Learning and retaining information is a task us students are constantly exercising.
Whether it is while completing homework, studying for a test, or during a lecture, we are compiling loads of details and content into our brain.
We store all this material so it can be used to demonstrate our knowledge on an assignment.
However, sometimes the content is so heavy and rich that remembering all the information seems impossible! (Cough, cough history class!)
Thankfully, this process is made easier and possible with my list of 6 memorization techniques for students. Written by students for students!
Following these methods is guaranteed to improve your retention of information and enhance your performance on exams!
Personally, I am currently enrolled a memorization-loaded program and I have found that using these methods has made memorizing easy and impactful!
Best part? My grades reflect and support this! And your grades can be too!
Let’s dive in!
1: Use Acronyms
Okay, so sometimes when I suggest this to people I get an eye roll. And to be honest, I have no idea why!
I have been using acronyms to study course material since almost the beginning of highschool and I continue to do it as a university student.
Personally, I think that they are one of the best ways to memorize information which has led to my achievement of high grades.
Using acronyms to study is actually a mnemonic device! A mnemonic device is a technique that helps your brain encode and recall information, highlighting the power of using acronyms!
During an exam or in class assignment where you need to convey your knowledge and the course material, remembering the simplicity of an acronym is much easier than a bunch of content.
This is because the clarity of the acronym jogs your memory on the topic so you can easily call the information to mind.
Without an acronym, you essentially just have an abundance of information on the topic.
This makes it difficult to remember as you do not have strong bases that will actually prompt you to recall all the key material and facts surrounding the topic.
So, now that we know the benefits of acronyms, you may be wondering how you can use them what can you use them for.
What You Can Use Them For:
Let’s address what you can use acronyms for first because the answer is simple! You can use them for literally everything!
Acronyms are not limited to a memorization-heavy course like history or biology! You can use acronyms to remember topics and details that are math related or engineering related! There are no limits as you can make an acronym for every piece of information you encounter.
The self-create aspect of it is what makes it engaging, memorable and thus impactful!
Two Best Ways to Use Acronyms
Next, you can use acronyms and formulate them in a way that best suits you and the content you are learning. You can make an acronym that is auditory-based if sounds and remembering words are your thing.
You can take the first letter of each of your key points, facts, and/or event related to the topic and blend them together to form a word.
For example, HOMES is a word and an acronym that would stand for Canada’s great lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior).
You would simply have to remember the word and what it stands for which is easier than memorizing tons of information that is not broken down in this way.
Or, you can take the first letter of each information, fact, event on the topic and use these letters to formulate a sentence.
Personally, I like to use this one more because I can recall weird and plausible sentences or scenarios in my head, so making an acronym into one works for me!
Using the same material from the previous example, you could make the sentence: Sam (Superior) Happily (Huron) Eats (Erie) Many (Michigan) Oreos (Ontario).
Personally, the reason I like to use this is because it forms an image in my head that I can remember easily during the exam. As a visual person, this is the most rewarding.
2: Say Things Out Loud / Pretend to Teach Someone
This technique is life changing and will drastically improve the amount of information you can retain.
After studying the material for a decent amount of time, simply pretend to teach someone what you have learned by studying.
I would recommend that you do this technique after you have reached a point in studying where you are comfortable with the material.
So, don’t start this technique right when you start studying, because you most likely won’t have enough knowledge on the information to teach it.
Instead, pretend to teach someone after you have studied for a minimum of three hours or a day after the date you started studying. This will take you from being comfortable with the content to confident!
How? Well, pretending to teach someone tests what you have studied, thus exercising your brain to recall the information and present it in a clear, concise and acceptable manner in preparation for the test.
In addition, it is a more effective way to test yourself as you get to discover first hand what you are struggling with remembering and what information you are retaining well.
From this, you therefore focus more on your weaknesses so that you will have it memorized and good to go for the test.
In my opinion, pretending to teach someone by talking aloud is even better than testing yourself through flash cards! This is because in flash cards, you are not the one providing and discussing the information.
Instead, it is written for you and you have to provide an answer from that. By pretending to teach someone else, everything is placed in your hands which challenges and strengthens your memory.
Pro Tip: If possible, make certain aspects of the material you are studying into a story. This makes the information much easier to remember. And science backs this up! Turns out, you can remember a story more accurately, and for much longer than learning mere facts!
How can you do this?
For example, in a legal course, you can discuss the operation of extradition like you would a story, from beginning to end and formulating images of the process occurring in your head.
Trust me, during a test, you will be able to recall this “story like” information much more effortlessly. I do this all the time!
3: Study Over The Course of at Least 4 Days
I hate to be that person, but cramming in information last minute does not help you retain information. Like, at all. So, don’t do it! Aim to start studying at least four days before your exam or test.
This will improve your memorization skills and your absorption of course content as you will be studying the material piece by piece and eventually repeatedly so it becomes ingrained in your memory.
First, break down what you are studying. This can be done by simply studying a chapter per day and dedicating your time to focusing solely on the content in that chapter.
Do this for all your chapters if you can. If you have limited time, then you do two chapters in one day as long as you have thoroughly studied the first chapter before moving on.
Once you have studied each chapter separately, it’s time to combine them and study!
In the end, you will notice that breaking down the content makes it easier to retain information. Plus, it is less overwhelming.
Additionally, studying it over the course of a long period of time is rewarding because you are repeating the material each time to sit down and study.
This process of repetition strongly fortifies what you are learning into your memory.
On the flip side, studying the textbook/content altogether or in a short amount of time limits the opportunity for you to study the content in depth or properly.
Why Four Days?
This is just a minimum that I personally set for myself and that I find to be effective. I believe that starting to study less than four days for a test makes the process more stressful and rushed, so won’t be able to retain as much information.
Studying in advance is ultimately the best, even if it is for a short amount of time each day leading up to it.
4: Write Down the Information
It has been proven that writing down notes and information by hand leads to a more refined memory of the content than someone who uses a form of technology.
Unfortunately, many of today’s students have grown up on using technology or learned to rely on their laptops or ipads to take notes.
Yes, it is quicker and less of a hassle to take notes on a device. But, in the long run, handwriting the material is significantly better when it comes to remembering the content.
This is because using a laptop is actually a shallow way to learn and process ideas because they are most often not engaging in the process of synthesizing and summarizing information.
Instead, notes written on a laptop are copied verbatim.
In addition, physically writing words enhances your cognitive abilities and requires more brain power. This is a good kind of brain power being used as the brain functions involved in writing aides in the absorption of information.
So, it is pretty clear that handwriting your notes poses many advantages!
If you are still determined to type your notes because you can’t seem to part ways with your beloved computer, I have two tips for you.
1: You can stick to using your notes on your computer if you want, but when it comes to studying, try writing down what you are studying so it sticks in your memory.
This could be a definition, diagram, pro’s and con’s list (or your acronyms!). Writing it down will help you grasp the content more efficiently and also increase your productivity!
I did this as a high school student and continue to do so in university.
2: Although I personally do not do this, you can type out your notes in class and then at home, transfer it onto paper. This will provide the same benefits as writing down the material in class and amplify your memory on the topic.
Just be sure to transfer your notes onto paper right after class, and do so in an efficient manner! Handwriting all your notes days before a test is not a good use of your time at all. Don’t do it.
Like I mentioned earlier, transfer it over a long period of time (therefore over the course of the year, after class) so in the end you have all your notes handwritten ready for you to learn further.
5: Read It Before Sleeping and Get Enough Sleep!
Yes, I said it: read! Review and read, review and read, review and read… oh and sleep too! Reading is a way to improve and enhance your memory without having to put in the effort into memorizing!
It should accompany all the other mentioned memorization techniques for studying, as it is essential! Obviously, you wouldn’t be able to study without doing some reading.
Instead of skimming, reread and review a lot as it significantly influences your brain function and memory.
I’ve it said once and I’ll say it again: sleep is crucial! Sleep is needed to consolidate a memory so that it can be accessed in the future. In other words, sleeping is what makes the memory stick.
If you are depriving yourself from sleep, you are diminishing your likelihood of doing well on the test as your memory will be weaker and your focus will be impaired.
Although so effortless, sleeping is one of the best ways to improve memory and concentration.
So read your material and sleep! Improving your ability to retain information is that easy!
But, there’s more! Reading your study review, textbook or course material in general before you sleep has been linked to enhanced memory and recall!
In fact, some scientists say that studying before bedtime is the best way to study and ingrain information into your memory!
So, study right before you go to sleep to get the benefits of increased memory retention!
6: Repeat + Find What Works Best For You!
As mentioned, repetition is key when it comes to refining your memory. It exercises your brain and makes the information stick better than if it was just read once or twice and that’s it.
Repeat all of these techniques as much as you feel necessary.
Personally, depending on the test, I will alter the way I use these approaches to studying and heightening my memory.
When the content is really complex and difficult to understand, I will use the talking out loud method because it encourages me to articulate what I do understand and helps me narrow down on what I need to focus on.
Other times, I will focus more on handwriting and using drawings to create a story that will help me memorize facts and definitions.
Since I know I am a visual learner, I know what works and what does not. For example, solely listening to information would not help me remember at all! But, for some it is highly effective.
You could study in a group as social interaction and the physical discussion of content has a greater likelihood of sticking in your brain than studying material by yourself.
However, you need to know yourself first. Would this be too distracting for you?
A lot of the time, students employ these different study methods without consideration of what is best suited for them and what is effective based on their learning styles!
So, when using these tips for studying during exams, answer the following questions by evaluating yourself!
- What kind of learner am I?
- Have I used any techniques in the past that have improved my retention of course material? What works best for me?
- Is there a technique that makes studying fun, productive and rewarding?
Take time to know what works for you and don’t expect yourself to find the perfect, groundbreaking strategy overnight.
It could take time to discover which technique works for you as a unique individual, but once you do, you will be set for the rest of your academic career!
And Remember, You Got This!
By reading this article, you engaging in the self improvement and evaluation process that will lead to actual results! That’s great!
Now, combine these 6 techniques I mentioned with the answer to the questions above!
This will leave you with a narrowed-down list of techniques that are immensely advantageous AND tailored to you as an individual!
I hope that these tips will improve your memorization skills and help you perform your best on your next test or assignment! Feel free to share your opinions and thoughts in the comments!
If you are a student and have any questions or comments (or a topic you want us to cover) you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave it in the comment section below! All input is greatly appreciated.
Wishing you all the best on your next test!