Maximizing Your Memorizing

Organize It

• Get the big picture. Learn material from general (big picture) to specific (little details). Outline it; diagram it; chart it.

• Create associations. You remember new information more effectively if you associate it with learned information.

Use Your Body

• Learn it once, actively. Action is a great memory enhancer. Pace back and forth. Use your hands as you study. Get your whole body involved.

• Relax. You absorb material more quickly and recall it with greater accuracy when relaxed. Relaxation is a state of alertness, yet free from tension. You can be active and relaxed.

• Create pictures. Draw diagrams. Use these images to connect facts and illustrate relationships. Associations are recalled more easily when visualized.

• Recite and repeat. Repetition blazes a trail through the pathways of your brain, making information easier to find. Reciting out loud anchors information because it utilizes two different senses (saying as well as hearing it). Reciting in your own words forces you to process the material.

• Write it down. Writing engages a different kind of memory than speaking. It prompts you to be more logical, coherent, and complete. It is also an effective way to prepare for exam questions.

Use Your Brain

• Overlearn. Learn more than you need to know about a subject. Pick it apart, examine it, and add to it until it becomes second nature.

• Escape the short-term memory trap. Short term memory is limited in what it can contain and rarely lasts longer than a few hours. A short review within hours of a study session can move material from short-term to long-term memory.

• Use your times of peak energy. Study your most difficult subjects when your energy peaks. One hour of study in the day is equal to one and a half hours of study at night.

• Distributed learning. Three 2-hour study sessions are more effective than one 6-hour session. If you overload your brain, it will shut down for rest. Distributing your learning allows time for your brain to “rewire” itself by growing new connections between cells.

• Be aware of attitudes. If you feel history is boring, you will have trouble remembering dates and facts. Look for connections that relate to your own interests.

• Combine techniques. All of these techniques work better in combination. Combine memory techniques to involve sight, sound and touch when you study.

Recall It

• Remember something else. If you can’t recall specific facts, remember the example used during lecture. The information is encoded in the same area of the brain, so similar or related information will trigger recall.

• Brainstorm. If you are stumped on a test question, start writing answers to related questions, and you will likely recall the answer.

• Notice when you remember. Notice your learning style. Is it easier to remember what you saw, heard, or have done? Adjust learning techniques to your natural learning style.

• Teach it. Teaching requires mastery. By explaining information, you will quickly understand it yourself. Study groups are especially effective in promoting this kind of mastery.

• Use it before you lose it. Pathways to information become weak with disuse. To remember something, access it a lot. Read it, write it, speak it, listen to it, apply it—make contact with the material regularly.

Memory Tricks

• Create mind maps. Using mind maps classifies information for easier recall. It also gives a visual image to remember.

• Create new words. Acronyms are words created from the initial letters of a series of words. For example, IPMAT helps biology students remember the stages of cell division (interphase, prophase, metaphase, anaphase, and telephase).

• Create sentences. Acrostics are sentences that stand for something. For example, the first letters of the words of the sentence “Every Good Boy Does Fine” are the musical notes of the lines of the treble clef staff (EGBDF).

• Create rhymes and songs. Rhyming, songs and jingles are powerful memory tools. For example, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”