We use cookies to improve your online experience. To learn more please refer to ourPrivacy & Cookie Policy.

Sorry but this form will not work without cookies enabled. Please adjust your browser settings to enable cookies to continue. For more information on how to do this please see ourPrivacy & Cookie Policy.

  • A Warm Welcome

    Situated in the heart of a thriving expat community, our school is home to families from all over the world


  • Academic Success

    Delivering oustanding results at every level in our school

    Young students reading book

  • Helping Others Thrive

    We believe passionately in learning, and our modern approach to education continues to help our students shine

    Teacher helping student

  • Be Ambitious

    Inspiring academic success & developing social, intellectual and confident children

    Classroom scene

  • Support & Guidance

    We look forward to seeing you at the British International School, Puxi and welcoming you and your family to our special community

    Young children in class

  • News & Views

    Stay in touch with all that is taking place in our school and our community

    Boys playing badminton

  • Get in Touch

    We like talking about education and children. You can get in touch with our admissions team by phone,skype or e-mail, or by calling in to see us

    Older students with laptops

The Science Behind Memory

07 May 2015

Chris Share, Head of Secondary: Memory is something we are either proud of or need to work on constantly. At this time of year, with students cramming for exams, memory is of course a vital skill needed for success. 

While we always encourage students to learn and use flexible thinking skills, there are times when there is no substitute for having learned and remembered key information. This blog post follows on from my previous posts which have covered exam skills, stress busting and focusing skills.

Students are taught memory skills in school in a variety of different ways, ranging from mnemonics (remembering key words that have associated meanings), chunking (breaking big problems into smaller more digestible pieces - think of how you remember a phone number), or by smell, touch, taste, hearing and seeing.

Aiding and training your brain to improve its ability to remember things is something we can all do. I have listed below some key tips to help improve memory.  

  1. We simply don’t need our brains to remember every single piece of information about what happens every day. If it did, your head would explode! The key to memory is to transfer the details of what you want to remember from what is known as short term memory, to long term memory. It is better to build up memory with repetition and by checking the learning over longer and longer periods of time. First, focus on remembering something, then test yourself 10 minutes later.  If you forgot anything, test yourself again in an hour and then again a day later. This is known as the spacing effect. The bigger the gaps between information being retrieved the stronger the ability to remember it. This is an evolution of the repetitious learning that is still necessary today and has been practised in traditional schooling through the centuries.
  2. A key part of how our memory works is that we remember what we find difficult. This is a well-respected piece of research underlined by the psychologist Daniel Willingham, who researched and wrote the book ‘Why don’t students like school?’  His analysis of brain and memory concluded that anything that is too easy to understand, the brain effectively does not bother to store into long term memory, as there is no need. This is important for revision, as simply re-reading notes is too easy, there needs to be an element of challenge and thought that goes into ‘working’ things into memory. A favourite quote often heard from Daniel Willingham is “memory is the residue of thought”. Being made to think about something helps you to remember it.
  3. A lot of memory tips seem to contradict what you might think is the best way of doing things. When trying to remember information it is best to interweave content from different areas. Instead of having a day simply studying history, it is actually better for students to have 50 minutes on history, 50 minutes on biology and 50 minutes on English. In the midst of these chunks it is also acceptable at times to completely change tack and test yourself on something else, Therefore 20 minutes into revising geography set yourself a 5 challenge based on maths. This way of learning is slower, but deeper. In other words, it lasts.
  4. A simple and successful motto for successful people is related to asking ‘Why?’. Getting yourself to explain why things happen helps to create a chain of understanding in memory. Asking your children to explain why something is as it is, challenges and reinforces the understanding of a piece of knowledge.

It is a well-worn school and management technique to reflect, review and plan ahead. Reviewing regularly the things that you find critical to remember or know, will ensure that in the long run you will remember these key things.

For us adults, in the realms of everyday life we have email reminders, alarms and calendars to help us be in the right place doing the right things. For our students in exams this is not an option.  Also do remember the simplest of memory rules, especially in the hot weather that has arrived, is to stay hydrated. There is undeniable scientific proof that your brain being hydrated increases brain function and boosts memory. Therefore, drinking plenty of water helps you and your child to function more effectively.

Have a great weekend and good luck with the revision!

- Chris Share, Head of Secondary


Virtual Tour

The British International School Shanghai, Puxi

111 Jinguang RoadHuacao TownMinhang201107Shanghai


金光路111号华漕镇上海市 闵行区201107

Nord Anglia Education

4th Floor, Nova South
160 Victoria Street
LondonUnited Kingdom

General Enquiries +86 021 5226 3211

Admissions +86 21 6221 7542