Why Do I Forget What I Study? | Iris Reading
Why Do I Forget What I Study

Why Do I Forget What I Study?

Why Do I Forget What I Study

Forgetting what you have studied is a common frustration for many students. 

Whether you’re in school or learning new information for work, it can be disheartening to put in the time and effort to study only to find that the information has slipped away in a short amount of time. 

Understanding why this happens can help you take steps to improve your memory and retain information more effectively.

Some reasons why you forget what you study include

  • Lack of revision and repetition
  • Lack of focus
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Memory blocks and interference
  • Lack of confidence.

Many other factors contribute to forgetfulness, but in this piece, we will look at 15 reasons why you forget what you study. 

Whether you’re looking to ace an exam or want to remember information better for your daily work life, learning about these factors and how to mitigate them will help you increase your memory capability.

1. Lack of revision and repetition

According to the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve, you will forget 90% of what you learn within one month

This means that there is a gradual decline in the amount of information retained after learning. This is because new information is typically stored in our short-term memory. Hence, to help you remember what you studied, revising and repeating the process of reading is critical.

Our brain forms memories through repetition and reinforcement, and failing to revise and repeat the learned information can lead to forgetfulness.

We recommend revising and repeating the information you have learned regularly to reinforce it in your memory. This can include:

  • Re-reading your notes
  • Practicing with flashcards
  • Discussing the information with others

The more you revise what you learned, the flatter your forgetting curve gets. 

By revisiting the notes taken at least twice during the week, you commit the learned information into your long-term memory better, retaining 80% of the material learned, which is nearly the same amount you would have forgotten if you hadn’t revised at all. 

And if you can go the extra mile by reviewing your notes at least three times during the same week of learning the new material, you can retain 90% of what you have learned in your memory until the end of the month. With this strategy, you can get a distinction on any test.

Additionally, it is essential to space out your revision sessions over time. This is known as the spacing effect, where spreading your revision sessions over time leads to better memory retention than cramming the information into a short period.

2. Lack of focus

Our ability to retain information is greatly impacted by the level of focus we have while studying. If your mind wanders or you get easily distracted, you are less likely to retain the information you are trying to learn.

Whether you are preparing for an upcoming college examination or a business presentation, It is essential to create a conducive environment that is free from distractions such as noise, social media, or other technological devices. 

Additionally, ensure that you refrain from multitasking while studying. Multitasking means you are not entirely focused on what you intend to learn.

Studies show that multitasking while studying or doing homework can negatively impact learning. When you are distracted, you will retain less information and need help applying the learned knowledge in new contexts. 

We recommend using techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness to improve focus and concentration if you find yourself getting distracted.

You can also sign up for our Personal Productivity course. This course teaches students and professionals how to stay focused and limit distractions. It shows you how multitasking affects your brain and productivity and provides you with simple strategies to boost your productivity.

3. Fear of examination and anxiety

Fear of examination and anxiety is one of the main reasons why people forget what they learned. 

During final exams, students are under pressure to perform well and score high grades due to intense competition. This leads to situations where the focus is on remembering information to compete with your peers rather than gaining knowledge.

When we are in a stressful situation, like the final exams, our bodies release stress hormones, such as cortisol, which interfere with memory retrieval. This is why you might find it challenging to recall information during exams or other high-pressure situations. 

To mitigate the effects of anxiety on memory, you can adopt healthy coping mechanisms, such as deep breathing and mindfulness, to calm the mind and reduce stress. 

Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep can also help to reduce anxiety and improve your comprehension ability.

4. Sleep deprivation

Examine your sleep hours if you find it challenging to remember what you studied. Perhaps you need to get enough sleep. 

Studies show that people who are sleep deprived perform worse on memory tests than those who have had sufficient rest. 

Many students tend to ignore this area of their lives, but sleep plays a critical role in consolidating memories, strengthening the connections between neurons in the brain, and improving productivity. When we don’t get enough sleep, our ability to recall information can be impaired. 

Additionally, sleep deprivation can lead to a decline in cognitive function, making it harder to concentrate and retain information while studying. 

To combat the effects of sleep deprivation, it is essential to prioritize getting enough sleep each night. Seven to nine hours of sleep every day can help improve memory and overall cognitive function. 

It is also helpful to set a regular sleep schedule, avoid taking caffeine and other stimulants before bedtime, and create a relaxing sleep environment.

5. Memory blocks and interference

Memory blocks and interference can also contribute to forgetfulness. Memory blocks occur when we struggle to recall information that we previously learned. 

This can be due to several factors, including lack of attention, poor encoding, or simply forgetting to retrieve the information when needed because similar information keeps coming to mind instead. 

On the other hand, interference occurs when new information conflicts with previously learned information, making it challenging to recall either piece of information. 

There are two types of interference: 

  • Proactive 
  • Retroactive

Proactive interference occurs when previously learned information interferes with the recall of new information. On the other hand, Retroactive interference occurs when new knowledge interferes with the recall of previously learned information. 

To overcome memory blocks and interference, it is helpful to use techniques such as spaced repetition to reinforce memory, memory palace, and chunking to organize information, making them easier to recall.  

A tool you can use to speed your learning process, reading speed, and comprehension when implementing the spaced repetition strategy is the Iris Reading’s AccelaReader. Just copy and paste the material into the box and set the start rate.

6. Lack of confidence

Lack of confidence can also be a reason you forget what you study. 

When you lack confidence in your ability to recall information, you may not put in the effort required to retain the information in the first place. This leads to poor comprehension development and a negative cycle of forgetfulness and self-doubt. 

Furthermore, a lack of confidence can also impact your motivation to study or develop good study habits that help you memorize and recall information learned. This leads to poor performance during exams or other high-pressure situations. 

But what could be the reasons for the lack of confidence?

Lack of confidence can be a result of

  • Performance anxiety
  • Negative self-image
  • Self-doubt
  • Fear of failure
  • Lack of preparation

Developing confidence by implementing early preparation to overcome this challenge is crucial. Remember the saying that goes, “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” In this case, if you fail to prepare, then be prepared to fail.” 

Nothing overcomes a lack of confidence better than being prepared for a test, exam, or business meeting. 

While preparing, ensure that you practice recalling the information you want to remember, test yourself, and review the learned material regularly. This will help improve your memory and build confidence in your recall of information. 

In addition, it is helpful to build a positive self-image of yourself and realize that everyone forgets, as studies show. Adopt a growth mindset, embrace mistakes as opportunities for learning, and focus on the process of improvement rather than perfection.

Do you want to improve your memory? Check out our Maximizing Memory Course. This course will teach you practical techniques to remember what you read and memorize critical information. Ideal for students and professionals.

7. Failure to pay attention in class

Another reason students forget what they study is their lack of attention during classes. 

When we don’t give our full attention to a lecture or reading material, our brain doesn’t process the information effectively, leading to forgetfulness. 

This can be due to many reasons, including a lack of interest in the subject taught and distractions. 

To combat this, it’s crucial to actively engage in a class by taking notes, practicing active learning by asking questions, and participating in discussions. 

It’s also helpful to eliminate distractions by turning off your phone while studying. Focusing your attention, taking notes, and deliberately engaging with the material will increase your chances of learning and retaining information and reduce the likelihood of forgetfulness.

8. Inappropriate learning routine

An effective strategy to help you remember what you’ve learned is to study it again before bed and after waking. Failing to implement this strategy is one reason you forget.

The human brain processes and consolidates information learned during sleep, making sleep a critical time for memory formation and consolidation. 

Studying before bed and shortly after you wake up can help reinforce what you’ve learned and make the information easier to recall. 

Also, after reviewing the material, avoid engaging in any activity that can interfere with your sleep, such as using your mobile device or drinking caffeine. Instead, create a relaxing sleep environment and engage in calm activities that can help promote restful sleep and improve memory. 

Incorporate this strategy into your daily routine, and see your days of forgetfulness become a thing of the past. Your memory retention will improve, and you will achieve better academic performance.

9. Failing to take breaks

Studies have shown that taking breaks during study sessions can improve memory and overall cognitive function. 

Taking breaks can help reduce fatigue, increase focus, and promote creativity. Also, taking breaks allows you to step away from the material, allowing your mind to process the information and consolidate memories. 

When studying, it’s crucial to avoid reading for long periods and, instead, take regular breaks and engage in light physical activity or mind-refreshing activities. 

We recommended taking a 5-minute break for every 25-50 minutes of study. An excellent technique to use in taking breaks is the Pomodoro technique.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time-management approach that divides work into focused 25-minute intervals, separated by five-minute breaks. After four consecutive intervals, longer breaks of 15 to 30 minutes are taken. 

Every 25 minutes of work is referred to as a “Pomodoro,” derived from the Italian word for tomato.

By taking breaks, you avoid burnout, increase your focus, especially if you have a low attention span, create a more effective and sustainable study routine, reduce forgetfulness, and improve your ability to recall what you study.

10. Not testing yourself in environments similar to the exam environment

Another reason students may forget what they study is failure to test themselves in environments similar to the exam environment. 

Our memory and ability to recall information can be influenced by the context in which we learned it. Therefore, it’s essential to practice recalling information in a similar environment to the one in which you’ll be tested. 

This can involve creating mock exams or practice tests or studying in a similar environment to the one in which you’ll be taking your exam. Doing this will help strengthen your memory and increase the likelihood of retaining information on exam day. 

Additionally, testing yourself regularly throughout your study period will help identify gaps in your knowledge and allow you to address them before the final exam.

11. Not knowing your learning style

Everyone has a unique learning style, and it’s important to understand your strengths and preferences to study effectively. Some people are visual learners, others are auditory learners, and some may prefer hands-on or kinesthetic learning. 

By recognizing your preferred learning style, you can tailor your study methods to match your strengths, making it easier to retain information. For example, visual learners may benefit from creating flashcards or diagrams, while auditory learners may prefer recording lectures or practicing with a partner. 

Additionally, understanding your learning style can help you identify study habits that may not be as effective for you. For example, a visual learner may struggle with lectures that are mostly auditory. 

Acknowledging your learning style and adjusting to your personal study routine can improve memory retention and reduce forgetfulness.

12. Lack of good study habits

Effective study habits, such as setting aside dedicated study time, reviewing material regularly, and using various methods to reinforce information, are crucial to retaining information and avoiding forgetfulness. 

Students who fail to keep good study habits can fall behind in their understanding of the material and will struggle to recall information when needed. 

To establish good study habits, it’s important to have a structured study routine, use different study methods to reinforce information, and review material regularly, even after it has been learned. 

By keeping good study habits, students can improve their memory retention and reduce the likelihood of forgetfulness.

13. Failing to scrutinize, connect, and elaborate

Failing to scrutinize, connect, and elaborate on the information you’re studying can also contribute to forgetfulness. Learning is not a static activity; your brain constantly tries to connect what you’re learning and what you already know. 

Scrutinizing the information, connecting it to existing knowledge, and elaborating on the details can help strengthen your memory and improve your understanding of the material. 

For example, ask yourself why, what, and how questions when studying. By examining the details of the information using why, what, and how questions, you allow your brain to better grasp what you’re learning. 

This helps create a framework for your learning and improve your memory retention. Moreover, linking new information with what you already know can assist the brain in remembering the similarities between processes.

14. Unhealthy nutrition or diet

You may find it funny, but it s true. Our diet can contribute to our ability to learn and remember what we learned.

Our brain requires essential nutrients and vitamins to function correctly, and an unhealthy diet can negatively impact your ability to focus, which affects your ability to retain information.

Studies have indicated that a diet high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and processed foods can decrease memory function and concentration. In contrast, a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids can improve memory function and concentration.

It is important to eat a balanced diet that provides your brain with the essential nutrients it needs to function correctly. 

15. Failing to teach what you’ve learned

The final reason you forget what you study we will share in this piece, is failing to teach what you’ve learned.

Teaching someone else what you’ve just learned can help solidify the information in your mind and make it easier to remember in the future.

When you teach someone else, you have to think about the information differently, making connections and explaining the material in your own words and in a way that the other person can understand. 

This process helps you to understand the information better, as well as make the information more memorable.

Additionally, when you teach someone else, you are likely to encounter questions or gaps in your knowledge, which can help you identify areas you need to review or study further. 

Reviewing the material this way will reinforce your memory of the information and make it easier to remember in the future.

Takeaway: Understanding the causes of forgetting what you study

Forgetting what we study is a common problem that can be caused by various factors, including failing to pay attention in class, not testing ourselves in environments similar to the exam environment, failing to keep good study habits, and lack of focus, as discussed in this piece. 

Understanding why we forget is critical to improving memory retention and studying smarter. 

Whether you’re a student or professional looking to improve your memory retention and study habits, remember to focus on the material, engage with the material, get adequate sleep, keep proper study habits, and eat healthily. 

Following all the study tips mentioned in this piece will help you reduce forgetfulness and increase your chances of retaining information. 

Do you want to improve your ability to remember what you study and ace any exam, business presentation, or seminar? Check out our Maximizing Memory and Advanced Comprehension & Memory Courses.

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  • Rudolph osapanin

    The information had been very helpful and on point.at 49 i am experiencing all the same problems you highlighted.