Getting those Theories into our Heads.

It is important that students can quickly reconstruct the theories that have been taught in the subject. This is obvious, however some students make the mistake of not practicing how to reconstruct the theories. These are students who have focused simply on reading in their study rather than reading and writing.

As part of a students preparation, they need to work out ways to easily reconstruct theories.

For some exams we are allowed to take in notes. In others we must simply rely on our memory.

Remembering the theory

So, how do you remember complex models or frameworks?

One method is to develop a sentence or paragraph where you use the first letter or the first syllable of each word to remind you of part of the model. This is a type of "Phonetic Recall." "Phonetics" is a term describing sounds in our speech. Here we use sounds in our speech to help us "recall" or remember things.

Here are two examples;

Example 1.

We will use "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs", a famous theory about prioritising human needs developed by an American psychologist; Abraham Maslow.

This may be a theory that the student needs to use to answer a question in their exam. They first need to be able to reconstruct the theory and then apply it to the information they are analysing. This is a good example where I believe students should practice drawing it out many times as you study for the exam (Rote learning).

I recommend that students develop a saying to help them remember all the elements. For example, to remember all the levels you could use a saying like; "Peter is Sure that Leo Belongs East of Seattle." This stupid sentence is easy for me to remember, then as I say it I write the first letter of each word next to the levels of the triangle and this helps me remember what the levels are called.

You can then do the same thing to remember each of the elements inside each of the levels.

Example 2.

A complex thing for chemistry students is to learn the periodic table. Many students need to learn all 118 elements.

You can use this memory technique to reconstruct it. For example "He Hasn't Left Because Barry Can Not Offer Frank's New ....." This sentence gives you reminders of the first 2 rows of the table.

I recommend that students practice writing out the theories and frameworks of your subject many times as you study for your exam. For the more complex ones, this memory technique can help you remember what they are.

Students can come up with their own sentences using things from their own life; names, places, songs etc.

The structure of the theory

When we are taught a new theory or structure in class it is often presented in a particular format like a table or a diagram. I recommend that students practice memorising it in this same format. The format will in fact help them to remember it. In the examples above the triangle used for Maslow's theory helps us remember while it is very important for the Periodic Table to be laid out in this manner as many chemistry concepts are wrapped up in this table shape.