How to study for my psychology exams? Part 3 - Strategies to improving memory

In this post, we will look at some techniques that will help in improving your memory for storing your exam information. The list is extensive and can consist of anything you can think of, so this is just a short list of ideas that you can try to use.

Before you read any further, please make sure you read on the preparation for exams and recognition/recall for different types of exams. If you have not prepared well for your exams, the suggested techniques would not be as effective. These techniques are based on cognitive psychology, where we learnt about encoding and retrieval in the chapter of Memory. Hence this is what this post is all about: Encoding and Retrieval. 

Strategy 1: Levels of Processing Model (Craik &Lockhart, 1972)
Are you doing encoding, just purely by rote memory, or do you go into a deeper level of processing where you think about the information in a different way, creating associations and connections to what you already know or learnt?
Conclusion: The deeper the level of processing, the easier the information is to recall.

Strategy 2: Serial order effect (Ebbinghaus, 1913)
I believe you would definitely have read or studied about the serial order effect, which the two main effects are the primacy and recency effect in retrieval.
Question is: How can these effects be applied to studying for exams?
Answer: For coordination of timing of study sessions

Imagine counting from today (30th Nov), you have two exams on 10th (Subject A) and 13th (Subject B) Dec respectively. So how are you going to plan your revision days from today till then?
Suggestion 1: Take the first 4 days (till 4 Dec) to study everything you can for Subject B, then the next 5 days (till exam on 10 Dec) to study Subject A, and come back to revise for Subject B again between the exam days. This creates the primacy effect for Subject B, and recency effect for Subject A.
Suggestion 2:  Create blocks of 3 days from today till 10th Dec. Revise Subject A for the first 3 days (till 3rd Dec), and then Subject B for the second block (till 6th Dec), and then followed by Subject A for the remainder of days. Obviously, finish off with Subject B between the exam days. This creates a repeated pattern where relearning takes place the second time you go through the material, and hence will increase your memory with the recency effect done on the subjects.

Strategy 3: Use of retrieval cues and mnemonic devices
Retrieval cues are cues of associated information put in place that help you to regain complex memories for later use, while mnemonic devices are memory aid strategies that aid encoding in special ways, such as associating locations (things in your bedroom) with a list of things you want to remember (method of loci) or forming mental images to link the information that you wish to memorize (peg system). In both mnemonic methods, a new piece of information gets pegged to something that is already known.
Using these retrieval cues and mnemonic devices, they help in both MCQ, short-answer and essay-answer exams. However the important thing is that you have to remember the specific cues that you used to create the association. It is just like a key for the room of information you locked away in your long-term memory, and often, the associations that you formed at the time of learning are typically the most effective retrieval cues.

Strategy 4: SPAR method (Kalat, 2010)
Survey – get an overview of the material.  (See Step 4 of Part 2: Preparation)
Process meaningfully – read the material carefully and think about how it relates to your other knowledge and experiences. (see Strategy 1 above)
Ask questions – use the review questions included with the material, or create your own and answer them.
Review – wait a day or so, and retest yourself. (see Strategy 2 above)
This is the whole general idea of revision, from the first day you start your revision for your exams. However,  asking questions, though not been covered before, may be the strongest step in the SPAR method. This is because asking and answering others' questions is a very good reinforcer of memory, using both the encoding and retrieval techniques.

Hope you will try out these strategies! And good luck for your exams!

Make sure you read Part 1 and 2 as well!!!

Specialisations of Diploma programs in Singapore


The GCE 'O' Levels have just finished recently, and students would be getting their results and applying to get into their diploma programs in mid-January next year. So this would be a good post for students who are planning to do a psychology diploma next year.

Looking back at the posts, I noticed that though I have done a comparison of Bachelors programs (which is the most viewed post! Thank you!), but I have not done a comparison of Diploma programs. That would be a really difficult post to write, as there are a lot of psychology diploma programs around (private and non-private), so the focus of this post would be on the specialisations of the programs. If there is a diploma based only on general psychology (or applied psychology or psychological studies), it would be reflected by "No.Spec". 

Non-Private ProgramsSP: Applied Drama / Human Resource Management
NP: Early Childhood / No.Spec
TP: No.Spec
RP: Consumer Behaviour and Research / Human Resource Management with Psychology

Private Programs(In alphabetical order)
For the list of courses, please see this link from CPE or search via this link using the keyword of "psychology" in the Course Search and selecting all the different diplomas for the Course Level.
ACC School of Counselling and Psychology: Counselling Psychology / Psychotherapy / No.Spec
Arium School of Arts and Sciences: Child Psychology / Counselling Psychology / Educational Psychology / Sports Psychology / Organisational Psychology / No.Spec
Aventis School of Management: No.Spec
Beacon International College: Counselling Psychology
College of Allied Educators: Learning Disorders Management / Child Psychology / Counselling Psychology / No.Spec
East Asia Institute of Management: Counselling Psychology / No.Spec
ERC Institute: Business Psychology
MDIS: No.Spec
SHRI Academy: Organisational Psychology
SMF Institute of Higher Learning: Counselling Psychology / Early Childhood Psychology
The School of Positive Psychology: Positive Psychology (Applied) / Positive Business Psychology
TMC Academy: No.Spec / Counselling

Finally, they are all here; a total of 43 private diploma programs (49 programs including those from the polytechnics) as at 23 November 2012! But the blog author do not guarantee the quality of any of the above diplomas, or indicate any benefits or disadvantages of having a psychological diploma with no specialisations or one with multiple specialisations. Please also take note that diploma programs are also awarded by the respective institutions and there are no accreditation by any accrediting bodies. You will have to do the evaluation yourself, based on these two posts: this and this post. 

SGPsychStud: Seriously?? Psychology??

I have always been writing posts that promote psychology, and it seems like now is the time to be critical and think about the opposite direction as well.
Yes you want to do psychology and may be suitable for psychology, but is psychology really a good choice?

If you think it through, actually psychology doesn't seem like a very good choice. This can be supported by the following reasons (and their respective links):

Studying Psychology
  1. It is difficult to get into a psychology program in a local  university.
  2. You have to learn everything in psychology in the first few years, a lot of which you may not like or may not use at all in the future.
  3. You have to read a lot, and even do statistics in most psychology programs.
  4. With a psychology undergraduate degree or diploma, they are just general degrees.
  5. It takes too much time and years (and maybe $$$ too), and usually requires more than just a bachelors degree to be a psychologist.
  6. It is even harder to get into an Honours program and/or a Masters program.
  7. You have to go overseas to study if you wish to specialise in anything other than clinical, educational or counselling psychology.
Being a Psychologist
  1. Other than just having a Masters, you need to have 1000 hours of placement/job attachment to qualify for registration as a psychologist.
  2. You will be restricted by a strict code of ethics if you wish to be a psychologist.
  3. Even after you have become a psychologist, you are required to do 30 Professional Development hours every year.
  4. It may not really give a good-paying career, even you finish your Masters.
  5. If you can't get your Masters degree, you can't be a psychologist; with only a Honours degree which is considered as a Bachelors degree, you may not be able to get the job that you want as it has an academic requirement of Masters.
  6. Recognition and prestige of psychologists in Singapore is not as good as in other countries.
  7. Psychological specialties, other than clinical psychology, are not under scrutiny by the Singapore Law (Allied Health Professionals Act). Update: This has not been enforced till today since the passing of the Act.
So you still want to study psychology?

Disclaimer: This post is written based on the author's point of view, and may not be a true reflection of what is happening.