Ed Cooke can memorize the order of a random deck of cards in 45 seconds. Crowned a Grand Master of Memory in his early twenties, Cooke wanted to figure out the very best way to learn as fast as possible. So, he co-founded Memrise, an online language learning program devoted to expedited schooling.
“Science actually hasn’t really asked the question, ‘What’s the fastest way to learn?’” Cooke told Time. “It’s discovered hundreds of things that help learning, but it hasn’t discovered the perfect recipe.”
He’s launched an online experiment where he’s commandeered five of the best learning methods, and leaves it to the public on which is best. Anyone with a couple of hours to kill can give Memprize a go, helping determine the what’s the speediest way to learn.
People play with memorization programs, tasked to learn 80 words in an obscure foreign language in an hour. Tested a week later, the winning technique will be based on how much knowledge was retained.
These are some of the tried-and-true methods chosen from the competition designed to sharpen your memory, helping you learn faster:
Take a guess
One of the best ways to remember something, despite what your teacher’s have told you, is to take a guess. “Just the act of guessing can mean that when you’re then told the answer, you remember the answer much better than if you don’t guess at all,” Cooke says.
If you’re one of those people that can’t remember names, for example, take a guess even before you know it. They’ll tell you, and you’ll probably remember the interaction.
Repeat, repeat, repeat
Repetition in memory is like practicing in pro sports. It’s the key to working out that mind, so important that the innovative ‘mega-drilling’, is becoming a thing. “You’ve got to actively recall the memory 30 times,” Cooke explained.
You might want to set aside some time for that.
Create a mnemonic
Yes, that’s a real word. Use whatever a new word sounds like or makes you think of, and you’ll remember it more. The word association connects with whatever you already know, and enriches the memory as a whole.
The last tip is a more peculiar method, taking a break in memorization. The innovative approach to memory: watching a video of waterfall for a minute.
“You’re wasting lots of time,” Cooke says. “But in the process of staring at this video of a waterfall, it calms you down and relaxes your brain and creates space, in a way, for new memories to form afterwards. Taking time out to rest your brain can actually speed you up in the long run.”
If you can’t find your car keys, and can’t remember why, you can try one of Memprize’s methods in full detail.