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Study tips: Top 5 memorization techniques

Once you get focused, then you can start retaining the info

- November 20, 2013

Ah, exam time. Everyone's favourite time to hit the books. (Danny Abriel photo)
Ah, exam time. Everyone's favourite time to hit the books. (Danny Abriel photo)

With the end of classes in a couple of weeks, it’s important to brush up on your study skills so you can write your exams feeling prepared and confident.

Before you can start some serious studying, you need to concentrate. Minimize or eliminate as many distractions as possible, including both internal (daydreaming or composing mental to-do lists) and external distractions (friends, roommates, noise, cell phones and social media) in order to fully focus on the task at hand.

Related: Check out some more study tips.

If you’re having trouble minimizing distractions, use the checkmark system. Each time you lose concentration, make a check on a scorecard you keep on your desk. Count the number of checks at the end of your study session. Set a goal each time you study to reduce the number of checkmarks.

It’s only once you have an appropriate study space and a focused mind you can start memorizing your information. Try these five techniques:

  1. Assign meaningfulness to things. Elaborate on what you’re learning and apply the knowledge to something important to you: an example your prof used, something you saw in a documentary, or an everyday experience. You probably don’t remember what you wore last Friday, but you can remember what you wore to prom. New information is most strongly encoded when you relate it to information you already know, and encoding is deepest when you assign meaning to new information. The more logical connections you can make to the new information, the stronger the memory.

  2. Learn general and specific later. This method helps with retrieval: if you know a piece of information falls within a broader category, it’s easier to access.

  3. Recite out loud in your own words until you don’t need to refer to your notes.

  4. Teach someone else. Teaching the information to someone else is one of the best ways to learn. If you don’t have a willing listener like a parent or a friend, you can teach the wall (best done behind closed doors!).

  5. Use memory devices. There are many different devices you can use to help memorize information, including:

Acrostics e.g. “My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos” (planets)
Chunking
: remember larger numbers in smaller chunks.
Method of Loci
: visualize a familiar place and associate objects to it.
Flash cards
: good for specific facts. Shuffle cards and recite out loud. Put a question on one side, the answer on the other.

Additional Tip

Practice questions. Whether they’re already in your textbook or you have to make them up yourself, try to do as many as possible. Rather than just reciting information, questions ask you to apply your knowledge, ensuring you actually understand the information.

Everyone has a different approach, so find out what method or combination works best for you!


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