7 memory skills that will make you smarter

Learning ability is probably the most important skill you can have.

Take it from Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, and Mark McDaniel, authors of “Make It Stick: The Science Of Successful Learning.”

“We need to keep learning and remembering all our lives,” they write. “Getting ahead at work takes mastery of job skills and difficult colleagues. … If you’re good at learning, you have an advantage in life.”

And to learn something is to be able to remember it, say the authors, two of whom are psychology professors at Washington University in St. Louis.

Unfortunately, lots of the techniques for learning that we pick up in school don’t help with long-term recall — like cramming or highlighting.

To get over these bad habits, we scoured “Make It Stick” for learning tips.

Here are the takeaways:

Elaboration: Connect new ideas to what you already know.

Interleaving: Varying your subjects.

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When you work on a variety of things at once, you're interleaving. If you're trying to understand a subject — from the basics of economics to hitting a pitch — you're going to learn better if you mix up your examples.

A sports case: Batters who do batting practice with a mix of fastballs, change-ups, and curveballs hit for a higher average. The interleaving helps because when you're out there in the wild, you need to first discern what kind of problem you're facing before you can start to find a solution, like a ball coming from a pitcher's hand.

Mnemonics: Use hacks to recall.

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When you're using an acronym or image to recall something, you're using a mnemonic. The hall of fame includes abbreviations -- Roy G. Biv for the colours of the spectrum (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet) -- and rhyming, like 'in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.'

'Mnemonics are not tools for learning per se,' the authors write, 'but for creating mental structures that make it easier to retrieve what you have learned.'

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