UPSC Preparation : Boost Your Retention Power

UPSC Civil service exam is considered as one of the toughest exams of the world. With never-ending syllabus spanning varied fields of study and different stages of the exam, learning a lot of facts, figures & concepts becomes an imperative exercise. There is, therefore, no second thoughts in saying that the candidate who has good retentive power and ability to reproduce facts and concepts at right time has a definite edge over others in this exam. But the best part is that with certain steps retention and memorizing capacity of mind can be increased and made more efficient. Today we will be sharing a few tips on how you can increase your retention strength and how you can train your mind to reproduce right points/facts at the right time. So, let’s get started.

1: - Interactive learning:

Interactive learning can increase your memorizing power exponentially. Have you ever wondered why you remember the movie story you watched in the theatre for such a long time and that too by just watching it once? While when you read a chapter in a book, you almost instantly lose it the next day. Now firstly this is completely normal. When learning is supplemented with audio-visual aids (as in the case of a movie) the brain tends to retain it longer. It also projects its own imagination making you remember scenes more lucidly (for instance you weep in an emotional scene or get angry at some act of the villain). While reading a book this imagination and emotions don’t come into play, so the brain is not active for most of the part and you miss what you read the next day. Interactive learning can enhance the way you learn. Even if you don’t have any audio-visual aid, you can let your imagination run wild while going through any topic. Just find the ways you can fit the data you are reading in your imagination (In an interview I learned a student using cartoons to remember the polity chapters). You can also go for visual aids like maps or pictures on topics. Use Google to see the pictures or some short movies or some other ways. For instance, you can see some good pictures or documentaries on Freedom struggle (everyone remembers Mangal Pandey, because of Amir Khan isn’t that right). You can also try mnemonic techniques like abbreviations, acronyms, and other such learning techniques to improve retention.

2: - Repetition is the key:

Our brain is wired so to retain only those habits or procedures which are necessary for survival. That way any new information which is not considered vital is generally discarded. But if repeated and again it gets fed into the subconscious mind and becomes a habit. Learning is based on the same principle. If we repeat the same information, again and again, the brain takes note of it and stores it diligently so that it could be retrieved later. So, you need to revise a concept again and again to make a long-lasting memory of it. The best way of doing it to follow 1week: 1month: 3-month revision pattern. For instance, if you have gone through some fact, revise it after a week, then revise it after a month and then after 3 months.

3: - Get the best of Group dynamics (Teaching-student learning):

Participate more and more in group study sessions. Have a good group where you can have a healthy debate environment. It will help you learn the topics more deeply and thoroughly. You will be able to get different perspectives on topics and issues. In Group you can act both as a teacher as well as the student. For some topic, you might find someone else having better points and therefore learn from him, while you can share more on the topic where you have a better grasp which will enhance your confidence as well as retention on the topic.

4: - Active learning:

Rather than passive learning, you should go for active learning. In passive learning, one goes on reading and reading without testing oneself while active learning is all about retrieving from mind what has been learned earlier. The best form of it is practicing questions. For Prelims do a lot of MCQs and appear for a lot test series. For mains go for extensive answer writing on topics you read every day. That way you will train your brain to efficiently and effectively retrieve the information required in question.

The attention span of our mind is very short. So, it’s better to keep the study sessions short & intense and have regular breaks to get over the study induced fatigue. But again, you need to make sure that breaks are not compromising on the study. So, consistency with the study sessions is also important. You can go for the general rule of 1 ½ study session and 15 mins break thereafter.

5: - Write More Often:

Writing the things, you want to memorize also helps in achieving a better retention. It will also inculcate a good habit of writing more and more which again is a must to crack the civil service exam. Writing doesn’t mean that you reproduce whatever you read but it means you write it in your own words according to your own understanding.

So, these are few of the tips to have better retention of the concepts/points/topics you go through. It is as much applicable for other competitive exams as for civil services. Matter of fact these things will help you in becoming a better professional in whatever field you are pursuing. Finally, I would like you people to try these tips out earnestly and I’m sure that you will see a massive boost in your memorizing capabilities.

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