your memory might not be as good. Using memory management techniques, I hope I help you to improve this short term memory, although now I am focussing on longer term memory. You need to remember these words and tell me in 5 minutes while you do other things. Quite more complex I'm sure. Once you remember them all after a 5 minute break or so, try a couple of hours. You do much much more in 2 hours than you do in 5 minutes. You could repeat this indefinately, remembering the list of words for minutes, hours, days or weeks, but the point I am trying to get to you is this:

When you are learning for a test, you need to learn for it gradually given the time you know you have. You can't go from lifting a 5kg weight to a 50kg weight straight away. I will talk about the technique I use, although it is not practical for everybody due to time restricitions.

Start with the basic underlying ideas. Spend as much time as necessary straight away to understand these early on. After a couple of hours, ensure you understand all of the underlying ideas by testing yourself and then expand on these ideas to some degree at least. After another couple of hours, retest on the underlying ideas (should take no time by now) followed by a retest on some of the expanding of those ideas. The next day, start off the way you finished yesterday because this is what you would be able to perform like if it were the test. Finish expanding on the basic concepts as much as possible and retest after a couple of hours, the next day and every couple of days after that as well as the day before and the day of the test.

Essays are a little more complex and everybody has different styles of writing. Ask your teacher (after reading through what your essay is meant to be about) anything they may have forgotten to mention such as word length. If you are finding it hard to keep to the word length, either over or under worded, it is likely that you don't know what the teacher is looking for. Ask your teacher what aspects of the topic they are looking for in the essay in particular so that you have some idea of what is not necessary. If your essay is underworded, it may be advantageous to say that you overworded your essay and you need a more precise definition of what is necessary. Make sure you can talk about what you have included in your essay thus far and mention a few different areas.

Understanding what the marker of the essay wants will give you good marks even if you are a genius and you have memorised the core textbook for the subject word for word. Some teachers like students that use vulgar language in their essay to illustrate their point such as 'politicians don't give a shit about high school students because they aren't old enough to vote'. Others find this very offensive and you may lose marks for it. In the first essay you write, try to write in a very varying style. You will find that a teacher is likely to write something like 'excellent' or 'very good' next to a piece of writing they enjoyed reading... then there are the slack teachers who will just put ticks if you've covered the point or not.

Essays need to cover a few topics which I will only highlight here for your interest

Introductory paragraph

Body of the essay (flow, content, punctuation/spelling etc)

Closing paragraph


Original Thoughts

Pictures/Diagrams (depending on the type of essay - qualitative/quantitative eg. english/math)

Remember to quote references directly as well as in the bibliography including some text and pictures/diagrams. This gives credit to the original researcher and most teachers respect this addition.

Projects are similar to essays except you go through a better defined planning stage. With essays you should basically get all the necessary content together, put the content into essay format (in your own words), rearrange the essay so it has a logical flow either as a timeline or a causal effect and add any extra information. A causal effect is when you explain one event in a novel for example by comparing to earlier events which led to that event. e.g. John Smith understood someone's sadness because he had experienced a similar event in the past.

Projects generally require planning on what will be done, what was done and what the results were. Unlike essays where you use the third-person perspective, projects often use what is sometimes called the fourth-person perspective such as "one would add the water to the mixture". You can also use the second-person to achieve a similar effect e.g. "after you mix the ingredients, you add the water to the mixture".

Projects generally require you to experience the results for yourself rather than using researching to find your answers. Once again however, the topics used in essays are also applied to projects.

Exams are really just a combination of the above. It is normally a very long test, or a very long (or combination of very small) essay(s). The only difference is that you don't do any researching. If you remember from earlier I spoke quite a bit about memory and of course this is the sequel to my memory management essay. When learning for exams, you should spend time each night revising each class and assignment so that by exam time, the questions will seem like common knowledge to you and you can almost be guaranteed a good grade.

One last thing I wish to add is that while revision is useful for end of semester or end of year exams, if you are having difficulty understanding the material in class, try prevision for classes. Even though I usually understand the content of classes, I often use prevision on a Sunday, so that when going to class on a Monday, I am familar with last week's topic as well as what the topic for the current week will be. This is also a good idea if you are in the habit of forgetting about when tests, essays and projects are due and gives you a bit of heads up to give you the time to complete them.

Note: Please comment on this essay or my previous memory management essay so that when I combine them into one essay on my website it will be more helpful to others.