The Study Dude—Memorization Should Be Playtime

The Cookbook Continues!

Over the last two weeks, I showed you how to read a textbook and take notes, but this week we’re going to have fun. Yes, memorization is meant to be playtime, especially if you let your humor and imagination go wild. Of course, some memorization strategies are more enjoyable than others, but here is a list of strategies to get you memorizing for top grades.

For this recipe, you need rolls of nickels, a jar, notes, cue cards, pens, a recording device, and a Scrabble Board (optionally).

Imagine wild imagery. If you need to memorize a king named Peter’s birth in the 19th century, for example, then one way might be to imagine a pregnancy by a person you once knew named Peter. Imagine him giving birth at a hospital to a baby that pops out with a t-shirt that says “Ageless! Always 19.” You get the idea.

Use cue cards. You can transfer your notes on cue cards. Put a question on the front and an answer on the back.  If you can, rewrite all your notes in question-and-answer format. Read them aloud repetitively until you’re ready to recite them from memory. Then reward yourself a nickel for each one you get right and remove a nickel for each one you get wrong. After memorizing, spend your boon.

Read your notes repetitively until you can cover most of them up and recite from memory. Use the above reward system.

Create acronyms. Take the first letter of keywords on each item in a list. Scramble these first letter until you can create a word out of them.  FNYBD could be “FuNnY BirD.”  And if you like board games, play Scrabble as it may help hone your mastery of creating acronyms. Even better, add a wild visual to the funny bird that helps you memorize the associated concepts. If the FNYBD refers to a list related to stochastic variables, imagine a funny stork flying while holding a net carrying the letter “x” wearing a diaper. The letter X (a variable), in its diaper, cries out, “I’ve been CAST as a STOw-away” (for STOCHASTIC variable). But be sure to document your visual mnemonic.

Better still, create acronyms but make funny sentences out of them. FNYBD could be rearranged as “Five Nannies Bought Dirty Yo-yos.” Imagine them with their yo-yo’s CASTing spells over a pot of STew (“stew-cast-ic variables”).

Type up your notes repetitively until you don’t need to type them up anymore.

Read your notes aloud.

Record yourself reading your notes and play the recording on loop all night as you sleep.

Create rhymes where they make sense. For instance, you could say, “Brine goes with wine. Celery goes with brie” if you’re a chef and need to associate these ideas. Or you could say, in “2001 the Diamond Mine Co. faced the bankruptcy gun.” Yes, you can force a rhyme where needed.

Create a song. Take your rhyme and sing it. The sound if your voice singing will reinforce your memorization of the concepts.

For math or science problems, refer to the solutions, then do the entire problem set in full, not looking at the solutions until at the very end. Think through and correct any mistakes. Then repeat until you get all the problems correct.

Don’t cram. Better still, do cram. If you work best while cramming, then study at great lengths each day throughout the year and then cram in extra hard just before the exam. This strategy will make your cram session the icing on the cake.

Teach someone your skills. If you’re bold, get an inexpensive lighting set from Amazon, a cellphone tripod, and record yourself teaching the info and post on YouTube. You can get more sophisticated as you go along. You’ll gain at least three skills: (1) the knowledge gain, (2) the ability to teach, and (3) a marketing skill.

Also missing from last week’s article is the benefit of taking the end of chapter list of concepts or terminology (or whatever is listed at the chapter end), and creating headings in your notes based on these. You’d then fill in each section under each heading with related concepts or facts from your textbook. Then memorize using any combination of methods listed above.

Memorization can be a fun game. If you like to play while working, the above will give you insights into how to do this.

So, pull out that imagination, sing, laugh, maybe even become a YouTube celebrity. Studying is meant to be fun.  And the resulting grades, bliss.

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