We have a lot of students that use our tutoring services for all sorts of exams. Time and again they ask us for our recommendations on the best study strategy for memory work.
Do you want to get your test completed and passed in the shortest amount of time possible? We want that for you too! Follow our instructions on how to approach memory work, and you have a great shot at getting through there.
Let’s break this down shall we?
Where to Start
First, let’s make sure that you have a basic understanding of your brain. Memory processing (as described by psychologists, not me) can include encoding, storage, and retrieval. When you’re studying for your SIE Exam, you encode what you read from your text, (ideally) store this knowledge in your memory, and finally, retrieve it when test day comes.
Ok great, so how does this help?
Well friend, it won’t come as much of a surprise that storage is often the issue so we need a way to improve it.
How do we do that?
For anyone that’s learned to dance, play music, play any sport, or knows the phrase “practice makes perfect”, you might realize repetition is key to creating expertise.
We believe that the best study strategy for memory work uses a similar approach. As a SIE Exam Tutor , I also help my students learn how to approach repetition in their studying effectively. The key to doing this, is by taking your topics in piecemeal. Whether you’re studying for the SIE, the Series 7 Top-Off, or the CFA Exam, this same approach works for every test. The reason it is so effective is because we make it very digestible.
How to Implement the Strategy
As you work through practice tests, on a piece of paper, or in a Word document, take note of every definition, regulation, or formula you cannot recall accurately (or at all).
This will create a highly customized study sheet just for you. This can’t be emphasized enough.
No other study sheet out there will so accurately encompass the content most challenging for YOU (and only you). For example, if you score a 60% on a practice test, chances are you knew 40-50% out of the 60% quite well. Maybe you guessed right on 10-20%, and then there was 40% that you totally missed.
We want you to focus on the 10-20% where you guessed, plus the 40% that you totally missed. The 40-50% that you knew will likely stick with you tomorrow, the next day, and the next week. Leave that off your study sheet. If you include everything on there, it will get overwhelming and discourage you from wanting to look at it.
How should you go about constructing your study sheet?
I recommend keeping a Word document open every time you take an online practice test (or practice questions). As you go through your practice test, copy and paste where you’re getting tripped up onto your Word document. Try to keep the definitions short and sweet (stick to the answers given to you online, rather than the massive descriptions given in the text).
Now for How to Memorize…
As mentioned above, the best study strategy when it comes to memory work is repetition. So how we recommend that you approach your study sheet (which might be 10-15 pages long, or longer) is as follows:
Step 1: Fold page one of your study sheet in half. Take the top half of the page and commit to memorizing every definition, rule, or formula until you don’t have to look down at the sheet to remember it. Know it cold! This might take 30 to 45 minutes (maybe longer) for 10-15 definitions.
Step 2: The next day, look at the second half of the folded page and memorize those items until you know them cold. Once that is complete, go back to the prior day’s list (from the top half of the sheet), and review to make sure that those are still solid. The second day will take you longer than the first since it involves review.
Step 3: On the third day, start with another half a page, review the prior two half pages from the first two days, and continue like this for the rest of the week. By the time you get to the 10th day, you will have reviewed the first day’s half page 10 times! That should be enough to make the first day’s half page fairly solid in your memory storage.
Step 4: Drop the first page from your review rotation after 10 days. Now you only review pages 2-10. Continue to drop earlier pages as you start to know them quite well. The timing on this is best left up to you, but 10 days is meant to be a rough guide.
Step 5: Not more than one week after you dropped the first page (approximately day 17), return it to the rotation to make sure that you can still recall it. Drop it again if you know it cold. Continue with this exercise until your exam and you will memorize a lot of content!
All of the above may seem like a laborious task, but it is an extremely effective way to learn definitions, rules, and formulas. It remains the best study strategy for memory work that we have seen. If you have any questions on it, please feel free to reach out! Good luck studying in the meantime!