The Study Dude—Memorization Techniques

The Cookbook Continues!

Over the last four weeks, I’ve written cookbooks for writing essays.  Today, it’s time to focus on memorization for exams.  After all, memorization is perhaps the top vehicle for testing student knowledge.

If you are striving for an A+, tricks and tips for memorizing facts are must haves.

We all love recipes for success, so how about one for memorization?

The only ingredients needed for this recipe are an imagination, a cell phone voice recorder, a computer, paper, printer, and optionally a study buddy.

Here are strategies for memorization to help you ace exam after exam:

  • Highlight all the facts and definitions in the assigned chapters of your textbooks. Alternatively, you can underline them with pencil and later erase them.  That way, you’ll preserve the quality of the book.
  • Similarly, highlight all the facts and definitions in your class notes, assuming you have a lecture style class.
  • Type the highlighted facts and definitions in your computer. This is step one of memorization: repetition.
  • Try to organize your facts and definitions under headings. This clustering of similar ideas will help anchor the memorization into a somewhat logical order.
  • Print out your sheets of facts and definitions.
  • Read them out loud three to five times a day, or more, depending on how much time you have prior to the exam. Start studying for your exam as soon as it gets assigned.  Better yet, pretend a pop quiz might happen daily and prepare accordingly.
  • Get a buddy or use your microphone to attempt to recite your pages of facts, item by item, repeating from the top of the list as soon as a mistake is made.
  • Use wild visual imagery to memorize your facts and definitions. If you need to memorize a fact from Chinese history in 1788, imagine a Buddha on a piano (which has 88 keys).  Make a note of what the visual represents beside the fact or definition.
  • If you’ve got a group of like terms to memorize, take the first letter or a major keyword’s first letter and create a funny or memorable mnemonic tool. For instance, a group of terms with the first letter of major keywords could be “P.P.L.M” You could memorize this as “Plump.”
  • Another way to use acronyms as mnemonics is to make a memorable sentence from them. For instance, “P.P.L.M” could end up as “Pretty Please, Love Mama.” Just try to find an association between the acronym mnemonic and the topic.  For instance, if the topic is Hitler’s four top strategies (with the list of strategy first letters spelling PPLM), visualize his mom begging him to scrap his strategies with a note signed, “Pretty please, love Mama.”
  • As for dates and numbers to memorize, you can look up a system for memorizing these online. Here is one online example of a date and number mnemonic:–The-Major-System-for-memorizing-numbers.
  • Keep reading your facts and definitions printout daily. Close your eyes and try to recite each fact and definition from memory.  Immediately open your eyes after each one to see if you’re correct.  If you’re wrong, say out loud the actual definition or fact five times in a row.
  • You’re ready when you can see a word or two from each entry in your list and say out loud the rest from memory.
  • Most people say to stop studying the day before the exam. I say otherwise.  Take your list with you on the bus and read the definitions to yourself.  I increased my grade by at least 10% for one final exam by taking this last-minute extra study approach.

Once you learn a variety of memorization techniques, your grades will bolster and exam anxiety will abate.

But how do you take notes if you’re attending a live lecture? That, my friend, is the subject of another Cookbook.