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Recall Techniques

Author: Pencil Case  Date: 13 July 2018

Memory + recall = A winning combination

Memory and recall are two parts of a whole that should be practised together. Memory techniques can help retain information in your long term memory. However, every time you recall a piece of information, the neural connections are strengthened. If you want to have lasting knowledge then recall, and recall often.

Here are some ideas that will get you recalling like a champion.

Challenging friends - An annoying yet fun game you can play with your friends is to challenge each other to recite information. You could agree that at random, you will ring each other, or when you see each other one will give a challenge to the other such as "list 7 key dates in the rise of Stalin". You can use the same list over and over again. The key is to try and get faster and more accurate every time.

Cue cards - Using a system of cue cards, or flash cards, is a fun way to improve recall. You take a small palm card, perhaps 10cm wide and 5cm high. On one side, write down a question that you need to know the answer to e.g. "what is the longest bone in the body?" Or, "what are the 11 significant dates leading up to the industrial revolution?" On the reverse of the card you write the answer. Repeat this process with as many pieces of information you need to remember. Now, one by one, go through the cards asking yourself the question and saying the answer. Turn the card over and see if you are correct. If you were right put the card in an "I know it" pile. If you don't, put the card in an "I don't know it" pile. By all means review the "I know it pile", but spend most of your time reviewing the "I don't know it" pile. Slowly, the "I don't know it" item will move to the "I know it pile". The key to rapid recall is to race yourself. Let's say that you start with 25 cards and it takes you two minutes to answer the 25 questions. Next time, try to answer all 25 questions in 1 minute and 50 seconds. Keep speeding up until you can recite all 25 questions and answers in around 30 to 40 seconds.

Flip lists - Write down a list of information on a piece of paper. Read through the list to try and memorise it. Then, turn the piece of paper over and try to write out the list from memory. Turn the piece of paper back and look at what you got right and what you got wrong. Focus your study on the areas you were not able to remember and repeat the process until you can remember the whole list. This technique is good for formulae, diagrams and general information.

Recordings - Using your phone to record MP3s is a great way to study and practise your recall. Simply make up recordings of the information you need to remember. Phrase the information as questions, and leave a pause so you can answer. Listen to it in the car, on the bus to school or play it in the background when you are cleaning your room. A word of warning, you will soon discover that your own voice is the most boring thing you have ever heard so here are a couple of ideas.

  1. Use someone else's voice i.e. get your boyfriend/girlfriend or mum/brother etc. to do the recording for you.
  2. Break up the tape by having 3 minutes of questions then record a favourite song.
  3. Don't just read information onto the recording. Read questions, have a short pause, then read the answer. This way you can practice your recall by actually reacting to the questions on the tape then getting immediate feedback as to whether you were right or not. Reacting is also more interesting than just listening.

Timed practice - Timed practice means timing how long it takes you to recall information and then trying to beat that time. You might have an entire essay you are trying to remember or a variety of other information that you can practice getting quicker at. Set yourself a time limit that matches exam conditions and attempt an essay in exam time.


Ones of the keys to excellent memory is being able to recall the information effectively. The main way to improve your recall is by practising it at great speed. If you practice remembering it more quickly, your brain will get good at retrieving the information efficiently.

Write the following five questions down and look away from the screen. How fast can you recall the answers?

  1. What is the capital of Hungary? Budapest

  2. What are the 5 biggest countries in the world in order? Russia, Canada, China, USA, Brazil and Australia.

  3. Somalia shares a border with which three countries? Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

  4. Which direction is India's tectonic plate travelling? North.

  5. Tibet is under which countries' rule? China.

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