Memorizing Skills

Sep 6, 2012 by

Every one of us probably has an innate capacity to remember that can’t be changed. However, you can cultivate effective memorizing skills to help yourself use your memory to its fullest potential. It’s a truism that we forget more in the first hour after learning it than in the next 24 hours, and more in the first day than in the next 30. Whatever we can remember in the next 24 hours after learning it is more likely to be stored in long-term memory. You can encourage your brain to remember the important things by developing your memorizing skills in the areas of mental focus, organizing what you learn, and training your brain to remember important details.

One basic memorizing skill is being able to quickly get your mind in the right state for study and concentration. Studying is most effective when you structure it into your day and do it regularly, rather than trying for the all-night cram session the night before an exam. If you approach studying like brushing your teeth or making dinner every day, your mind will get used to the activity and quickly switch into study mode at the time you’ve scheduled it. Try using a day planner to outline your day and schedule your study sessions: for instance, you might plan to study a certain subject from 3:00-4:00, and another from 7:00-8:00. It’s also important, especially if you have a busy schedule, to incorporate study breaks into your plan. You might reserve a block of time for study from 3:00-4:20, with two planned breaks of ten minutes each.

Meditating is another good way to cultivate your mental focus and blow off some of the stress we all experience from time to time. Meditation can be a great study skill because it trains you to tune out external and internal distractions, including the running commentary of thoughts many people carry on without realizing it. By taking even a few minutes a day to meditate on the moment, either by focusing on a mantra, a meditation icon, or simply your breath, you will notice your ability to concentrate and filter out distractions has markedly improved.

Also, the more of your senses you can incorporate into your study sessions, the easier it will be to recall what you have learned. People often learn best in a particular sensory modality; you may find that you remember more information when it is auditory, visual, or associated with a physical activity. You can improve your memorizing skills by incorporating at least three senses into your study sessions: for instance, when you’re reading a chapter in a textbook, you could recite important phrases or concepts aloud as well as reading them on the page. Assuming different postures as you read also helps your brain encode and later retrieve important information. Remembering how an important concept looked on the page, how it sounded, even how it felt to form the words can all help you remember that information long term!

Another skill of memorization is developing ways to organize your knowledge as you acquire it, which helps cement the information in your memory. Visualizing what you’ve learned, by writing new information into a chart, diagram or note web, can help you structure what you already know and identify gaps in your knowledge where you need to study more. Also, take some study time to manipulate your new knowledge in some way: explain what you’ve learned to someone else, write new notes about it, or write down questions to parts you don’t quite understand. These knowledge exercises can really clarify something you’ve just learned and help you identify areas to focus on.

Also, remember to periodically review things you’ve read. Studies have shown that students who reviewed material regularly throughout the term had much better luck on final exams than those who reviewed their notes after a considerable amount of time had passed. Just as when you studied the information for the first time, effective repetition involves using multiple memorization techniques: you could rewrite your notes onto flashcards, create a diagram, and explain it aloud as you do so. If you’re engaged in straight memorization of a collection of terms (a common requirement of many science courses, for instance), try associating the new terms with information that’s already in your long-term memory. Analogies can work wonders as a memorizing skill. Let’s say you’re trying to remember the parts of the inner ear: you might compare the ear drum with the stretched skin of a real drum, both of which vibrate in response to sound; that vibration is then transmitted to the anvil bone and “strikes” it just like a real anvil.

Mnemonic devices are also great memorizing skills. A mnemonic device is a technique of memorization that helps you remember information by organizing it into a meaningful pattern, such as a limerick or funny poem. This technique enables you to just remember the chunk of information represented by the mnemonic device, rather than trying to remember discrete items, words or phrases that aren’t connected in a meaningful way. As such, mnemonic devices are especially useful for remembering ordered lists, such as the musical notes of the treble clef scale or the order of planets in the solar system. We’ve included two mnemonics below:

Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge = the notes in the treble clef scale

My Very Eccentric Mother Just Served Us Nine Pancakes = the planets in the solar system, from the sun to the outer edge (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)

While the above mnemonic was clearly created before Pluto was designated a dwarf planet, you get the point. Mnemonic devices, good study habits, and techniques of focus all represent powerful memorizing skills that you can utilize to remember whatever you wish!

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